Friday, April 11, 2008

Best Red Wine In Prague For $5, Part 2

The wine's not bad, but the label's awful.

I am on a quest to find the best bottle of red wine in Prague for the equivalent of $5 (around 80 CZK) or less.

In my first post on this topic, I singled out the Merlot or the Cabernet Sauvignon from Brise de France, which can be found in Prague shops for anywhere from 70 to 80 CZK per bottle.

As I said in my previous post, "it's a pleasing wine, pouring a dark, deep, rich red. For the price, it's got a nice little bit of spiciness, with hints of black cherry."

On my new Wino-Meter, which takes into consideration taste, color, bouquet (or what I like to call smell) and price, Brise de France gets an 8 out of 10.

Since then, I've drunk a number of wines all costing 80 CZK or less (in one case, much less) and have had a number of reader recommendations. Let's start with the reader tips.

One gusto reader said the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from Los Reyes, Cosecha, Chile, sells for under 40 CZK at Norma supermarkets in Prague. At one point, apparently, even selling for 30 CZK. I'd never heard of Norma, but have since discovered it's a German discount chain, which has recently been taken over by a German retail chain, a move that may spell its demise in the Czech Republic. Or has already spelled its demise, since I haven't seen one anywhere.

Can anyone help out with this intriguing mystery? Where the heck is Norma?

Roll Out The Barrels

Another reader wrote to plug the barrel wines available from the wine shops around town, "especially the Chilean Merlot or Argentine Malbec for 55 CZK a liter." There's a wine kiosk in the village of Suchdol, near where I live, and I've enjoyed some drinkable wines from there in the past. I'll have to go back and drink a few more for the purposes of this search.

My only complaint with these wines-by-the-barrel is that the wine is served up in the 1.5-liter plastic bottles usually used for soda, sealed by a plastic top. Their shelf life is thus very limited. Basically, you've got to drink that baby right away (not that that's usually a problem).

'Now That's A Bargain!'

One reader wrote to pass along the "wine tip of the week," saying Tesco is selling the "excellent Rosemount Estate Shiraz for 189.90 CZK -- now that's a bargain!!!" I will definitely have to check that out, but at the equivalent of $12 a bottle, it's way out of the range of this post.

Hollywood & Wine

Speaking of Tesco, however, my good friend Stewart brought over a bottle of California Red Wine from Tesco, which he said cost 54 CZK per bottle, or $3.40.

The label (which sports a drawing of the Hollywood sign) looks pretty crappy, actually. They could have sunk a few more pounds into a more sophisticated design. As for the wine, it's totally drinkable, if forgettable. There's absolutely no finish to it, and it barely makes its presence known to your tongue. It's a decent screw-cap table wine, and for the price a pretty good deal.

On the Wino-Meter, I'm giving it a 6 out of 10.

'Nice, Drinkable' Italian
Another anonymous reader put in a plug for the Merlot 2006 IGT, Cielo family, from Veneto, Italy, selling at Interspar for 67-79 CZK per bottle. "It is nice, drinkable, I think in this category," the anonymous reader said, going on to say: "Czech red wines are terrible if cheaper than 120-150 CZK, especially those you can buy in supermarkets. And they are often only bottled here, but made of low quality grapes from Italy and Hungary anyway. (It is written by very small letters on the rear side of bottle.) Almost only chance to find good and cheap red wine is to visit winemakers and their wine cellars directly, but even in that case they will be offering a lot more of white wines."

The Cielo brand is widely available in Prague, and is definitely a good bargain bet. Again, very drinkable, if unmemorable.

I just finished a bottle of Cielo Cabernet Sauvignon, which I bought for 69 CZK ($4.36). Not bad. The taste was very grape-y, almost like grape-flavored Kool-Aid or something.

I finished the bottle, nonetheless.

The Cielo Cabernet Sauvignon gets a 6 out of 10 on the Wino-Meter.

Crapola de Espana
One bottle I actually couldn't finish was of Sol de Espana from the well-respected vintner United Brands, a Spanish table wine that was for sale at a Vietnamese market I frequent near Hradcanska metro for around 34 CZK ($2.15). It was absolutely undrinkable -- vinegary and just plain awful.

I don't think the bottle was bad. I think the wine is bad. I had a swallow and poured the rest down the drain.

The Sol de Espana came close to breaking the Wino-Meter.

