If there’s a pine branch hanging above a door and a chalkboard with “Ausg’steckt” scrawled across it, you know you’ve found one. A Heuriger, aka. a wine tavern. But wait, this simple translation doesn’t do these special places justice.
(Hang on, let us put on our intelligent thin-framed professor glasses) To understand the Heuriger you must first understand the word Gemütlichkeit, and to understand that word you need to imagine any place you’ve felt so comfortable that when it all gets a bit too much, you can take off your pants and curl up for a nap in a corner somewhere.
So, the point we’re making is (in a roundabout way) the Heurigen are like a whole other exotic world. Here are the quirks and unique things that belong to the Heurigen:
1.) Most of them include hidden gardens that are like hidden worlds of tranquillity
2.) The dress code
Heurige are one of the few places where leather pants with stains dating back to god knows when and boob-bursting dresses are still socially acceptable and won’t have people looking at you strangely.
Ok, we’re talking in daylight hours. The classic Lederhosen and Dirndl (traditional Austrian dress) aren’t seen that often around Vienna, however, in a Heuriger the staff will almost certainly be proudly wearing the traditional costumes. And there are always a few guests that like to slip into their Dirndl and Lederhosen when visiting Heurigen.
3. The waiters and waitresses have super human strength
4. The weird music that you’ll only find being played there
It could be one guy going solo on an accordion, or a trio playing their hearts out for guests on violins and guitars and an accordion (there’s almost always an accordion involved) – these are the musical sounds of a Heuriger.
This particular species of music you’ hear at a hardcore Heuriger is called Schrammelmusik. It’s named after a couple of brothers who created the folk genre when they formed a trio called the Nussdorfers with a guy called Anton Strohmayer back in the 1870s. They named themselves after the town now enveloped by Vienna, called Nussdorf, where they apparently often performed. Look at us showing off our Wikipedia knowledge.
5. The other language you need to know at the Heurigen buffet
Here’s a crash course in some of the terminology for the tasty homemade Austrian Schmankerl (aka. delicacies) you’ll find in a buffet. For example, Grammelschmalz is pig’s fat in a lovely spread form.
Or perhaps you’d like some Kümmelbraten, or Schopfbraten (aka. cumin-crusted pork, roast pork neck).
Blutwurst, or Blunzn as they like to call it in Vienna, is for those that like munching on blood sausage.
There will also be spreads to smear on your breads. Liptauer, for example, is a spicy cheese spread and is a fav’ amongst the locals.
And be warned: ordering a Pfefferoni won’t get you a sausage, but a pickled chilli pepper.
And if you’re up for some salty and smoked meats, order some Geselchtes (be sure to pronounce as if you’re swallowing the word like the last five glasses of wine).
6. Like portals to another world, they only open at certain windows of time throughout the year
7. The quality versus the cost of wine will confuse you
8. Wine comes served in a mug
We don’t know about you, but we’ve never been served a glass of top quality wine in a mug that looks like something you’d drink instant coffee out of. That’s why we love the Heuriger culture so much – it takes a drink that has been claimed by the pretentious all over the world and brings it back to its humble, rustic beginnings.
9. The unique interior that looks like something between a hunting cabin and Oma’s place
The odd moose and lion’s head poking out of the wall. The cottage-like framing on the windows, the chequered table clothes – we’re only just getting started.
The interior of Vienna’s Heurigen manage to be one of the few places you can feel as comfortable as you do when wearing your Oma’s bathrobe and a little disturbed at the same time. It’s like the vibe lets off a sweetness overdose while including the odd animal head on the wall to remind you – we may be sweet, but we also kill stuff.
The more wine you drink, the more details you’ll become fixated on in these fascinating worlds of wine.