Trying Heurigen in Vienna

By Kitty Chen Dean
This item appears on page 24 of the August 2020 issue.
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Patio of the Obermann Heuriger in Vienna. Photos by Kitty Chen Dean

In eastern Austria, a Heuriger is a place where one can drink “new wine,” wine bottled this year. During our month-long stay in Vienna, June 12-July 10, 2019, my husband, Richard, and I decided to honor the Austrian tradition of going to Heurigen (plural of Heuriger) to welcome the new vintages.

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Patio of the Obermann Heuriger in Vienna. Photos by Kitty Chen Dean

In eastern Austria, a Heuriger is a place where one can drink “new wine,” wine bottled this year. During our month-long stay in Vienna, June 12-July 10, 2019, my husband, Richard, and I decided to honor the Austrian tradition of going to Heurigen (plural of Heuriger) to welcome the new vintages.

As new vintages arrived, vineyards across the nation have celebrated by opening their establishments to the public, usually putting up a pine branch, a sheaf of grain or other symbol to announce the fact. These days, we find out from the tourist bureau, tour companies and guidebooks (with ratings).

• Our first visit was to the town of Grinzing. Nestled in the woods of northern Vienna, it’s a well-populated suburb accessible by both bus and tram. The bus let us off in the middle of town, with a Heuriger right across the square from us. That one was probably good, but, noticing a tourist van in front, we opted for a different one we’d read about. It was located up the hill, an easy walk that was also served by bus.

Obermann (Cobenzlgasse 102, 1190 Wien; weinbauobermann.at [in German only]) had an unassuming entry up some stone stairs into a bucolic grassy area scattered with wooden tables and benches flanked by flowering plants, with grapevines overhead. It was a small, family-owned vineyard aiming to please, and our cheerful waiter pointed us to the local wines from his handwritten list.

Of course, we wanted the whites made in their vineyard, especially the Grüner Veltliners and Rieslings. Pacing ourselves, we opted for the half glass and had one round in which we compared the two wines.

We saw old and young couples as well as groups sitting at other tables. One group of 10 men and women looked like old friends who met regularly. They were really enjoying themselves, laughing and talking but not loudly. (We never encountered loud people in Vienna.)

After ordering our second round of wine, we followed the group into the building, where glass-cased hot and cold food was displayed. We pointed to a beautiful slice of roast pork au jus, sausages, an herbed lentil salad, a creamy coleslaw, tangy potato salad and a couple of cheese spreads with bread.

Preparations for a wedding party at the Obermann Heuriger — Vienna.

The food was weighed and a price presented — astoundingly cheap, about 25 (near $28) for both of us! (It was way too much food to eat; I took leftovers home in baggies.)

The wine paired perfectly with the delicious food, and instead of dessert, we had our third round of white wine, which meant that each of us had now tasted six wines. The wine added another 17 to the cost. At all of the Heurigen we visited, we usually paid between 2.50 and 3 per half glass.

• For a contrast with Obermann, we tried one of the most famous Heurigen, Mayer am Pfarrplatz (Pfarrpl. 2, 1190 Wien; www.pfarrplatz.at/en/the-heurige), in Heiligenstadt, also in northern Vienna. We took along a friend and looked forward to being able to say we’d now tasted nine wines!

Mayer’s charming courtyard was surrounded on three sides by 2-story-high apartments where Beethoven once lived. Somewhat more commercial, Mayer was crowded and had fancy printed menus and table service, but we could also choose at the counter. The food was excellent.

• We went to two more Heurigen in Vienna: Heurigen Hofer (Mauer Lange Gasse 29, 1230 Wien; www.facebook.com/WeingutHofer) and Weingut Franz Wieselthaler (Oberlaaer Str. 71, 1100 Wien; www.weingut-wieselthaler.at [in German only]).

All four Heurigen shared a similar format but differed in wines, food and hours. We noticed that some customers opted for an array of snacks (or nothing at all) instead of a meal. Some people even had beer. Food prices depended on one’s choices but were always reasonable.

We’d like to visit Heurigen in cold weather next time. I loved the outdoor seating, sometimes with a view of the vineyards, but the interiors of the restaurants looked warm and gemütlich (cozy)!

KITTY CHEN DEAN
New York, NY