Wine Bars of Vienna
Surely the civility litmus test of any great city is the variety and vibrancy of its wine bars.At an authentic wine bar, the fundamentals of a convivial experience can bubble from a fermentation of good wines, tasty bites of food and the sharing with friends.
The heart of any great wine bar, akin to an enoteca or vinotech, is a place where the predominant focus is wine. Thus, everything else should be an accompaniment. So if there are more vodka than wine bottles on view, then this is a bar. If the menu is a smorgasbord of plenty, then this is a restaurant, so too for cafés that happen to have a carafe of Claret.
A wine bar worth its weight in tannins, no matter the theme or size, will include the following:
1. Stacks and racks of wine bottles in view and accessible to the guest, not just a wine list. Wine is all about full sensory immersion.
2. Knowledgeable staff that are happy and willing to have a chat about what you like and your budget, and offer small tastings, until they pluck some unknown artisanal wine from under the counter that knocks your socks off.
3. Accompaniments of food that heighten the pleasure of drinking wine, such as charcuterie plates, cheese and olives, or more adventurous tapas. Anything more, and it’s dining, not a wine experience.
4. Finally, some focus on education. Good venues love to share their knowledge via tastings and information on regions or producers, and specialise in particular countries or regions, or in a focus on organic/biodynamic wines.
Before listing Vienna’s candidates for an authentic wine bar outing, I must make one common Austrian complaint: the allowing of smoking indoors. More often than not, a cheeky glass of Riesling will show hints of ash on the nose, or a gamey Pinot Noir will have an underbrush of cigar leaf. A shame, and an annoyance.
Unger und Klein
A busy, no nonsense wine bar packed with trade and knowledgeable customers. It is the staff that make this place, and who are happy to take the reins in choosing, although the design is also spectacular and the charcuterie plates delicious. Austrian focus, with a small selection of new and old world wines.
1., Gölsdorfgasse 2
A cute little enoteca-style venue tucked off Taborstrasse, with a picturesque outdoor Schanigarten. No wine list, which allows conversation and discussion on choice and budget. Always some tucked away bottles out back for the more adventurous, and the display of cold cuts and cheeses rounds off a place of purpose and authenticity.
2., Karmeliterplatz 2
More than a few bottles of Barolo have washed the walls of what is one of Vienna’s most respected wine bars. An Italian focus with good selection from Austria, it is a place where shoulders are rubbed with a loyal custom, and plates of cheese and charcuterie are passed over-head to waiting tables. A late opener, and a late closer on the weekends.
1., Schönlaterngasse 11
Meinl’s Wein Bar
Part of Julius Meinl am Graben, and easily a heavyweight in the wine bar stakes, including the prices. The benefit here is the sheer choice of wines by the glass – over 30 – and a selection of over 2,000 wines, including many served in the bar for 10 per cent off the shelf price. The list is obvious, but the environment is polished and refined.
1., Graben 19
A slick, floor to ceiling retail/wine bar, owned by the Müller Weingutter family, that stocks an impressive display of wines, especially from Italy, France and the enticing oddities from Portugal and Spain.
A respectable €6 corkage on any wine to drink on site, including a providore section for Nasch-material. A rare non-smoking locale, so double points for this!
1., Riemergasse 6
The only thing holding this place back is the name, which hints at a cross between a beer garden and cinema. Owner Robert Brandhofer has put together a solid list of wines that will challenge and satisfy. Unique here are weekly wine tasting flights and events, a great way to sample broadly and learn along the way.
5., Margaretenstraße 61
A delicate, corner retail-cum-wine bar that specialises in Champagne, and yes, that means bubbles only from (affordably lesser known) houses in France’s most luxurious region. The décor is understated but classy, and with several Champagnes by the glass, and sushi plates on demand, this makes for a memorable evening pre and post dinnertime.
1., Petersplatz 8
Wein & Co
I have left this for last, not in any way as a critique of their business, but more as it straddles the concept of retail and wine bar, and so sits in a position of its own. I love the concept, especially the option to walk through the shop, choose a wine and, for a small corkage, you get it served at your table together with a bottle of water, perfect!
9 addresses in Vienna