We’re always on the lookout for cool, central European winemakers doing things the way we like to see them done- unique grapes, dedicated, serious farming, insightful, curious personalities making wines of character. This leads us to Aleš Svatoš from Velké Žernoseky, a small village in northern Bohemia. Svatoš, along with his wife Simona, an art teacher, and son Jona, an employee of the Czech National Film Archive, run Porta Bohemica. The winery takes its name, meaning Czech Gate, from the stunning valley split by the Elbe river, surrounded by the hills and volcanic soils of the Bohemian highlands, all of which is visible from their vineyard.
The terroir of Velké Žernoseky is magnificent- the grapes are grown in a mixture of volcanic/marl subsoil and it exists in a microclimatic environment above the Elbe river. The village has a rich history of winemaking and wraps it up in its identity, as evidenced by a robust cluster of grapes featured prominently on their coat of arms. It’s a winemaking village through and through, Svatoš and his family carrying on the good work.
A career chemist, currently at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany, Svatoš founded the winery in 2010. Svatoš had no winemaking background, no firsthand experience, but he was armed with the knowledge obtained as a chemist, believing in his understanding of the scientific process behind winemaking and its cultivation. After years of planning and preparation, he dove in. The winery is a family affair, duties and interest shared between Svatoš, Simona, and Jonas. The work is all done by hand and made with minimal intervention in the cellar.
Porta Bohemica’s goal is producing wines representative of the village’s style- “harmonious wines with juicy acid” describes Svatoš. Their Pinot Noir is cool- light, earthy, stone fruit. Their Charpin- chardonnay/ pinot noir blend is a crazy little punchy, fun, racy white. Their Müller-Thurgau, from 40 year old vines and 2 days of skin contact, is dry with nice minerality and pronounced tropical fruit (briney pineapple), lime, a touch wild and weird.