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Apr 29, 2018 12:00 PM - May 1, 2018

Družstvo: Czech natural wine culture coming to NYC

Družstvo will introduce Czech natural wine culture in all its liveliness to New Yorkers in 2 pop-up events this spring!




Naturally & Collectively: Roberta's Sunday Brunch
April 29, 12pm

Czech that rooftop: The Ides Wythe Hotel Rooftop Party
May 1, 6pm

The Czech Republic, the beer country. This label is as ubiquitous as it is reductive, since the country happens to have winemaking history dating to 14th century, and a recent natural wine movement trending just as much as in other parts of the Western world. Družstvo (“Collective” in Czech), a Prague-based group of 6 young sommeliers and wine-bloggers, is coming to NYC this spring to show that wine made in The Czech Republic can be just as pleasing and cool to drink as its more popular hoppy counterpart.

The Druzstvo crew throws eponymous pop-up parties (“Sorry to all English-speaking people for the unpronounceable name, but we just kinda weren't thinking of possible overseas expansion while tipsily coining the idea in my living room some 2 years ago,” says Lucie Kohoutová, one of the 6 wine-heads behind. “We might just call it A Collective.”) in Prague, showcasing natural wines in a very casual way: in laid back, ever-changing places full of young people, and ambient electronic music played by live DJ Marko Jelić, another member of the crew.

With no less than 12 of these popular parties on its European record, the collective now debarks in NYC for 2 one-off events: a Sunday brunch at revered Roberta's in Bushwick (April 29, 12pm-6pm) and a Tuesday night skyline party at the Williamsburg's Wythe Hotel rooftop bar, The Ides (May 1, 6pm-1am). (Followed by another event in Montreal on Thursday 3r, just for the record.) “The wines will be different at both NY events, ranging from orange to red, and sparkling, but all of Czech origin, coming exclusively from the country's top natural winemakers. These winemakers are people we personally know, work with in our own restaurants, and respect for both the authenticity of their path and quality of their wines,” explains Jan Čulík, part of the crew and sommelier with North American wine scene experience.

“Our aim since the very beginning was to bring more people to good, ideally natural wine, by removing all the snobbery it sometimes suffers. All of us had experienced enough stiff old-school tastings where twelve people sit in a room listening to somebody explaining alcohol levels, type of oak used, and what flavours to detect; that's just not who we are. Don't get me wrong - these details can be interesting, and we all know our thing, but it often makes wine look like a incredibly elaborate and off-putting science to the uninitiated. Which is pity,” explains Jan Čeřovský, arguably the most influential Czech wine-blogger and another crew member.

“We wanted people of all backgrounds to enjoy quality wine without fear of not being expert enough. The message being 'hey, it's fun, just come have a good time and exchange ideas' - be it on wine or something completely different. While sipping a decent, honestly made wine that won't make your head explode the day after,” adds Lucie, who used to work for a wine importer before joining a leading cultural guide Czech start-up. “Oh yes, we all do have regular day jobs - running a restaurants or IT/wine companies. This is just a side pet project of ours, although slowly outgrowing its playpen,” she laughs.

“So yes, it’s a cool party. But we also see it as nice opportunity for New Yorkers to discover something new and get a bit of a different angle on The Czech Republic. To show that there's a young dynamic cultural and wine scene worth knowing, all over the country. I think drinking a crispy Czech Riesling or a smoky autochthonous red while casually grooving to chillout beats is the best way to invite people to expand their minds beyond the traditional “beer & old Prague” image,” adds Čulík.

Czech wine niche, yet growing in US

The Czech wine making history is rather a long one:  back in 14th century a Czech king called Charles IV (yes, the one with the famous bridge) took inspiration in its French upbringing and ordered thousands of Burgundy Pinot Noir vines to be planted all over the country. The current wine production is small in comparison with the roughly same-sized neighbouring Austria ( 42 000 acres vs. 110 000 acres) and shares its focus on crispy white wines, especially from Veltliner and Riesling varietals; world-wide grapes like Sauvignon, Chardonnay or the Pinot family are also popular.

Reds tend to have lighter body given by both the rather north latitude (around 49-50°N) of the vineyards and autochthonous central european varieties as Zweigeltrebe. “Although not necessarily - some of the local Frankovkas (Blaufrankisch) can have awesome concentration and smokiness. And Czechs boast a niche yet blossoming natural wine scene with terrific orange wines, too,” comments Phil Sareil of Jenny&Francois Selections importers, on the reasons why they fell for the not-so obvious choice.

“Over many years of my importing, I'm seeing the Czech wines gain almost a cult reputation through word of mouth, thanks to its indisputable quality. You see, people in NYC are surrounded by a plethora of wines so you need to impress them, which the Czech natural wines managed to do.” Sareil credits the success of this discovery mainly to the vivacity and authenticity of the wines: “There really is a 3rd dimension of freshness, and unique taste profile of the small biodiverse terroirs, a real “home-made” feel. Obviously, it's a niche, but on the ascending path,” he adds suggesting the sales numbers have seen a steady growth year on year.

Natural born pop-up

“My relationship towards Czech wines strengthened as I came over the Druzstvo events through friendship with Honza [Čulík]. My first one was on a hot July evening, 250 people were sipping natural wine and dancing in a 1930's old tennis clubhouse in one of Prague's most beautiful parks and I was seduced by the working simplicity of the event and the story behind it, ” recalls Sareil.

Origins of the Druzstvo project are just as grassroots and organic as the wine it promotes: “We'd irregularly gather with all sorts of natural wine bottles at someone's place, listen to good deep house, and enjoy the company,” comments Kohoutová. “After multiple bottles consumed at one such private tasting, it occurred to us that actually other people might like it too.”

Which they did - we once dropped the original idea to open a brick-and-mortar wine bar in some punky basement, the project went on as a pop-up. “We were shocked to see 150 people turn out already at the very first party organized - our expectations peaked at around a third of that number, since it was so new and we had run very little promotion. So we practically couldn't fit in the venue, people were just hanging around outside,” recalls Čeřovský with laughter. Since then, more people and parties followed (including one in Vienna), progressively building a colourful natural wine community both on home turf, and abroad.  

“The New York events are part of that - thanks to our contacts in NYC, especially Phil and Severine Perru of Ten Belles wine bar, it seemed natural to join forces and pop-up our pop-up in New York,” says Čulík. “The one that we are to hold in Montréal's Boxermans on May 3 as another part of what we hyperbolically call “Druzstvo North American tour” is just the same story. The natural wine world is a pretty connected one, with friendships stretching across the globe. It's actually great to be part of it - and bringing more people in.”

More of info on Družstvo in English:

Druzstvo website in English (including profiles of the crew, past events and press clippings)

Radio Prague's reportage from one of the pop-ups



pin Roberta's 261 Moore St, Brooklyn, New York 11206


From: Apr 29, 2018 12:00 PM
To: May 1, 2018


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