Experiencing Gemütlichkeit at Sirbu

Going “urig” with wine, Aufstrich and Schrammelmusik

Top Stories | Johanna Sebauer | July / August 2012

Breathtaking views and a relaxed atmosphere: Heuriger are seasonal joys (Photo: Heuriger Sirbu)

Austrians are known to be gemütlich. At least that’s what we say about ourselves and how we would like to be perceived. Whether or not this is true should be left for others to judge. But if this Gemütlichkeit does in fact exist, it is most likely to be found at one of Vienna’s Heuriger.

These uniquely Austrian wine taverns appear like magic from behind closed doors during spring- and summertime, where vintners only sell the wine they have produced themselves along with some simple but tasty local food, served on rough wooden picnic tables by women in Dirndls or waiters in vests and long aprons. The name itself derives from the adjective heurig, meaning "this year’s" in Austrian-German, and refers to the young wine on offer.

We might begin in the Gastgarten at Sirbu in Nußdorf, whose long wooden tables are shaded by leafy walnut trees and hung with brilliant baskets of petunias, set out over a splendid view of the vineyards and the city beyond. The mood is mellow and we fall easily into conversation with the people sharing our table – "intellectual conversations about trivia", journalist Alan Levy used to call them – the genial chatter that seems to fit so perfectly in the atmosphere of a Heuriger.

When the wine has been brought to the table, we toast the evening, and head inside to choose from today’s offerings. Sirbu’s menu is rustic and generous. Beside the obligatory Kümmelbraten (roast pork seasoned with caraway seeds) or Cordon bleu (filled with ham and cheese), there’s spinach Strudel, seasoned patés and Aufstriche (spreads), and a variety of salads: shredded carrots, tomatoes, roasted stuffed peppers, pickled onions, red beans and garlic. And baskets overflowing with salted bread sticks and fresh rolls.

Not so long ago the local delicacies were nearly always accompanied by a band playing traditional Schrammelmusik, consisting of a violin or two, or a clarinet, an accordion, and the double-necked contra-guitar. Today the bands are less common, but canned music blasting from a stereo is also very much taboo at a Heuriger.


Wine and the City

Vienna is one of the few world capitals, if not the only one, with local wine. Last year it produced 2.5 million litres of wine on a cultivation area of over 500 hectares within the city limits.

It is a tradition as old as the city itself, one that began during Celtic times. With the Roman settlements, wine became a staple, grown and consumed in and around "Vindobona", the outpost that would become Vienna. In medieval times, the city was entirely surrounded by vineyards.

With the urbanisation over the course of the 18th century, the vineyards came under threat. But in response to a petition from the wine growers, the enlightened Emperor Joseph II, son of Empress Maria Theresa, enacted a Law of the Heuriger in 1784 allowing "every man the freedom to sell or dispense – year round, in any form, at any time, and at whatever price he wants – food, wine or fruit juice that he has produced himself."

This decree saved the vineyards and set in motion the unique Heuriger-tradition that is so much a part of every Viennese summer.

For more on Vienna’s Heurige, see "In Vienna Veritas" (TVR May 2007), "Heuriger Season!" (TVR Jul/Aug 2009), and "Going Heuriger Hopping" (TVR Jul/Aug 2011).

Heuriger Sirbu

15:00–23:00, except Sun. or holidays

19., Kahlenbergerstraße 210

(01) 320 59 28



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