Embracing (and Exploring) Vienna’s Wine Heritage

BergerHeurige.JPGNo trip to Vienna is complete without a tour of Schonbrunn Palace or a performance of the Lipizzaner horses.

Bonus points if you time your trip right so you can attend a concert of the Vienna Boys Choir.

But for a wine lover, not trip to Vienna is complete without spending an evening in Vienna’s wine district.

The taverns, or heurige, in that part of the city have served as backdrops for many films. Songs have been written about them. And because they are so comfortable and welcoming, the locals love them.

The word heurige does not describe just the tavern itself, but also the wine from the current vintage — and only Viennese wines are served.

To find an authentic heurige, look for a bunch of pine branches and the word Ausg’steckt written on a board. That board also will display the tavern’s hours.

Inside, you’ll find local wines available by the glass or bottle, tasty culinary creations (often served buffet style) and live music.

No other city on Earth embraces local wine like Vienna. In fact, it’s the only metropolis that grows enough winegrapes and makes enough wine within its city limits to even be worth mentioning. At last count, more than 1,700 acres in Vienna were devoted to vineyards.

The city’s wine heritage is reflected not only by the numerous heurige, but also by several beautiful old wine cellars.

One of the oldest is Villon Wine Bar, located four floors underground in the heart of the city. A tour of the 500-year-old cellar is offered, complete with tastings of both wine and Viennese spring water.

The magnificent wine cellar in the Palais Coburg was constructed within historical ruins from the 16th century. The “Wine Archive” and Champagne Cellar consist of six different rooms, each with unique character. The collection of rare wines is among the best in the world, and at any given time, the total bottle count hovers around 60,000.

At the Artner Restaurant, some parts of the cellar vaults date back to the Middle Ages. A few modern elements have been added in recent years, making the cellar accessible to the public.

More than 2 million bottles are stored in the Schlumberger Champagne Cellars, housed in the original Schlumberger building in Vienna Dobling. Tours of the 300-year-old edifice are provided, and end with a tasting of sparkling wine.

While varietal wines such as Gruner Veltliner are popular, a unique Viennese wine has been enjoying a renaissance in recent years. Gemischter Satz combines two concepts familiar in California wine circles — one modern, the other nearly “extinct.”

Like modern “Meritage” wines, Gemischter Satz is a blend, consisting of at least three locally grown varieties. But unlike Meritage wines — and very much like California’s “field blends” of the early 20th century — Gemischter Satz may include up to 20 different varieties, as long as they’re grown in the same vineyard, harvested at the same time, and fermented in a single batch (not as individual varietal lots).

These tasty blends have regained popularity among locals, providing a sense of national pride, and also among visitors who are seeking an “authentic taste” of Vienna.

Of course, no visit to Vienna is complete without a stop at a local coffee house. Vienna’s “coffee culture” even has been recognized by UNESCO. In addition to a wide array of morning pick-me-ups, these shops offer wonderful pastries and a variety of international newspapers. Some also schedule live music on a regular basis, and are referred to as “concert cafes.”

Beginning with the coffee houses, continuing with the heurige, and finishing with the wine bar, it never has been easier to drink one’s way through Austria’s capital city.

But don’t neglect to save time for a wienerschnitzel dinner! It goes great with a glass of Gruner Veltliner.


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