Panenka scarves is one Canadian’s attempt to document his appreciation of the obvious and not-so-obvious experiences of a life in the Czech Republic. For previous Panenkas, click here.
Burčák season is here.
Yesterday we spent the night at Jiřího z Poděbrad, a small town square near the border of Žižkov and Vinohrady, at city festival to commemorate the start of Burčák season. A large stage was set up where Czech bands played all night, and little wooden huts for food and drink dominated the square.
On our way out of the metro tunnel, I saw a well-dressed man stumbling down the stairs, eventually taking a stunt-man’s tumble down to the first landing. A little too much drink for him and it wasn’t even 8 o’clock. We knew were in the right place. It was time for Burčák.
Burčák is a young, partially fermented wine from Moravia. It’s quite a cloudy drink and awfully sweet to boot. I’d liken it to a murky-looking sparkling orange juice. Little kiosks start to pop up all over town this time of year, importing the sugary beverage from the pleasant Moravian region in Eastern Czech Republic. Although other countries have similar drinks (the Germans call it Federweisser, while the Austrians say Sturm) only Moravian grapes can be used to make proper Burčák.
The start of the season is quite popular here in the Czech Republic, so much so that there are street festivals all over the country commemorating the event. It usually parallels the transition from summer into autumn and it’s tough to find a Czech who doesn’t indulge in at least a few glasses every fall.
Last year we were too new the country and almost let Burčák pass us by. This wine doesn’t keep very long, so the season is quite short. We’d be strolling through riverside markets and nearly every person walking past had a plastic bottle full of what looked like juice. After a little bit of research (and asking some of our Czech friends to clarify this mystery) we were brought up to speed on the sweet drink. Thankfully, we were able to try some before the season was over.
This year we had it all sorted ahead of time. We made plans to attend the Jiřího z Poděbrad festival and had a 2L bottle in our hands mere moments after watching that poor wine-filled bastard somersault down the steps. Though all I learned from this year was that we still had a lot more to learn.
Those who have been kicking off Burčák season for some time have the details down. For example, we were forced to drink our wine out of small plastic cups that were provided at the Burčák booths. Not that drinking wine served in water bottles is classy to begin with, but those little cups don’t help the situation any.
Old hands at this sort of thing will bring their own wine glasses to the festivals, ensuring their classiness levels remain superior to schmucks like us. Moreover, those who find Burčák too sweet (and it is incredibly sweet, so it’s difficult to comfortably drink more than a couple of glasses) have a backup plan in place and bring a bottle of dry wine from home.
The square was packed with people, empties, music, rowdiness, and Burčák bottles. It was essentially a festival commemorating public drinking throughout the city. Believe me when I say that this is something I could never experience in Canada.