Grapes for Wieninger wines are grown here in Vienna, and you can stop by for a glass or three. (Photo: Herbert Lehmann)
By Max Gross
Switch around a few letters and you can easily see that Wien (aka Vienna) goes hand in hand with wine. (And, hey, after a couple of glasses of wine, it’s extremely easy switching around letters.)
Out of all the cities in Europe, Vienna is the only major one that has serious wine production within the city limits.
There are about 1,700 acres of vineyards in Vienna and 630 different producers. (Production is several million bottles per year — most of it white.)
“When the Romans came to Vienna,” says Fritz Wieninger, owner of one of the largest wineries in the city, “wine was already here.”
Viennese wines show up on plenty of the city’s menus. There are vineyards where you can picnic and drink wine.
The winery and heuriger Mayer am Pfarrplatz, in the 19th district of Vienna. (Photo: Mayer am Pfarrplatz)
There are wine cellars that contain wine that dates back to the 18th century. But perhaps the best way to enjoy the various Rieslings, Sauvignon Blancs and Gemischter Satzes (field blends) of this city is at a heuriger.
“The heuriger is a rustic wine tavern, usually part of a winery,” explains Wolfgang Ban, chef and co-owner of New York restaurants Edi & the Wolf and Seasonal, and the operator of Paulaner, who grew up in eastern Austria near Vienna, where he developed a taste for wines from his grandfather’s vineyard. (He also parlayed his knowledge into a job running food for the four-star Parkhotel Schönbrunn in Vienna.)
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The heuriger traditionally serves its own brand of wine and its own homemade edibles — typically cheese or sausage. (The ordinance creating heurigers goes back to Emperor Joseph II who, in 1784, guaranteed only wine made in-house could be served at a heuriger.)
The heuriger “makes the wine very approachable, easy to drink,” says Ban. “It’s something for every day.”
Before embarking on a trip to Vienna, NYP Travel asked Ban for some of his favorite picks around his old Viennese stomping grounds where we could pick up some decent hooch and experience wine as Vienna can best offer it.
Manuela and Matthias Kierlinger run the Kierlinger winery, with glasses available for $3.80. (Photo: Handout)
First on Ban’s list is Mayer am Pfarrplatz, a rustic winery and heuriger in the suburban 19th district of the city. One enters through a beautiful, leafy courtyard and can tour the winemaking facilities as well as partaking in its array of wines.
“We only can sell the wines we produce in our vineyard,” says Paul Kiefer, the sales manager for the winery. “We have about 35 or 40 different wines on the list. If the wines are sold out, have to remove it from wine list till the next harvest.”
About 300,000 bottles of Mayer am Pfarrplatz wine are produced every year (starting at around $13); the winery was originally built in 1683.
And in 1817, Ludwig van Beethoven lived in the building — but was apparently a tough customer and the landlord threw him out.
Aside from the leafy, almost bucolic setting where one can sit and enjoy the wine, the wines themselves are some of the best produced in the city, including a nice array of Gemischter Satzs, Rieslings, and many others.
Nearby is Kierlinger, a smaller wine tavern where only one kind of house wine is served (Gemischter Satz — a field blend) in small glass beer mugs for $3.80.
The tavern is lorded over by Manuela Kierlinger and her husband, Matthias.
“We’re one of the last real traditional heurigers,” Manuela says. The heuriger had been in her husband’s family for generations. (It dates from 1787.)
Sip al fresco at Buschenschank Wieninger am Nussberg. (Photo: Herbert Lehmann)
And like Mayer am Pfarrplatz, Beethoven was a customer at this heuriger. “Beethoven lived in every house in the neighborhood,” Manuela explains. “He kept having to move.”
The not-overly-sweet, acidic, mineral-filled wine can also be enjoyed in Kierlinger’s courtyard, or in the rustic dining room with wood tables and wood benches.
And don’t forget to order a soft homemade Liptauer cheese sprinkled with paprika for $3.29 a portion.
From the humble heuriger, it’s actually not too great a transition in a city like Vienna to a grand palace.
A visit to the 19th-century Palais Coburg is essential for any oenophile visiting this city; there are some 60,000 bottles of wines housed in the six cellars below this five-star hotel — some from the early 18th century.
The oldest bottle in the cellar is a German Riesling from 1727 — “We won’t sell it,” the sommelier told me, “because we wanted to have a bottle that was older than Mozart.”
Of course, these wine cellars are not all about local wines. The sommelier will dazzle you with explanations of Champagnes (one of the cellars is dedicated to sparkling wine), rooms dedicated to French and new world wines — while not forgetting Austrian wines like a 100 point Nikolaihof Riesling from Wachau, according to Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker, and a Viennese Wieninger Chardonnay from 2002. (A 50-minute tour costs $33; book in advance, through the same site as above.)
One needn’t take a tour at all, of course (and the Palais Coburg offers things like tastings, too, but they can be expensive with some tastings going for $171) — one can simply sit in their sleek wine bar and rifle though their immense list of wines.
They also have a two-star Michelin restaurant, Silvio Nickol, in case you get hungry.
The Palais Coburg wine cellar, however, isn’t the beginning and end place to sample an array of Viennese wines.
“There’s a big company — Wein & Co, which is a chain — a wine store where you can go in and purchase bottle of wine, pay extra money for a corkage fee” and sit and drink, says Ban.
Wein & Co’s are all over the city, and if you go in just ask for the Vienna section and you will have a wide selection of wines like Wein & Co’s Wiener Satz ($12, when NYP Travel was there) to a nice Mayer am Pfarrplatz Riesling ($44) which would save you a schlep out to their heuriger, if you don’t have the time.
If time is a luxury that you do have, it would be a shame if you didn’t head out to the Buschenschank Wieninger am Nussberg, an outdoor wine tavern set in Vienna’s vineyards, where the grapes for one of the city’s biggest wine producers, Wieninger, are grown.
The Buschenschank (another name for a heurigeur) serves soft cheeses, salads, and sausages, as well as some of the city’s best wines.
“There are 10 different grape varietals,” says Fritz Wieninger — he produces about 350,000 bottles on about 172 acres of land, and his wine is imported to 37 different countries.
A glass of Gemischter Satz can go for as low as $4 per glass, but there are plenty of other wines to sample: a peppery 2011 Pinot Noir; an acidic, complex but balanced 2013 Herrenholz Grüner Veltliner, and much more.
And, in case you were wondering, yes — while 80 percent of the wines are white, there are a few reds (like the Pinot Noir) in the mix, too.
We could raise our glass to it all.
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