Two years ago, the newspapers of Krakow broke news that the first Polish vineyard would be restored near Wawel. Wait a moment – the first one? Were the people of Krakow proving to be pioneers once again but, this time, in wine-making? They were also the first to have the dragon, but let’s leave this story aside. In the mid-12th century, the geographer Al-Idrisi created the first description of Krakow retained to this day. He wrote: “Krakow has got numerous edifices, markets, gardens and vineyards.” However, the latest archeological excavations show that we should go even 200 years before Al-Idrisi’s times. Grapevines covered the south-west hillsides of Wawel already in the mid-10th century. In a nutshell – Krakow is where the history of Polish wine-making begins.
After centuries of non-existence, vineyards have once again appeared on the Carpathian plateau, limestone slopes of the Jura and loess hills over the Szreniawa River. Wines from Lesser Poland have been more and more popular among critics and the general audience, winning medals in various international contests. One hundred vineyards of Lesser Poland cover almost 20 hectares and together produce up to a few dozen thousand bottles of wine a year. It isn’t much. Unfortunately, the present climate is hard on the grapes. Destructive temperatures, 25°C below zero, occur in Krakow once in 4 years, while in Zielona Góra – the capital of Polish grapes – once in 30! Even though, winemakers of Lesser Poland do not give up. In order to raise their spirits a bit, it’s worth quoting the most renowned French viticulture specialist, Prof. Alain Carbonneau from the University of Montpellier. He said:
I’ve already become convinced that your climate is not that bad for grapevines. Still, there’s one thing I don’t understand. How do your winemakers – whose vineyards are only 5 to 10 years old – manage to sometimes produce better wines than a lot of our manufacturers who have been doing this for generations?
What can we drink in a vineyard near Krakow? Most vineyards produce classic red and white dry wines, but some of them experiment with sparkling and ice wines. You can get both single-variety wines and wine blends – very rarely fermented and aged in a wooden barrel. These wines are made in a more natural way than most of common European wines available at a supermarket. Their character is heavily influenced by the type of soil, climate and grape variety, as well as by the lack of popular chemical spraying. We can boldly state that they are fresh, aromatic and of the right acidity. Their nature is similar to that of white Middle-European wines.
It comes as no surprise that grapevines used to be the lushest in the gardens adjoining cloisters. The Krakow winemaking tradition was kept alive for the longest period by the Benedyctine Abbey in Tyniec. Established in the mid-11th century, the Abbey existed until the 18th century. Coming from Lower Lorraine, the monks started a vineyard on the limestone slopes nearby the Vistula. Describing his yiuthful years, Krakow diarist Ambrozy Grabowski (1782-1868) recalls sweet grapes he used to pick in abandoned monastic vineyards, sparsely growing over the surrounding hills. In Krakow (the Salwator district), the Norbertines had their wine plantations growing on the hill of St. Bronislava located below the Kosciuszko Mound. A monastery vineyard by the Camaldoli hermitage in Bielany. Today, it’s possible to nip off some tart grapes behind a monastic wall, bearing in mind that, a dozen or so years ago, monks used to make wine out of them. The 14th century can be described as the time of the wine renaissance. The city dwellers of Krakow were drinking a lot of wine, as much as beer or honey. The wines they drank were not splendid nor their names bore any sign of a grape type or a mother-vineyard. City books refer to them as “vinum” and add a color, e.g. “rubeum” or “album”. In the years 1390-1574 a so-called vinum album simplex was the most commonly bought white wine. In 1419, it cost 4 pennies a keg. It isn’t much considering that the price of a keg from Romania was 36 pennies.
