Bridget Gleeson writer + illustrator

Drink up, it won’t last

Reporting live from vinobraní, Prague’s young wine festival.

I was feeling pretty sorry for myself when I woke up this morning. Because I wasn’t feeling well yesterday, I had to turn down an invitation to ‘gather mushrooms in the countryside’ on Saturday morning, a Czech pastime I’ve always wanted to experience. I was still hung up on my disappointment in the mid-afternoon as I slunk down to the corner market to pick up a few things – it was then that I heard the street music and inhaled the aroma of grilling sausages. It could only mean one thing – the Burčák festival! Joy of joys!

Burčák is a young, pulpy, juicy Moravian wine, partially fermented. The new wine harvest is celebrated every fall during a countrywide festival called vinobraní. (I love the carpe diem-style spirit behind it – the wine only keeps for a short time, so drink up while you can!) My neighborhood’s version of the festival, held in the square of Jiřího z Poděbrad, is off Prague’s tourist track – in other words, it’s very traditional. Both červene (red) or bíly (white) wines are served from large plastic jugs.

The thing to do if you’re with a group of friends (or even if you’re alone, like the thirsty guy pictured below) is to buy a plastic bottle of Burčák and just drink from it all afternoon.

Maybe the Czechs are just using the wine as an excuse to wash down huge sausage sandwiches and old-fashioned pastries.

I didn’t get to ‘gather mushrooms.’ But I did get my cultural fix in the Czech Republic this Saturday. Thank you, good people of Prague. Na zdraví (cheers!)


Update: hours later, I was working in the apartment when I heard fireworks going off and a Czech cover band version of an AC/DC song blasting in the plaza.

I thought, ‘I’ll take a break and see what the end of the festival looks like.’

It was a lot wilder than I expected. The phrase ‘drunken revelry’ about sums it up.

I thought, ‘right then, maybe another cup of Burčák is in order.’ I went over to the food and wine stands – and I realized why everyone around me was so intoxicated. They were giving the remaining wine away for free. And instead of the little cups I’d seen earlier in the day, they were serving up the Burčák in half-liter cups.

Note the difference between the portion I had at 4pm and the portion I was served at 10:30pm.

I was only able to finish about half of that second cup.

I can’t keep up with these Czechs, God love ’em.