And the quest continues...

As always, please share your recommendations, both good and bad. I promise to do my best to taste them all.


  1. There's a Norma supermarket at the Vetrnik tram stop at Petriny (trams 1-2 -18).
    Haven't tried it though ; Delvita (soon-to-be Billa) at the next stop west has a big wine selection, incl. the excellent Brise Merlot.
    Fond memories of finding Tupahue there too - but not recently.
    Isn't virtually any Chilean red less than two years old going to be a pretty safe bet?

  2. Hi, Pip. Thanks for the Norma info. I, too, have fond memories of the Tupahue, but it's just like Prague for something you really like to suddenly go missing from the shelves, never to return. What's up with that?! I guess you're right about the Chileans reds. but some are definitely better than others, and finding a bottle for 80 CZK or less is sometimes a challenge.

  3. If you can still get your hands on some of Delvita's house-brand California Cabernet Sauvignon, that's pretty good for under CZK 100. These days all the cheap California wines are surprisingly drinkable - the Ridgeview Park Zinfandel, the Ruby Cabernet by one of the Western Brands labels. Maybe that's one of the benefits of the sinking dollar, that they're starting to bottle stuff better than Two Buck Chuck?

    I know you're doing reds under CZK 80, but the Kumala Semillon-Chardonnay for CZK 89 was also quite the bargain.

  4. Try the slightly more expensive and more elegantly-labelled CALIFORNIA Tesco Cabernet Sauvignon - at 79czk it's a little more expensive, but taste's far superior. Some may find it lacking subtlety, but my wife and I love it, we buy 10 bottles at a time. It is noteworthy that these Tesco-branded products are sold in the UK and Ireland at multiples of their Czech prices.

  5. I'm afraid I can't give any wine tips as I much prefer beer, but I may have an answer to why the label on your 6-out-of-10 Tesco plonk looks so cheap (the one with the Hollywood sign). It's because they don't want you to buy it! This is from The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford (which I just happen to be reading):

    "Supermarkets [stock] products that seem to be packaged for the express purpose of conveying awful quality. Supermarkets will often produce a store-brand 'value' range, displaying crude designs that don't vary whether the product is lemonade, bread, or baked beans. It wouldn't cost much to hire a good designer and print more attractive logos. But that would defeat the object: the packaging is carefully designed to put off customers who are willing to pay more. Even customers who would be willing to pay five times as much for a bottle of lemonade will buy the bargain product unless the supermarket makes some effort to discourage them. So [...] the ugly packaging of 'value' products is designed to make sure that snooty customers self-target price increases on themselves."

    I know, I really should get out more.

  6. I also enjoy the Tesco California Cabernet Sauvignon mentioned here, and, on the subject of premium products from Tesco, has anyone tried their Organic dark chocolate. It's amazingly good, just the right amount of bitterness, but you can taste the cane sugar...and just 23czk per bar.

  7. Thanks, Anonymous, for the interesting insight into packaging. It appears that that may be exactly what's happening at Tesco! I'm certainly going to buy the more expensive stuff now.

    And speaking of that, I had a bottle of the Tesco California Merlot for 70 CZK, and I must say, it was quite good. I will write about it, and others, in a future post. I need to try the Tesco Cabernet Sauvignon now.

  8. Good joke to find best bottle of red wine in Praue for less than 80 Kc. Take in consideration the following: You need to invest for many years in a winery before you can harvest, you need to work with the vines each year, you need to harvest them, you need to press them, you need to put them in the tanks, after to bottle them, to put a label and to market them. When you buy a bottle for 80 Kc it means that the winery sells them for maximum 40 Kc/0,75 L. Take from that the above metioned cost + the bottle, label + cork and you will understand that the cost to produce one bottle cost 30-35 Kc. Tell me now with best red wine in Prague you can buy for 80 Kc or less. Unless you do not know anything from wine you will understand that you buy crap.

  9. There are many wineries who offer drinkable, delicious bottles of wine for $5 -- in the United States and around the world. You're not going to get a spectacular bottle for that price, but you can easily get a decent bottle. It's true in Britain, too, where they talk of bottles for 2.99, or around $6. You can buy crap for $5, or you can look a bit harder and find real bargains. That's what I'm looking for. And I think I've found a bottle that may beat the Brise de France. Stay tuned.

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