It is a brilliant blue autumn afternoon as we join our friends at a long table outside under the old trees. Soon the jugs of wine and soda water arrive, and the glass mugs are passed around. Absorbed in conversation, we sample the new vintage, as a light breeze brushes our faces. We’ll stay out under the sheltering vines as long as we can, until the evening chill forces inside. We find a table near the tiled Kachelofen, surrounded by country furniture, old photos and knickknacks on the walls, sharing some Rostbraten and Spinatstrudel and an array of salads or Sauerkraut. We’re relaxed and mellow; the words flow, and time seems to have lost its hold. This is the Heuriger tradition as it has been for centuries, and how it largely remains to this day. Below, we recommend four of the best Heuriger in and around Vienna to try – just a few of our favorites.
Austria, and especially Vienna, has a long wine-growing tradition, going back to the Roman times, to 276 AD when the cultivation of grapes for wine was legalized. But it was in 1784 that the Viennese Heuriger were born. It was in that year that Emperor Joseph II declared that winegrowers would thenceforth be able sell their own wine and simple food without a special restaurant license. Ready to serve, the vintner would hang a bundle of greenery – a “Buschenschank” – from a wrought iron brace over the door. Thus suitable “augesteckt” (set out), the public would know he was open for business.
These wine taverns rapidly became centers of community life; everyone spent time there, drinking and talking, and often singing together. In fact, music has always been, and remains, an integral part of the Heurigen culture, traditionally one or two violins, a guitar, accordion, perhaps a zither and a clarinet, performing Viennese songs with a special brand of ironic sentimentality known nowhere else. And while not all have music today, the culinary magazine Falstaff list over two dozen in and around Vienna, where music is still part of the daily fare.
Today, there are two kinds of Heuriger. Those that have the special wine restaurant status are usually only open a few weeks a year, in which they serve their new wine, harvested after Nov. 11 of the year before – thus the name Heuriger, or “that which is current.” These offer a self-service buffet of salads, spreads to slather over fresh bread, roasts, cheese, and sausage. A Heuriger with a restaurant license may stay open all year with a full restaurant menu as well as wine. Beer is not usually served at any traditional wine restaurant.
Drinks served at the Heuriger include Schankweine (wine tapped from a barrel), Bouteillenwein (bottled wine), Sturm (fermenting grape juice), and Staubiger (almost fully fermented grape juice, which is bitter and has a high alcohol content). An important part of the tradition is the so-called Fluchtachterl, “one for the road”, an “achterl” (1/8 liter) of the house wine at the bar before leaving. At least until the 1970s, it was also common to bring your own food to the Heuriger, and sometimes even your own drinks, for which you would pay Stoppelgeld, a token to the vintner for the pleasure of sharing the setting with family and friends.
For the over 640 wineries active today in Vienna, there are some 180 registered Heuriger, with the best found in Grinzing, Stammersdorf, Strebersdorf, Neustift am Walde, Hagenbrunn, Nussdorf, Kahlenbergerdorf, Jedlersdorf, Bisamberg, and Dürnstein. Below are four of our personal favorites.
NEUSTIFT AM WALDE
Open all year around, this Heuriger is popular with politicians and tourists alike. In the Huber family since the 1970s, the house itself dates back to 1683 and was restored according to the original plans of Prof. W. v. Hoesslin, a set designer at the Court Opera at that time. Here, the ambiance is traditional in the best sense, and with dark furniture and an open fire, very welcoming. Wines are more expensive than in Hagenbrunn: A 1/8 liter wine from the barrel begins at €1.80 up €3.80 for the pricier sorts, bottles from €9.50. Group rates are available.
Weingut Fuhrgassl-Huber Ernst and Gerti Huber
Sun, holidays 12:00-24:00
19., Neustift/Walde 68
(01) 1 440 14 05
At the bottom of the Bisamberg just outside Vienna, this family-owned Heuriger opened in 1959 and serves wine from organically grown grapes. The building itself is very modern, built on an open plane flooded with light from the many floor-to-ceiling windows, and from the outside terrace, you can walk directly into the vineyards. 0.75 liters wine from the bottle cost between €5.10 and €6.50. The traditional goose dishes, Gänslessen, will be served this year from Nov. 5-14. For 2022 dates, check the website.
Weinbau Familie Lackner
Aug. 15-Sept. 8
(02262) 749 82
Just a few kilometers North of Vienna, Heuriger Salomon is an insider tip among wine lovers. One of seven in the village Hagenbrunn, this Heuriger surrounds a charming courtyard, and offers a bright cozy atmosphere. A ¼ liter wine from the barrel costs between € 1.60 and €1.80. 1/8 liter from the bottle costs between €1.50 and €2. Some of the wines offered are Grüner Veltliner, Zweigelt, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Welschriesling. Prices are cheap compared to other regions, and with just a few busses a day, it’s hard to get there without a car.
Buschenschank Hermann Salomon
Jul. 25- Aug. 22
(02262) 67 28 04
When it comes to Zawodsky, insiders are reluctant to so much as whisper its name, even to their closest friends, for fear it might become bo-bo-ized into a (God forfend!) wine bar. Fear not! This enchanted Heuriger lies nestled in an orchard on the edge of the family vineyards southwest of the village of Grinzing, in manageable walking distance from the tram station, continuing unchanged through the decades, as each new generation picks up the torch. Along with the usual Heuriger buffet, there are special grill days, when the fire sizzles with the steaks and sausages from the neighboring farms, along with, perhaps a pumpkin casserole or cabbage Strudel. And – all important – the family’s wine is exceptionally drinkable and always available in liters to take away.
May 26 – Sept 26
Oct. 1 – Nov. 28
Fri 17:00, Sat 15:00
Sun, holidays 13:00
(01) 320 79 782