Enotourism refers to tourism whose purpose includes travelling to the places famous for their wine, visiting winemakers, vineyards and wine cellars, participating in wine local cuisine tastings. As a rule, enotourists tend to buy several bottes of wine and take them back home. This specific form of spending one’s leisure time has already become popular in the world and, recently, in Poland as well. The development of enotourism in Lesser Poland is fostered by a project “Małopolski Szlak Winny” (Polish for the Wine Trail of Lesser Poland). In order to reach the Srebrna Gora vineyard from the city center you just have to take a local bus no. 109; a suburban bus no. 267 will take you to the Krokoszowka Gorska vineyard in Smardzowice, while, by taking a tram no. 13, you’ll get to a wine cellar where the Hybridium wine is made. Several vineyards in the Tarnow region are a one-hour highway drive away and when it comes to vineyards in the Beskid foreland you have to have a one-and-a-half-hour drive along local, picturesque roads. Let’s use the benefits of the region – vineyards are right here! Let’s visit places rich in wine, discover good Polish wine and eat local products! It’s worth it ☺
Located in the Bielany district of Krakow, a 20-minute bus drive from Krakow, is the second largest Polish vineyard. It covers the area of 15 ha and was established in 2008, thanks to the Pope’s and Camaldoleses’ approval, as well as the determination of two Krakow entrepreneurs - Miroslaw Jaxa Kwiatkowski (co-owner of Da Pietro restaurant) and Mikolaj Tyc. Not so long ago, Camaldoli were producing their own wine in Bielany. A specially-assigned monk would be in charge of a vineyard and a wine cellar. At present, the Srebrna Gora vineyard draws on these traditions. It covers the South-West slope of Srebrna Gora, 80 meters above the Vistula valley, and both sides of Aleja Wedrownikow planted with century-old chestnuts. Getting into details: there are two plots, the smaller of which, located on the right side of the alley [English for Aleja], is where the varieties of vitis vinifera grow: Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Zweigelt. On the left side of the alley, there are some resistant wine blends: Seyval Blanc, Hibernal, Johanniter, as well as some red varieties: Rondo, Regent and Cabernet Cortis. The wines are produced in historic utility rooms at the Camaldoli monastery, the rooms which until recently were in the enclosure. A person responsible for overseeing the winemaking in Srebrna Gora is Agnieszka Wyrobek-Rousseau, a eunologist holding a diploma from a prestigious school in Montpellier.
A bike ride to Garlicki Lamus is a pretty short ride – 8 kilometers more or less. You go around all the main arteries of the city, take a road down the peaceful dirt roads and there you are – everyone can do this! The commune of Zielonka, as part of the project “Od Krakowa do Ojcowa” [From Krakow to Ojcow], has marked out bike paths in Dlubianski Landscape Park and Dolinki Krakowskie. The area is attractive when it comes to its beauty spots and nature, sprinkled with fortifications, ramparts and shelters. The vineyard, owned by the Agricultural University, is located in Garlica Murowana, a village in the area of Dolinki Krakowskie nearby Krakow. A classicist, 19th century mansion was destroyed a short time ago; however, a renaissance lamus [Polish for lumber room or storeroom] dating back to the beginning of the 17th century has been retained. Initially, lamus served the function of being an entrance gate to the mansion premises. Also, it was a utility building for storing more valuable objects, tools, utility and farming equipment. Today, lamus has been rebuilt and perfectly serves other purposes ☺ Some of the grape varieties growing in Garlicki Lamus are the following: muscat odessky, seyval blanc, jutrzenka, regent and marechal foch. Since 2013, the vineyard has been releasing wine labeled “Uniwersyteckie Grono”.
A family-run vineyard owned by Danuta, Antoni and Damian Marcinek is located on the outskirts of Małopolskie Province, at the feet of a legend-shrouded hill Kokocz. According to one of the legends, Kokocz is where the Vistulans’ fortified town used to be. Pristine nature, crystal-clear air and a wonderful view of the breathtaking surroundings do nothing but encourage to climb the hill. To the south of it, you can see the Brzanki mountain range – a chain of forested hills spreading from Ryglice up to the Liwocz hill (562 mamsl). To the east, the horizon stretches toward Strzyzowskie and Dynowskie Plateaus. The history of the vineyard goes back to the 1980s, when Antoni Marcinek planted first vines: schueler, krystaly and ontario. There were several dozen shrubs altogether, a real testing ground for the owner. At present, the vineyard covers 30 ares and consists of 1200 shrubs. Piwnice Antoniego specialize in wines of their own recipes: white danutie known for its aromatic bouquet, rich taste of ripe grapes and well-levelled acidity, and red Vermel, a wine of unique taste and dominating cabernet bouquet.
