For those who cannot wait for the festive season to tuck into some goose or aficionados of young wine, the Feast of St. Martin could be a good excuse to get an early fix of hearty winter fare and sample some of the Czech and Moravian answer to beaujoulais: St Martin’s wine.
Who was St. Martin?
St. Martin is one of the major saints of the Catholic Church and honoring him with a variety of festivals was once common throughout Europe. In some places, it marked the beginning of a fasting period, hence the heavy food enjoyed kept people in good stead through the cold months.
Through the modern era, the festival declined in popularity as fasting became less common. Not to mention the fact that being a few weeks before Christmas meant most people couldn’t stomach so much food. Today, the main association with Czech culture is the saying, “St. Martin comes on his white horse,” which means that the snow is coming. The white horse being the snow.
While the observance of the day has diminished, it has not stopped some restaurants promoting the feast. The typical St Martin’s day feast consisted of a roast goose served, as many things are here, with cabbage and dumplings. Some people have said this is pure marketing cynicism. However, if like me, you enjoy an opportunity to eat goose, and don’t want to order in advance, you might welcome the return of this tradition.
Below are some restaurants in Prague who are putting on St Martin’s Day events.
U Modré Růže (www.umodreruze.cz) Rytířská 16, Prague 1
Tel: +420 224 225 873 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Glass of Bohemia sekt
Homemade goose pate served with cranberries, Parma ham and olives on lettuce
Stuffed escargot, burgundy style (escargot, soused in red wine, with Provencal spice and garlic and gratinated with cheese) served with crispy toast
Royal beef tournedos trimmed with a royal shrimp in olive oil and red peppers, served with sauce Jérôme, ratatouille and potatoes à la lyonnaise
Price for one person 1,560 CZK, for two: 2,800CZK
Plzeňská Restaurace Obecní Dům (www.plzenskarestaurace.cz) náměstí Republiky 5, Prague 1
Reservations can be made at the restaurant’s homepage.
St Martin’s Goose baked with apples and served along with red wine sauerkraut (cabbage), almond stuffing and bread and potato dumplings
Price for one person 350 CZK, for four: 1,111 CZK
Hotel Ambassodor Zlatá husa (www.ambassador.cz) Václavské náměstí 5-7, Prague 1
Tel: +420 224 193 817 email: email@example.com
A quarter of a roast goose with apple and honey. Served with red and white cabbage. 390 CZK
Restaurace Lví Dvůr (www.lvidvur.cz) U Prašného mostu 6, Prague 1
Reservations can be made at the restaurant’s homepage.
9th – 15th November
White goose livers served with caramelised apple and parsley greens 337.50 CZK *
Cream soup made of goose giblets seasoned with butter and muscat 87.50 CZK *
Potato pancake stuffed with duck livers roasted with onion 162.50 CZK *
Half of a goose baked on apples served with red cabbage and four potato pancakes 1737.50 CZK *
Quarter of a goose baked on apples served with red cabbage and dumplings 950 CZK *
Sweet potato pancake with honey and nuts topped with sugar, poppy seeds and butter 112.50 CZK *
* These prices are converted from Euros at 25 CZK / Euro
U Modr Kachny Nebovidská 6, Prague 1
Tel: +420 257 320 308 or +420 257 316 745
10th – 15th November
Goose liver pat with apricot sauce, 215 CZK
Roast goose served with traditional raisin dumplings and apple-sauerkraut, 515 CZK
Traditional Bohemian cake with walnuts and hot vanilla cream, 185 CZK
A St. Martin’s day feast wouldn’t be complete without St. Martin’s wine (Svatomartinské víno). This is not a specific winery or a type of grape. Rather, it is the name given to young Czech and Moravian wine which is produced from this year´s harvest and allowed to mature for only a matter of weeks. But don’t call this Beaujolais. Though both are young wines, they are distinct from each other in the types of grapes used and their different traditions.
The tradition of St Martin’s wine is apparently traced back to the time of Rudolf II. According to one story, innkeepers would accept new servants or extend the work of existing ones and toast the occasion with new wine. In recent years, the custom of drinking young wine has grown. When the appellation St Martin’s wine was first officially coined, there were 36 vineyards who were awarded the term. Last year, there were 86. This year an estimated 800 to 900 thousand bottles of St. Martin’s wine will be produced.
The term St Martin’s wine is awarded to certain types of wines, which satisfy certain criteria. First, the wine must be Müller-Thurgau and Veltlínské červené rané for the white wine and Modrý Portugal and Svatovavřinecké for both rosé and red. The white and rose should be fruity and dry while the reds are characteristically smooth. It is recommended to drink St. Martin’s wine by the following spring. Afterwards, the wine is palatable, but it will lose its zest. Because they are young wines, they have a lower alcohol content. This means they certainly make for easy drinking but they lack the complexity of more mature wines. Personally, I prefer the white St Martin’s wines for their freshness and find that the reds lack the body I’m used to. But as is with all wines, the only way to know is to try it for yourself.
The wine is traditionally opened at 11am on the 11th of November. You can take part at several wine bars and cellars in Prague or Moravia.
Vinotéka Cellarius (www.cellarius.cz)
Pasáž Lucerna, Štěpánská 61, Prague 1 and Budečská ulice, 29 Prague 2
No reservations necessary for the Lucerna store but reservations are necessary for the Budečská store in Prague 2
Tel:+420 222 515 243
Vinotéka Pod klenbou (www.podklenbou.cz)
Zlatnická 4, Prague 1
No need to reserve.
Hotel Eliška, Mikulov
Tel: +420 519 510 254