In most wineries, you walk down to the cellar during a visit. In Sonberk it's different, you have to climb on the way up, but then, the effort is worth it!
We will pour you a wine created to use a historically proven location to grow the highest quality grapes, with the intention to make the best wines in the Czech Republic.
You can have a walk around our building, the first example of modern wine architecture in the Czech Republic. And at the same time, you can see the vineyards we take care of so that they will hopefully produce the same quality grapes for decades to come.
On a greenfield?
Looking at the winery complex, it seems that everything has only been here for a few years. But this is not entirely true. Today's Sonberk benefits from a centuries-old tradition of growing vines on this very site – vines have been grown here since the occupation by Roman legions at the end of the 2nd century AD.
Since the 13th century, the gnarled shape of vines have been a constant feature of the landscape. The ideal conditions for their growth were created mainly by the south-facing slopes and a pleasantly warm climate with plenty of sunshine. Such conditions were embodied by the name given to this area: Sonnenberg; or 'Sunny Hill'.
In the 16th century, the wines from the Sonnenberg hill had built up such a reputation that the Czech king and the Moravian margrave Ludvík Jagellonský demanded them for their courts. A surviving document mentions dates from 1522, in which the king addresses the Brno City Council and asks on behalf of his wife and himself that "six drajlinkuov wines of good quality and delicious to drink be sent".
Another important mention of today's Sonberk vineyard is from the 18th century. From this period comes information about the first appellation system in Moravia. The system looks at the quality of wine according to the place of origin of grapes, which gives the wine a unique character. The author of this evaluation is the Benedictine monk Gregor (Řehoř) Wolný, who ranked Popice and their vineyards among the five best in Moravia.
All of this convinced the owners of the modern-day Sonberk winery to look to the slopes opposite the Pálava hills for their vineyard site. When they founded the winery in 2003, it was their vision to use this historically proven location to grow the highest quality grapes, which would be transformed into the best wines in the Czech Republic. In the beginning, we produced wines in rented cellars. Since 2008, however, everything has been happening under one winery roof specially built according to the design of Josef Pleskot for viticultural purposes.
A pleasure to see and walk through
The regularly arranged rows of the vineyard around the winery building are beautiful to look at and entice the visitor to wander around. At the same time, the way they look has a lot of specific purposes.
Sonberk's vineyards spread over about 40 hectares of loess soil, which had undergone geological research years ago, so that we knew the vines would have optimal conditions here. With an altitude of 230 meters in combination with south and south-west facing slopes have created the ideal conditions for ripening grapes. Experienced Vineyard Manager, Roman Slouk, takes care of the rest with his characteristic thoroughness and determination. Most of the work in the vineyard we do by hand.
We leave approximately 1.5 kilograms of grapes on each vine every year. Not much more or less so that the plant can optimally distribute its energy. The grapes are harvested exclusively by hand and in several stages - depending on how each variety ripens. We use laboratory tests to assist us, which show when the berries have the right ratio of sugar and acids.
The result is 50 to 150 thousand bottles of wine depending on the vintage. The difference is because we always work only with the best grapes. The most popular varieties and the most appreciated in competitions are the Sonberk Riesling, Pálava and Merlot. But also Gewürztraminer, Moravian Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay or their cuveé are worth trying.
In addition, we approach each variety according to its needs. That is why we grow Merlot for example, in the old way, so-called per head, with a low trunk. This style of vineyard management, growing on the sun-exposed slopes causes the grapes to ripen perfectly. Thanks to this, it is possible to create a Moravian red in the cellar, capable of competing against other high quality Merlots from abroad.
However, the vineyard is not only made up of vines at Sonberk, but we also rely on the diversity of the environment and pay attention to sustainable landscape management. The individual rows of the vineyard are interspersed with meadow belts, which help retain water in the landscape and attract insects. At the winery, you will also find lavender flowerbeds and apricot orchards, the fruits of which we make into apricot jam and apricot brandy. We have also planted sorb and almond trees, which are photographed by everyone who visits us in the spring. And along the way, you may come across other members of the Sonberk ecosystem - we have our bees that manage everything that blooms around us, and thanks to that we all can enjoy our tea with our honey.
Innovative and useful at the same time
When we received the building approval for the winery building in 2008, it was a revelation in the Czech Republic. Until then, no one has had a wine cellar built in the middle of a vineyard like this, and no one in the Czech Republic or Slovakia has approached wine architecture in such an innovative way.
That happened thanks to the vision of the owners and also the involvement of our Oenologist Oldřich Drápal, along with one of the most respected Czech architects: Josef Pleskot.
He thought of the building as a combination of a place that should be pleasant for enjoying wine and for its creation. The cellar equipment has been adapted in every way so that it is possible to work with grapes in the most natural way possible. At the same time, the building was to respect the surrounding landscape and history of the place without disappearing into it, when viewed from the Pálava hills located opposite. On the contrary, it is as if the winery is bowing down to these majestic hills in an act of deep respect.
The result of Josef Pleskot's work, the involvement of the winemaker and the builders, who tried out some of the methods at Sonberk for the first time, is a "low lying" building. Inconspicuous from afar, but it grows in size with each step the visitor takes towards it.
The technological part is made of concrete and embedded in the ground so that the architecture itself helps maintain the most natural thermal environment possible. The grapes are unloaded from the back of the upper section and fall naturally during processing, only with the help of gravity, so there is no excessive stress and release of substances that have nothing to do with the wine. Such an approach is not the result of any rocket science, but a return to centuries-proven principles. Among other things, this is a consequence of the imput received from the winemaker during the designing process.
He also got his way when building the next part. He needed space for the natural drying of the grapes for straw wine, and this gave rise to the characteristic corrugated roof. It provides shelter, but at the same time, it is well-ventilated. Under it, the grapes for straw wine are dried over many months. The roof imitates the ripples of the vine in the summer breeze, the airiness of the environment is a testament to the winds coming off the surface of the nearby Nové Mlýny reservoirs.
We have already told thousands of people about all the little things and big ideas that make life easier for winemakers and provide a great experience for visitors. We will be happy to tell you about them during the tour as well, and we will show you all of this as soon as you get here.
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