The Heuriger is an institution in Vienna. The idea is simple: serve new wines, locally sourced, together with a largely cold buffet, add some traditional Viennese songs in the background for some extra Gemütlichkeit, and watch the paying public come rolling on in. It’s easy to see why these wine taverns are so successful, especially the one dad and I visited in Grinzing, a suburb north of the city centre.
Heuriger translates to “this year’s wine” in Austrian and Bavarian dialects of German. The tradition of serving new wines like this dates back to the reign of enlightened Habsburg emperor Joseph II who decreed that his subjects could sell wine from their own properties without a special permit. Enlightened indeed! Grinzing itself has its own fair share of history. In Beethoven’s day it was a village outside the city walls, and the great composer visited here often to recover from his many illnesses, as well as famously nearby Heiligenstadt. Franz Schubert, too, came here often and I believe Einstein may have lived here briefly. Gustav Mahler is buried in the local cemetery.
Anyhow, I think that’s enough mention of dead people and cemeteries for one food review, let’s give some thought to the cuisine. Starting with the drinks. Pater and I enjoyed the local wines greatly, but the particular highlights were the Veltliner and Riesling (from Nussberg). No doubt a distinguished wine critic like Cedric would be able to tell you the various different flavours of fruit and vegetables these hinted at, but I also distinctly tasted wine alongside these.
The food is a kind of walk up to the stout waiter and ask for a plateful kind of affair, which suits me wonderfully because of my enormous gluttony. To start with we opted for a couple of small dishes, a variety of local cheeses, a salad of sliced carrots and sauerkraut, a tasty quiche and a dish of Speck accompanied by a rather long sausage.
For what I suppose might be described as the mains, dad and I went our separate culinary ways, himself opting for the mushroom goulash, yours truly judiciously choosing the Braten (roast pork). Both came with a big dumpling which soaked up the alcohol nicely.
The atmosphere is key to the success of this place. It’s convivial, and very Austrian. It’s the sort place you could see Brahms (the North German interloper to Vienna) turning up to, cigar in hand, to admire some of the Grinzing Fräulein or Schubert, rocking up with his circle of friends, drinking their wistful melancholy away.
I am pleased to say a storm interrupted proceedings halfway through, as if in homage to Beethoven’s sixth symphony. This was a quite a joy for dad and I as we appreciated mother nature’s knowing reference. The heavens soon cleared as well, and the two of us left this charming spot, with “Freude” in our hearts and wine in our guts.