We walked into the lively Na břehu Rhôny (Na Hrobci 1, Prague, Czech Republic) for a glass of wine because it was right next door to our Airbnb in Prague, and everyone inside was obviously having a good time. Spying an empty table in a crowded room, we sat down and waited for a waitress. And waited. And waited.
Meanwhile, we watched as other guests walked up to a wall of wine boxes, opened one of several wooden doors, and served themselves wine from the spigoted boxes inside. Hmmm. Curiouser and curiouser.
When my curiosity overcame my natural shyness, I got up and asked another patron what was going on. He pointed to an empty shelf, and explained that you took a glass, and served yourself from the coolers: one was red wine, one was white, and the third was rose. Ask the hostess at the front counter, he advised. Having spied a map of the Rhone River hanging prominently on a wall, I ventured one last question, “Are all the wines from France?” “Yes, from the Rhone region.” One of my cardinal travel rules is to always drink local wine and beer, and eat local food specialties. But if all these locals were drinking French wine, who was I to argue?
Still somewhat confused, off I went to query the hostess. She explained that the self-serve wine glasses were currently not available but she would bring us two as soon as they were. Unlimited tastings, she added, were free. When you find a wine you like, just jot down its number on the paper pad on your table, and tell us how many 1 dl or 2 dl pours you drank. The glasses themselves were marked with both 1 dl (3 1/3 ounces) and 2 dl (6 ounces) lines.
The instructions were clearly posted on the wall. Of course, there were in Czech.
Upon closer inspection, I realized that each of the coolers (the red one, the white one, and the one with rose) were covered with stickers explaining the contents. Each wine was numbered, and description included the winery, the AOC appellation, the grapes, and the price for either a pour, a bottle or an entire box. With the strength of the US dollar, each 1 dl pour cost about $1.60. Unbelievable, right?