The vineyard is located in Tuchów, 320 meters above sea level. Grapevines growing in its north part are sheltered from the northern wind by a thick forest. The south part, on the other hand, is surrounded by “Pasma Brzanki” Landscape Park with a beautiful spot to see a panoramic view of the High Tatras on a bright day. The vineyard covers the area of 3 ha, while Tuchów – referred to as the Polish Heat Pole - is a charming and picturesque little town 13 km south of Tarnow. Cultivated here are wine blends characteristic of Lesser Poland. These are, among others, Seyval Blanc, Aurora, Bianca, Muscat Odessky, Solaris or Swenson Red. The Stec Family Vineyard is a family business. Rafal and Agnieszka Stec dream of establishing a group of winemakers under the name “The Stec Family Vineyards” that would affiliate Rafal and Agnieszka’s vineyards to their sons’ (Michal, Kacper and Bartosz) vineyards.
You can get there either by bike or suburban bus. The vineyard owned by Bozena and Marek Gorski is located in Smardzowice, near the border of Ojcowski National Park. We highly recommend that, apart from visiting the vineyard, you have a walk from the vineyard to the village of Ojcow. A green tourist trail spreads over the Pradnik Valley, across the Okopa Mountain, the Wapiennik rock, the peak of the Koronna Mountain (a few observation decks on the way) and up to the Pradnik Valley itself next to Jaskinia Ciemna [Dark Cave]. Ojcow used to be a popular spa, that’s why it’s worth looking at a wooden architecture in the village center, strolling around the Park Zdrojowy and visiting the ruins of a royal castle. While at “Pstrag Ojcowski”you need to try a delicious smoked or grilled trout with a glass of good wine from Lesser Poland.
The picturesque location of the vineyard on the edge of the rocky Pradnik Valley, apart from the panoramic view of the Jura plateau, has yet another advantage. A temperature inversion – which occurs when a cooler air mass moves over to the valley – causes grapevines to grow perfectly despite the location of the vineyard (400 mamsl). The vineyard is famous for its rare red wines made of leon millot and marechal foch varieties. Contemporary winemakers do not appreaciate these forgotten, old French wine blends, but the owners of the vineyard have proven that they may be made into excellent wines. For the production of white wines, the winemakers grow wine blends resistant to low temperatures such as aurora, seyval blanc, kristaly and swenson red and jutrzenka. All of them constitute one blend. According to the owners, “wines are full-bodied, rich in fruity aromas of lilac, blackcurrant, blueberries, cherries and even tobacco. It’s also worth asking for pink wine.”
The vineyard is located in Stryszawa, a scenic summer-resort village near Sucha Beskidzka. It’s nice to come here for a weekend because the owners – Elzbieta and Marcin Pierog – run an agritourism farm as well. The location of the vineyard is extreme, considering Polish weather conditions – 450 meters above sea level. Nevertheless, the planatation itself is located on a well-insolated, south-west slope; therefore, grapevines have good growing conditions. Vintage 2011 wines have reached the natural alcohol content of 15%! In such difficult conditions it’s not easy to select appropriate grape varieties. That’s why several dozen varieties of grapes are being tested in the vineyard, out of which solaris and bianca for white wines and marechal foch, regent, rondo and rösler for red wines turn out the most resilient. What’s more, they’re perfect for producing a unique, sweet ice wine.
This tiny vineyard (4 ares large) is located in Ciechanowice, on a beautiful south side of the Krakow-Czestochowa Upland, a dozen or so kilometers from Krakow. You can bike here easily. The route is stunning, referred to as “jurajska” [Jurassic] because of the limestone rendzina soil consisting in rock pieces and clay characteristic of the area. Grape varieties grown here include johanniter and solaris for white wines and regent for red wines. The owner – Marcin Niemiec – as featured in “Wino w Krakowie” produces wines that are “palate-friendly and never lose either their strong acidity or mineral nature.”
This small-sized vineyard is located in Garlica Duchowna near Zielonki, just a few kilometers north of Krakow. It’s also pretty bikers-friendly. The owners – Katarzyna and Jacek Hamel, historians by profession, who fled the hustle and bustle of the city – planted their first vines on a slope right behind their new house. In the early Middle Ages, Garlica Duchowna belonged to the Norbertines Convent in Zwierzyniec and, after that, to the Krakow cathedral chapter. As we already know, these assemblies were very fond of growing wine and wine itself. Started in 2006, a plantation covers 0.3 ha of the middle part of the slope over the Garliczka River. Grape varieties grown here include seyval blanc, jutrzenka and bianca for white wines and rondo and dornfelder for red wines.