The mulled-wine beverage svařák is as bound to the Czech holiday tradition as the Christmas carp. Its festive aroma and warming alcoholic properties have made it a staple of advent markets citywide.
But all mulled wines are not created equal. Czech sommelier Ivo Dvořák, the vice president of the Czech Association of Sommeliers, recently went on an undercover svařák binge on behalf of the on-line tabloid Blesk, sampling the hot drink at a variety of market stalls throughout Prague.
Mr. Dvořák admitted to being pleasantly surprised by his findings: “I thought that the level of mulled wine will be worse,” he told the publication of the six different spiced wines that he sampled.
Who were the winners and which svařák vendors should you avoid?
The Old Town Square and Prague Castle markets were rated as having the best mulled wines sellers while the worst, according to the wine afficionado, were to be found in Wenceslas Square, where vendors were discovered to be using inferior wine.
Each of the establishments visited were ranked according to quality and service and given a score of one to three (a “1” being best). Price was also given, though not factored into the rankings.
While its wine was described as simple, diluted, and tasting more like cider, the svařák at Havelské tržiště was the least expensive at 39 CZK/0.2L.
The most expensive mulled wine was to be found at Prague Castle where Dvořák gave the wine high marks for its “aroma with notes of red currant and pomegranate…[and] sweet, spicy, harmonious [taste].” There a 0.2L-wine will cost you 60 CZK.
Náměstí Republiky ranked as average (2) while Náměstí Míru received poor marks (3) for its bitter-tasting wine.
Overall the best svařák (1) was to be found in Old Town Square (50 CZK/0.2L): “The aroma is clean, fruity, which is reminiscent of prunes. The taste is fuller, slightly sweet, with a pleasant spiced undertone. They deserve good and probably the best ratings.”
Taiko, the company that organizes the markets was contacted by the publication for their comment on the results. Interestingly, they say that the same wine is used at all of the markets and called the findings “strange” while promsing to look into it.
With the weekend upon us there is no better time to conduct your own research and post your photo findings and comments on our Facebook page.