One of the best things about living in Vienna is the proximity to its numerous vineyards. Drive just 20 minutes from the main city centre and you’ll find yourself in the middle of the beautiful vineyards.
There are, in fact, 700 hectares of vineyards within the city limits of Vienna! Most of them are located in its northern districts, while there are plenty of producers around the city to discover.
Amongst these vineyards, the great Viennese wine culture can be enjoyed in its wine taverns, better known as Heuriger. These small but lovely, rustic places are like being invited into the wine grower’s wooden cabins to enjoy their produce.
One may hear some people refer to Buschenschank as being wine taverns in Austria too. Heurigen and Buschenschank are essentially the same thing – it is only a dialect difference.
These real Viennese wine taverns – in which only local Viennese wines are served – are identified by a bunch of pine branches hung by the front door and by the word ‘Ausg’steckt’ written on a board, which simultaneously shows when the tavern is open.
To find out whether a Heuriger is open, look for a bunch of branches or a straw wreath over a door with a light bulb. An illuminated bulb shows that the Heuriger is open.
However, the word ‘Heurige’ also means the wine from the current vintage which – in accordance with tradition, may be so-called until 11 November (St Martin’s Day). Technically, the phrase ‘Heuriger wine’ means ‘this year’s wine’; so a Heuriger is simply a place to try the freshest wine direct from the makers.
There are varieties of new wines on offer where one can indulge in the art of wine tasting and sampling some traditional local cuisines. Alongside the pleasant wine by the glass, the Viennese Heurige also offer their guests fine wines sold in ‘Bouteillen’ (750-ml bottles), reflecting the richness of the variety and the special Viennese climate, and corresponding glass and tableware.
The wines here range from elegant reds with soft tannins to white wines that reflect the freshness of the harvest. In olden days Heurigers were simple places, where vineyard owners would open their doors during wine season to serve glasses of current year’s wine and juices to guests.
At most, a plate of cold meats and cheese could be served along with the delicious wine. The food was always just cold cuts; but nowadays, some fine Viennese cuisines are also served along with some international dishes.
Heurigers have been gaining popularity and proving to be a place to enjoy and unwind during the weekends. Both young and old crowds throng these taverns. The atmosphere at Heurigen is always very relaxed and laid back.
Some also offer facilities to host wedding and private parties throughout the summers up until fall. Some Heurigers are only open on certain days of the year; while others are so immensely popular or booked out for weddings that it can be hard to get a seat. It is frequented by both locals as well as tourists.
One should keep in mind is that a Heuriger is not a ‘party zone’. Each Heuriger is somehow more refined and comfortable, and while one will probably drink to oblivion (like most things in Vienna!) it is always civilised.
Some Heurigers offer you seating in the garden, where you may feel like you’re in the middle of the vineyards while enjoying the local wines. At a Heuriger, you will meet the locals as they also enjoy this traditional kind of fun time activity.
From the city centre of Vienna, many Heurigers are very easy to get to, normally by taking a tram directly to the end of the line and then walking a short distance.
One could also use the cute looking “Vienna Heurigen Express’ – a hop-on-hop-off shuttle – that runs between Kahlenberg and operates on Saturdays to get people between the Heurigers. It should be on your bucket list when you visit Vienna next time. Cheers!