Viennese Heuriger

Heurigen the winemakers of Vienna

 Heurigen window

Back when it all began with the Heuriger…  the wine-makers of Vienna cleared their living-rooms and gardens. Under giant chestnut trees in the idyllic yards of the outer-lying districts, they poured their heuriger (literally “this year’s”) wine until the bottles and casks were empty. Guests brought their own provisions – in those days the wine-growers didn’t serve food. In a real Viennese Heuriger licensing regulations permit the sale of wine and home-made dishes from the buffet – and nothing else!

“The really good things in life can only be had at certain times of the year.” An unnamed author in the gourmet magazine A LA CARTE (2A, 2011) referring to the irregular opening times of the true Viennese Heuriger.

The residents of Vienna have Emperor Joseph II to thank that since 1784 the local vintners have been permitted to serve their own wine in their own homes. A true Heuriger can be recognised by two distinguishing features: the Föhrenbuschen (“pine-tree bush – hanging outside, showing that it’s open”) – which explains the other term for a Heuriger, “Buschenschank” – and the sign reading “Ausg’steckt”. These are the signs that the Heuriger is open, i.e. that the wine is flowing. With time the “real” Heuriger, with their cold food, were joined by commercial restaurants serving traditional (warm) Viennese cuisine. One thing has stayed the same, however: the typical hospitality and Gemütlichkeit, and the pleasure in simplicity.

 Heuriger sign

 Waitress

 Pour the wine

Grinzing is the Viennese heuriger-Mecca

albeit nowadays almost exclusively for tourists. On some days busloads of them stream through the picturesque alleys with their ancient houses. The locals, meanwhile, have moved elsewhere – to the Heuriger on the Kahlenberg and at the foot of the Nussberg for instance. On weekend afternoons in the late summer they wander through the vineyards and narrow lane-ways, and then take a break in the beautiful courtyards of the taverns with breathtaking views over the city, catch their breath, and savour a glass of local wine.

Text: Manuela Graf-Staudinger, Fotos: Christine Wurnig