Monday, September 11, 2017

Autumn and the Burčák Buzz

Fall in the Czech Republic
Hi Everyone,
We’re finally entering the fall season after a very hot summer. Temperatures have cooled off and everyone’s getting back to work and school, and wearing their dark colored clothing once again. Along with the cooler temperatures and dark clothes of autumn comes a special drink, here in the Czech Republic, called burčák.

Glass of burčák

What is Burčák?

Sometimes known as mléko starcu” (literally “milk of old people”), burčák is actually partially fermented grape juice, which is created during the wine-making process. This special Czech drink is usually a light, milky yellow color (made from white grapes) and is very sweet, with a low alcohol content. You may see some red burčák, made from red grapes; however, yellow burčák is the more common and traditional color. The typical alcohol content of burčák is about 1-7%, but can be as high as 10%. You could say this is “new wine.”

As new wine, burčák is carbonated from the gas produced during fermentation. Burčák continues to ferment, even after bottled. In order to safely transport burčák, it has to be stored in upright, unsealed containers to allow the gases from the fermentation process to escape. Otherwise, any tightly closed container with burčák would explode.

Burčák is served warm and it’s best to drink burčák within a day or two of buying, in order to drink it while its sugar content is still high. And don’t forget to loosely put the cap back on the bottle. If you put the cap back on tight, your burčák will explode, making for a yucky, sticky mess to clean up.

The laws regarding the sale of burčák are very strict. Accoring to Czech law, the grapes used for burčák must be grown and harvested in the Czech Republic. It’s also against the law to water down burčák. And the law also dictates the months when it can be sold--from August 1 to November 31st each year.

Health Benefits of Burčák

Burčák is rich in B vitamins, which many Czechs say is good for your hair, nails, skin and nervous system (unless you’ve had too much to drink!). The fizzy drink also contains many other vitamins, minerals, proteins and yeasts. It’s also high in flavonoids.

Overall, people say it’s great for your entire vascular system—heart and blood vessels. It’s also supposed to be good for your digestion. But you have to be careful when drinking burčák.

Be Careful with Burčák

Locals will tell you it’s easy to be taken in by the drink’s light, juice-like flavor. There’s a tendency to forget that burčák contains alcohol and it’s easy to drink larger amounts—more than you realize. At first, it feels like you’re drinking fruit juice or cider, but pretty quickly you’ll start to feel burčák’s effects, due to its high sugar content.

The burčák buzz can be pleasant, but too much will leave you with a headache and with a blood alcohol level too high to drive. So be careful and responsible when drinking burčák —and don’t drink and drive.

Bottled burčák

Where to Buy Burčák

They say the best places to drink burčák are close to the source—meaning in Moravian wineries. This is because burčák is still fermenting—the longer it ferments, the lower the sugar content becomes, which causes the drink to quickly become sour and unpleasant.

You can also find burčák for sale at your local pub or winery.  Burčak’s also available at the many fall festivals all over the Czech Republic, but especially in Moravia. Moravian towns such as Znojmo often feature festivals with folk music, traditional foods and wines, along with burčák, of course.

My Experience with Burčák

The first time I drank burčák I wasn’t aware of the alchohol content. The drink was a surprise at first—slightly fizzy, fruity and a little acidic, but pleasant. I soon finished off one glass and asked for another.  After a couple of glasses, someone told me to be careful not to drink too much. You really don’t feel the affect of the alcohol or even taste it. I didn’t get the burčák buzz, but did end up with a slight headache. Nothing bad.

Beech Tree
Czech Republic

Fall and Burčák

Each fall, just like the locals, I look forward to burčák season! The heat of summer is past and you can sit outside enjoying the fine fall weather with a little of this fruity, fizzy drink. There’s nothing like it—neither wine or beer come close to the same enjoyment of burčák outside on a sunny fall day. 

Combine the burčák with a loved one, friends, some good music and food, and you have all the ingredients of a wonderful day!

That’s all for now! Have a great day!

God bless,

© 2017 by Sher Vacik. All rights reservered.