As the warm days of summer draw to a close, grapes start to sweeten on the vine and picking season begins. Slovaks hold many “vinobranie” (grape harvest party) events throughout the month of September. Near Bratislava, the famous wine towns of Pezinok, Rača, and Modra offer grape harvest weekends with carnival rides and games, live music, and several traditional foods stand. If you happen to be able to visit Slovakia during the grape harvest season, here’s how to celebrate the event; Slovak style.
Burčiak is a very sweet drink which is bursting with fruity flavour. It is made by fermenting grape juice. It is no longer grape juice, but does not have the time to age or the alcohol content of wine, leading many people to call burčiak “young wine”. Burčiak is only available for a short time in Slovakia, as it must be consumed as soon as it is ready (after about seven to ten days of fermentation). Its shelf life is only one or two days before it continues to ferment to a drier cider or vinegar-like substance. Although the alcohol content of burčiak is usually around 5%, the fizzy drink continues to ferment in your stomach, leading your buzz to really creep up on you in an unpredictable way. Drink lots of burčiak if you are in Slovakia in September, just make sure to space out the timing of your drinks.
Eat langoše, cigánska, and trdelnik
To accompany the burčiak and other local wines you will sample during the Vinobranie celebration, make sure to order some traditional Slovak festival food from a food truck or local vendor. Langoše is pieces of fried dough the size of a pancake, topped with a variation of garlic butter, sour cream, ketchup, cheese, and occasionally, sausages. The salty combination is the perfect drinking accompaniment.
Cigánska is a sandwich made by stuffing two slices of bread with pork or chicken fried in lard with onions. Usually, cigánska is served with mustard and ketchup and is the perfect thing to eat when you are hungry from walking through the streets sampling different wines from local vineyards. Trdelnik is similar to a funnel cake, the fluffy dough is covered with sugar and cinnamon and cooked on an open flame. Modern trdelnik variations sometimes feature chocolate or ice cream stuffed into the centre of the cake – really tasty!
Travel by bus to Modra for the September 15 – 17 weekend
Many people opt to take the bus to vinobranie celebrations in towns close to Bratislava so that they can try as many wines as they’d like without worrying about driving. You can do the same for the Modranske Vinobradie, which will take place from September 15 to 17, 2017. The program includes several stages for live music and a large carnival area with games and rides is ready to entertain families for hours. Hundreds of different wines and several food stands will be set up on the streets in the centre of the town. The roads will be closed off to create a pedestrian-only zone. Modra is only about half an hour away from Bratislava.
Travel by bus to Pezinok for the September 22 – 24 weekend
Opportunities to experience a wine tasting in Pezinok are available year round, with several events such as the Day of Open Cellars in November or the Wine Market in April. Many local vineyards also have storefronts with tasting rooms where you can sample a few sips of their various wines before selecting which bottle you’d like to try. But the vinobranie weekend offers the most festive environment in which to try wine produced in and near Pezinok. Many locals dress up in traditional attire to celebrate the cultural events of the vinobranie and you can be sure to find the traditional folk dancers in costume. Don’t miss the fireworks on Saturday night!
Purchase traditional Slovak arts and crafts
A big aspect of any Slovak vinobranie celebration is the local arts and crafts available for sale. You will find stall after stall of high-quality local products, ranging from honey to leather sandals to embroidery to children’s dolls. Shop for uniquely decorated ceramics, woven straw baskets, wood sculptures, and folk embroidery on t-shirts, scarves, and towels. You also won’t want to leave without buying a flavoured honey or a berry jam (try the lavender-mint honey and the delicious blackcurrant jam). If you are travelling to Slovakia for vinobranie by plane, you’ll want to bring a big suitcase so that you can purchase several bottles of wine and local arts and crafts to take home.