This year’s VieVinum showcases the best of Austria and introduces little known Swiss and Dalmatian wines at the Hofburg from June 9 to 11.

Wine fairs are like gallery openings, clusters of trendy urbanites chatting at high tempo and knocking back quantities of wine. The difference is that at a Vernissage, it is practically de rigeur to ignore the art; at a wine fair, the product is still the main event. Wine has always been business and the VieVinum is a serious meet-and-greet affair, about 500 Austrian growers looking for buyers and a few dozen foreign winemakers hawking their wares to Austrian restaurants and their sommeliers, dedicated dealers and drinkers.

VieVinum is a three-day meet every two years in the magnificent imperial Hofburg. With the rich stucco ceilings and glittering chandeliers overhead, the wines are lined up on simple foldout tables with freshly starched tablecloths, more like homemade cakes at a charity bazaar. Most of the growers have a selection of five to ten wines, which they are happy for you to work your way through. The atmosphere is predictably cheerful, little bunches of people gathering like grapes round small stand-up tables near their favorite wines. The pros are diligently following the swirl, sip and spit regime, but for most of us, the wines are too good to “waste.” A good tip is to scan the exhibitors’ list and head straight for the wines you most want to try, perhaps a region you don’t know like the Steiermark or Slovenia. Make notes while the taste buds can still distinguish, and then, duty done, relax and enjoy.

It’s a Fach

This year’s focus is on the Fach­publikum, the serious professionals, although it’s hard to see how to implement this with open ticket sales. Certainly many smaller producers are skeptical of the real business value. Yes, it is always good to be visible, but an outlay of around €2,000-3,000 just to fuel a pleasant evening for Vienna’s Adabeis (social hangers-on) is a questionable investment for a small-scale farmer. A respected Kamptal grower reported mixed feelings: Yes, VieVinum is well organized and plenty of the right people come – it’s where he first made contact with his Japanese distributor. But it is largely financed by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, funded by a mandatory levy on growers. His advice to visitors: Don’t be blinded by fancy labels; look for the authentic growers who make honest wines.

It’s not that Austrian winemakers have any cause to complain. Local wines are holding up well against imports: 80 percent of consumption here is still from Austrian producers, and wine exports have more than doubled in the last 15 years, with the price per liter up from 83 cents to over €3, according to the news magazine Profil. Your access to VieVinum costs €55 for a day ticket, €45 if bought in advance.

This year’s VieVinum will also embrace wines om Switzerland and the “new” Europe. With the Swiss, famous for keeping their wines to themselves, this is a rare opportunity. Surrounded by the great wine producers France, Italy, Germany and our own Austria, they have their own unique local grape varieties like Arvine and Bondola, not “big” so much as charming, light and graceful. “New” Europe wines are those from Hungary, Romania, Croatia and Slovenia: The tradition is ancient, from vines that followed the Roman legions as they rolled across Europe, reaching Dalmatia well before the lonely garrison of Vindobona (Roman Vienna).

Parallel to the main fair, there are adjoining specialized sessions, several in English – like Sunday’s discussion on Vienna’s own classic, the Gemischter Satz. And since good wine and food are quite properly inseparable, several restaurants are offering special menus during the fair, curating a wine for each course. Reckon €80-115 per head with wine, for serious students a pleasant investment. To clear your mind and palate, Vienna’s Schlumberger (sparkling wines) and Turin’s coffee roaster Lavazza are also on hand to help. Three happy days ahead.

Reds & Whites

Some highlights for the discerning drinker

Breakout Sessions in English:

Local hero: Gemischter Satz, Jun 10, 10:00-11:15, Schatzkammersaal

Masterclass & tasting: Thermenregion, Jun 10, 12:00-13:15, Schatzkammersaal (reservation required)

Dalmatian magic: Croatian and Slovenian wines, Jun 10, 13:00-14:15, Künstlerzimmer

Restaurants with Curated Menus:

Le Salzgries 1., Marc-Aurel-Straße. 6 5 courses €76 + €34.50 wine

Kussmaul 1., Bäckerstr. 5 4 courses €55 + €45 wine

Speisekammer 8., Tigergasse 31 4 courses €45 + €35 wine