Pictures: Christian G.E.Schiller with Alexander Skoff, Winemaker at Weingut Zahel at the Heurigen Mayer am Pfarrplatz in Vienna and Viennese Carriages in Front of Stephansdom Waiting for Clients.
Note: You find an updated version of this posting here: Schiller's Favorite Wine Bars and other Wine Spots in Vienna, Austria
When I was in Vienna for the European Wine Bloggers Conference 2010 (EWBC 2010), I drank quite a bit of Austrian wine. I will be back in Vienna in the July 2011 for a wedding.
Wine places - where you can have a glass of wine - are numerous in Vienna. They range from top-of-the-line restaurants, more basic neighborhood Beisls and the famous Vienna Coffee Houses to the Heurigen wine taverns and small, fancy wine bars. Here is my private list.
As an important cultural center of Europe, Vienna has also always had superb restaurants with excellent wine lists. I had a “flying dinner” with excellent wines at the Oesterreicher im MAK, offered for the EWBC conference participants by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board.
Österreicher Im MAK: At his namesake restaurant, located in the same building as the Museum of Applied Arts, Helmut Österreicher serves a mix of tweaked Viennese specialties and comfort food classics. Exclusively Austrian wine list.
Picture: Oesterreicher im MAK, EWBC 2010 Party
The Beisls (Yiddish for "little house") are Vienna’s main traditional eating and drinking places, where you are expected to share a table with other customers.
Picture: Wiener Schnitzel
As the Heurige and the Vienna Coffee House, the Beisl is an Viennese institution. This is where I eat my Vienna Schnitzel and have a couple of glasses of decent Austrian wine. But do not expect to find the big Austrian wine guns on the Beisl wine list.
Schnitzelwirt: The place to eat Wiener Schnitzel.
Witwe Bolte: Long-established Beisl in the charming backstreets of Spittelberg. Lovely summer garden.
That any wine comes from Vienna seems strange on the face of it. Great urban centers are not known for their vineyards, beyond a novelty vineyard here and there. But the capital of Austria is different. Around 500 vintners grow vine on around 700 hectares, all within the city limits. Indeed, Vienna has its own appellation and is one of Austria’s 4 major wine regions, with Niederoesterreich, Burgenland and Steiermark, though by far the smallest.
Most of the Viennese wine is consumed in the about 100 Wiener Heurigen. The word “Heurige” means “the wine of the current year” – and this is what you drink there: the Heurigen owner’s wine of the last vintage, often coming in a jar.
Although the Viennes Heurigen are the most famous in the world, you find them in all Austrian (and German) wine regions. Grinzing is the most famous and consequently the most touristy. Next most popular are the nearby areas of Heiligenstadt and Nussdorf. Less touristy alternatives include Sievering and Neustift am Walde. Another option is to cross over the Danube and head for the village of Stammersdorf, and its immediate neighbour Strebersdorf. Here are my favorites.
Hirt: Fifteen-minute walk from S-Bahn Kahlenbergerdorf. Lovely Heuriger tucked into the slopes below Leopoldsberg overlooking the Danube.
Mayer am Pfarrplatz: U-Bahn Heiligenstadt. Large Heuriger, where Beethoven used to live. The EWBC participants spent an extraordinary evening there, at the invitation of the WienWein winemakers association. See here.
Pictures: Mayer am Pfarrplatz, EWBC 2010 Party, at the Invitation of the WienWein Winemakers Association.
Sirbu: 19, Kahlenberger Strasse 210, Nussdorf. Fifteen-minute walk from bus 38A terminus. Positioned in amongst the vineyards, with fabulous views from the hill above Nussdorf.
Wieninger: Streetcar 31 to Stammersdorf. 10 minutes walk. Member of the WienWein association, one of Vienna’s elite winemaker and one of the hosts at the Mayer am Pfarrplatz evening.
Zawodsky: Reinischgasse 3. Classic simple Heuriger, with benches set out in a lovely orchard garden with fantastic views over Vienna.
Hengl-Hasselbrunner: An insider favorite in Grinzing.
Vienna Coffee Houses
Viennese Coffee Houses have a long and distinguished history that dates back centuries. These are places where people come to read (and write) books, trade gossip, and think and dream. A single cup entitles the drinker to sit there all day if necessary.
There are different kinds of Coffee Houses, (1) the Kaffee-Konditorei where the establishment's cakes and pastries are at the center; and then there are the (2) traditional Coffee Houses, the smoky type, with a wide range of newspapers to read, and a waiter in a tuxedo. The latter serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Both types have a selection of wines, although the selection tends to be limited.
Bräunerhof: 1, Stallburggasse 2; U-Bahn Herrengasse. Thomas Bernhard, the gloomy novelist, used to perch here. Impressive selection of international newspapers.
Central: 1, Herrengasse 14; U-Bahn Herrengasse. The grandest of all Coffee Houses, frequented by Trotsky, with tourists by the hundred. But you must go there, if only to hear the echoes of another world.
