See how Augarten porcelain is crafted, learn how to make chocolate pralines, and sample Schlumberger Sekt right at the source
Walking through the Ottakringer brewery rooms wreathed in the rich smells of fermentation, you learn how the golden brew has been manufactured since 1837.
Amid the quiet respite of the Augarten park in Vienna’s 2nd district, minutes from the bustling center of town, is the Augarten Porcelain Manufactory. Celebrating its 300-year jubilee this year, Augarten is the doyenne of factories in the city, with its prestigious handmade porcelain that carries centuries of tradition. Claudius Innocentius du Paquier brought the “white gold” from Holland to Vienna in 1718, and began producing tableware for the imperial house and the court nobility. In 1744, Maria Theresia put the manufacturer under imperial sponsorship, and it moved to the Pozellangasse (named in its honor) in the 9th district. Porcelain became particularly prized in the Rococo era with pieces hand painted by famous artists like Antoine Watteau.
In 1923, the production moved to the Augarten, ready to experiment with new forms of Art Deco, with designers from the Wiener Werkstätte such as Josef Hoffmann and Michael Powolny.
Augarten continues to produce Biedermeier designs from the early 19th century, but also creates new concepts and sculptures, collaborating with artists and designers like Philipp Bruni and Gabriele Rothemann. Visiting the factory, you can watch the artisans who mold and paint the porcelain of this year’s special jubilee collection. Every step in the process involves extreme precision – making and testing the molds, the high-temperature firing, the fine, in some cases millimeter-precise, rendering of the patterns. You will make your way with awe – and great care – as you pass through one small room crowded with works in progress as, on that day, a lone woman sits among them working magic.
OF BEER AND BUBBLY
The Ottakringer brewery is an institution in town. Located in the traditionally working-class 16th district, it has become a popular venue for parties and concerts (it reports hosting about 5,000 events a year, large and small). But it is still best known for its beer. Its trademark yellow cans are “the city brand,” second only to the Manner Schnitten wafers, on offer in every supermarket, at every Würstelstand and every bar, consumed by workers in coveralls or business types in suits. Walking through the brewery rooms wreathed in the rich smells of fermentation, you learn about the temperatures and timing of the process that transforms water, malt and hops into the golden brew manufactured here since 1837. After a final look at the bottling machines at work, you are rewarded with a sampling of beers accompanied by a warm pretzel.
Vienna is also a city of wine, and among its 400 vineyards are three famed producers of local champagne. The oldest is Schlumberger Cellars in the 19th district that has been making Sekt, Austria’s sparkling wine, according to the famed méthode traditionelle since Robert Alwin Schlumberger brought it from France in 1842. After a guided tour of the Kellerei, you’ll take away with you some of the secrets of a sommelier, the considerations that go into a “cuvée” blend and an understanding of the time, passion, rest and pure magic in a bottle of sparkling wine. And yes, there’s a tasting here as well, and special prices for some to take home.
THE GRACES OF SILVER
A visit to Jarosinski & Vaugoin is a step into the past, with a strong smell of metal, the pounding of hammers and cleaning machines producing silver cutlery as the company has since 1847. Today, these works of exquisite craftsmanship are fashioned as before for private clients, embassies and royal households at Zieglergasse 24, just off the Mariahilferstraße, the busy street of midmarket boutiques and international brands. As you cross the threshold of the silver workshop, the contrast is instantly clear: Here, the initials of a woman in France are engraved with care and precision on each piece of a set of cutlery, and designs by contemporary artists share space with the traditional. Now in the sixth generation, young managing director Jean Paul Vaugoin will tell you about his business with pioner’s passion and with a slight bow, serve you chilled water – in a silver cup.
And if you want to try your hands at making a sweet treat, you can join a workshop at Xocolat. Here, you will learn to fill a praline as the confectioners do every day as they stock the shelves of the shop in the princely Ferstel Passage with small chocolate bars packaged in maps and little transparent bags filled with pink balls of yogurt, raspberry and white chocolate. While a French ballad plays in the background, your nose will soon be smudged with chocolate, as your hands quiver, trying to fill that form with the sweet, seductive fluid: Chocolat.