In Vienna Veritas
As summer opens, ‘ganz Wien’ heads for the Heurige, for evenings of wine and conversation
Traditions emerge out of the elusive soil known as culture, but when backed up with the force of law, they can thrive through centuries. Such is the history of the Heuriger, a Viennese tradition since 1784, when the Emperor Joseph II declared that the Austrian wine growers had the right to sell their own wine and provisions on the premises without the prohibitive cost of a restaurant license.
Today there are hundreds of such Heurige, or wine restaurants, over a hundred within the city limits of Vienna itself. Usually on location at the vineyard, the wine is served by waiters in shirt and vest or waitresses in Dirndls, and the buffet offers an assortment of salads, fresh bread, cheeses and spreads, and traditional meals to everyone in the neighborhood and who ever happens to be passing through.
Over the years the tradition has expanded to include Stadtheurige in town and sometimes an à la carte menu with more typical restaurant meals.
Many Heurige traditionally had musicians on hand, as well as the typical grouping of one or two violins, an accordion and a double bass, or sometimes a guitar. And if you’re lucky you’ll still find authentic Heuriger music today, although the musicians are more likely to come from Slovakia or Hungary rather than the Steiermark. But Heuriger music of the Old Empire knew no boundaries, and lives on in good hands thanks to these talented musicians from the East.
A good example of a "Winzer" or wine grower is Fritz Wieninger, one of Vienna’s best. His vineyards produce a fine Grüner Veltliner as well as some of the best Chardonnays in Austria, a renowned Pinot Noir, and a notable Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot cuvée. Some of his much-prized vintages are available for tasting at the Heuriger Wieninger, managed by his brother Leo, with a varied buffet just right for a wine tasting palette.
Some of the Heurige in Grinzing, in the 19th District, are overly touristy, but the most beautiful gardens and the best wine are well kept secrets. Heuriger Sirbu is one local favorite. The drive up the Nußberg and the ocean of vinyards on every side are sensational. Inside the décor is unspectacular but has real specialties in the salad and cheese departments.
To escape the tourists, try Neustift am Walde, on the edge of the Vienna Woods, where Wolff and Das Schreiberhaus are open almost year round and have the warmth and family feeling these establishments are famous for. The latter is smaller and slightly cleaner, with a longer a la carte menu of traditional Austrian cuisine.
"Isn’t it our holy obligation to serve every creation of the garden" says the credo of Heuriger Artner, – "the forest, the waters and the air, which they offer to our pleasure, on a plate and in a glass in the most perfect form?"
Heuriger goes classy with the Artners, one of the most successful winery families in Austria. A 40 minute drive east from Vienna will get you to a place where style and tradition collide, creating an explosion of sensation. Spoil your taste buds with the banquet of diverse tastes, through the game of color that the setting sun likes to play on your glass of wine. Let your auditory organs indulge in the harmony of the sounds of nature.
And if you don’t want to make the long trek to Carnuntum but still long for something more sophisticated of an evening, you might try the fine Artner restaurant in the 4th District, - just make sure to reserve. It’s often fully booked.
As in most Heurige, you can also take a bottle or two of Artner’s finest home. It’s up to you to decide whether to get your wine in the ab-Hof Laden by the Heuriger, in the wine boutique at the restaurant or order through their virtual Vinothek.
Vienna also boasts a few authentic city Heurige, perfect when schedules are tight. Even without the vineyard out back, the good ones still retain the unpretentious flair of their country cousins.
One of the best is Gigerl, hidden in a bend of the tiny Blumenstockgasse, off Weihburggasse and just a couple of minutes walk from Stephansdom – like a family secret, there’s a naturalness to the intimate setting tat, along with the good wine and satisfying feast, needs no explanation.
Another city favorite is the Esterhazykeller, located in a tiny street at the end of the Graben. It has an enormous, deep cellar with winding tunnels connecting many rooms. They also serve beer (not all Heurige do), but most insiders stick with the wine, particularly the whites.
For beer, you’re better off at the Salm Bräu on Rennweg below the Belvedere in the 3rd District, one of a number of comfortable Gasthäuser in Vienna where it’s brewed on location.
2465 Höflein – Carnuntum
Tel: (02) 162 63 148
Fax: (02) 162 66 255
Restaurant Weinkellerei Artner
4., Floragasse 6
Tel: (01) 503 50 33
Fax: (01) 503 50 34
1., Haarhof 1 (near Naglergasse)
Tel: (01) 533 34 82
Fax: (01) 535 26 14
1., Rauhensteingasse 3
Entrance: Blumenstockgasse 2
Tel.: (01) 513 44 3 1
Fax: (01)512 20 37
19., Rathstraße 54
Neustift am Walde
Tel: (01) 440 38 44, or 440 38 39
Fax: (01) 440 39 17
19., Kahlenbergerstraße 210
Tel: (01) 320 59 28
Fax: (01) 370 13 19
21., Stammersdorfer Straße 80
Tel: (01) 290 10 12
Fax: (01) 290 10 123
19., Rathstraße 50
Neustift am Walde
Tel: (01) 440 37 27
Fax: (01) 440 14 03