Demel: 1, Kohlmarkt 14; U-Bahn Herrengasse. The king of the Kaffee-Konditorei, with a better Sacher Torte than Kaffee-Konditorei Sacher in my view.
Engländer: 1, Postgasse 2; U-Bahn Stubentor. Great Coffee House with a long pedigree.
Frauenhuber: 1, Himmelpfortgasse 6; U-Bahn Stephansplatz. One of the oldest Coffee Houses in Vienna – Beethoven was a frequent visitor – with vaulted ceiling and deep burgundy upholstery.
Hawelka: 1, Dorotheergasse 6; U-Bahn Stephansplatz. An institution. The curious from all parts of the globe cram inside this dark Café.
Landtmann: 1, Dr-Karl-Lueger-Ring 4; U-Bahn Herrengasse/Schottentor. One of the poshest of the Coffee Houses – and a favourite with Freud – with impeccably attired waiters, and a high quota of politicians and Burgtheater actors.
Schwarzenberg: 1, Kärntner Ring 17; U-Bahn Karlsplatz. Opulent Coffee House with huge mirrors and a great cake cabinet.
Sperl: 6, Gumpendorfer Strasse 11; U-Bahn Karlsplatz/Babenbergerstrasse. Slightly off the beaten track, between the Theater an der Wien and the Museum Quarter, this is one of the classics of the Coffee House scene, with billiard tables.
Buffet Trzésniewski: Not a Coffee House but also a Vienna institution. Therefore I mention it here. Everyone in Vienna knows about this sandwich spot. Franz Kafka lived next door and used to come here for sandwiches. Most people hurriedly devour the delicious finger sandwiches, which come in 18 different combinations. You can also order wine with your snack.
Over the past couple of decades, an impressive wine bar scene has developed in Vienna. Generally, outstanding and very interesting wines are served at these places. There is just one flaw, as far as I am concerned: smoking is allowed in some of them, which I find very disturbing.
Unger und Klein: A bottle shop turned wine bar. Typically packed with no-nonsense wine aficionados drinking the excellent wines and snacking on Italian antipasti, pannini, or a tasty selection of cheeses. Floor to ceiling shelves with mainly Austrian wines. Shelf prices are the same for enjoying on or off the premises.
Vis-à-vis: Tiny bar. Viennes wine bar pioneer. The first to offer a large selection of wines by the glass. The selection of wines is superb and includes both domestic and imported wines. You might rub elbows with Viennese celebrities and politicians while tasting an array of delicious little snacks and antipasti.
Zum Schwarzen Kameel: Bognergasse 5 (U-Bahn Herrengasse). This historic establishment was founded originally by a spice merchant in 1619. It has been one of the city's best places to enjoy a glass of wine for the last century. Outdoor seating and the bar area are casual while a more formal sit-down atmosphere can be enjoyed in the restaurant. The wine list is broad, and includes also excellent examples from all the major wine growing regions of the world. This is the ultimate classic of Viennese wine bars.
American Bar: One of the most unusual and interesting bars in the center of Vienna, this very dark bar was designed by the architect Adolf Loos in 1908. At the time, it functioned as the drinking room of a private men's club. Today, it's more democratic and welcomes a mostly bilingual crowd of very hip singles from Vienna's arts-and-media scene. No food is served, very limited selection of wines.
Eulennest: There are comfortable places to sit at the bar, dining tables, or a cosy living room atmosphere. The wines here are nearly Austrian only. The food is Italian antipasti-style with chacuterie, cheeses, and marinated vegetables both from Austria and Italy.
Wein&Co Stephansdom: Part of the Wein&Co Stephansdom wine store. At happy hour, young Viennese pack the place, which serves 60 to 100 wines by the glass alongside artisanal charcuterie. Wein&Co Stephansdom also boasts a corkage program where any of the store's wines can be opened for a small surcharge.
Wein&Co Naschmarkt: A bit more relaxed and less crowded than the affiliate Wein&Co Stephansplatz.
Pub Klemo: Two rooms with a bar, a couple of simple tables and over 1800 wines from around the world. Wirt Robert Brandhofer has put much thought into his selection of wines which includes both famed and lesser know producers. The food is kind of an Austro-Mediterranean style with everything from antipasti or cheese to pasta or meat dishes.
Winetime: Stylish, but cosy little wine bar. The patron, Manfred Strametz, scours the Austrian countryside to find the best organic products for his kitchen. You can watch Manfred cook while chatting with friends. 25 different wines by the glass.
Wein&Wasser: A nice selection of Austrian wines and a few imports. Tasty Austro-Mediterranean antipasti, cheese and charcuterie.
Meinl’s Wein Bar: Part of Julius Meinl am Graben - a delicatessen temple playing in the league of Harrod's of London or Fouchon of Paris. A cosy wine bistro in the basement. In addition to a list of 30 international wines by the glass, you can choose from a selection of over 2000 international wines sold in the store for 10% over the shop prices. The food is cold antipasti, cheese, charcuterie and even sushi.
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