D’Amato & Szabo: Wine Thieves – Ep 49: Viennese Drinking Habits – No Branch, No Wine, No Service

Viennese Drinking Habits
In this episode, the Thieves visit one of the world’s great wine capitals: Vienna.  Up until the late Middle Ages, grapevines were still growing within city walls in what is now the first district in the heart of Vienna. Vineyards were slowly pushed to the outskirts, but Vienna remains the only European capital to have acreage of commercial consequence; just under 600ha are planted today to a wide variety of both red and white grapes. In the districts surrounding the city, especially in the north such as the 21st and its historic neighbourhoods of Strebersdorf, Stammersdorf and Jedlersdorf, and the 19th district’s Heiligenstadt, Nussdorf, and Grinzing, rural meets urban in a setting that features charmingly rustic wine taverns surrounded by the vineyards that supply them.

Called buschenshank, or more commonly heuriger (plu: heurigen; HOOI-REE-GEn), these original, seasonal pop-up, farm-to-table-restaurants operated by vintners have been a Viennese, and Austrian, tradition for nearly two and a half centuries. They’ve become such a cultural institution that, like the Viennese waltz, they were included in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage in Austria. You know they’re open for business when you see a fir branch hanging above the door.

Of the many styles of wine produced in Vienna, the most traditional and emblematic wine is the white wine called Wiener Gemischter Satz, (VEEner-geh-MISH-ter-sats) which means literally the “mixed set of Vienna”. In practical terms, gemischter satz is a wine made from a mix of different white grapes co-planted in the same vineyard, and harvested and vinified together. Vienna is one of the few places left in the world where the ancient practice of planting multi-variety field blends, once the norm throughout the old world (and in the oldest vineyards of the new world), is still followed. Today, almost one-fifth of vineyards in Vienna are field blends.

Joining Sara and John on the show to discuss Viennese drinking habits are two important winemakers in the renaissance of Vienna’s wines, including its flagship Gemischter Satz: Fritz Wieninger of Weingut Wieninger and Hajszann-Neumann, and Alex Zahel of the Zahel Family winery. Grab a glass of “gemischt” and come heuriger-hopping with us through Vienna.

Wine Thieves Viennese