Vienna, Austria

Photo: Helmut Krenek am Weingut Göbel

From the empty glasses and the nearly clean plates, your vineyard feast looks like it was a success. Half of an apple slice and an overlooked nut are the only things left on the cheese board. A dollop of sheep’s cheese now has a golden tinge thanks to the yellow beets that once sat atop it. The pungent smell of blood sausage has been mellowed by equally intense wasabi. While purple rings and faint lip marks prove that you finished your wine. It must be time for dessert. Another glass of Blauburger, please.

Long, al fresco dinners like this are the reason you travel to Vienna during the summer. Yes, you’re really at a vineyard in Austria’s capital and largest city. Floridsdorf, a neighborhood across the Danube from the historic center, feels incredibly rural. This was no man’s land when the Germans and the Romans fought over what was then the hilly countryside. Wineries were eventually planted over them. In 1784, Emperor Joseph II relaxed the laws regarding the sale of wine; home growers with small plots could finally make money off their land. Heuriger—small wine taverns—started popping up all over Eastern Austria. They’re still popular more than 200 years later. 

One of these heuriger, Helmut Krenek am Weingut Göbel, sits atop steep, cobblestoned Stammersdorfer Kellergasse. It has a small dining room with thick, blonde-wood tables and modern paper lanterns overhead. But, this time of year, everyone is sitting outside. A stone path leads to picnic benches covered with sail-like umbrellas. The wild vineyard, with its ripening grapes, encroaches on the dining area. Plus the smell of roses, which naturally monitor the health of the vines, fills the air. So do occasional wafts of delicious-smelling food.

Historically, heuriger served simple food, usually as a buffet, with their young wines. Helmut Krenek is not following the old rules. The relaxed, rustic vibe remains. But the buffet table has been covered. Only seasonal food is served. The menu changes based on whether asparagus, buffalo mozzarella, or leeks are available. While, most importantly, the Blauburgers, the Grüner Veltliners, and the Gemischter Satzs—made by Hans Peter Göbel—no longer need to be served with seltzer to create easier to drink spritzers. Heuriger, especially this one, are no longer quick stops. So, instead of heading back to the historic heart of the city as the sun sets, you’ll have one more glass of wine. At least.

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