May 28, 2015
The Viennese Heurigen
In 1785 the Austrian emperor Joseph II granted vintners the privilege of serving their own wine in their own homes without the need to obtain an expensive restaurant license. The wine served was the wine of the last harvest ("heuriger Wein") and had to be sold before the day of St. Martin (November 11th). When the wine was ready a vintner would bind together a few branches of some pine or other conifer and hang it outside his door, a signal for patrons to come in to drink and eat.
Today the Heurigen have become an industry, but they still can only serve wine from their own vineyards. Until the middle of the 20th century many patrons would bring their own food, but now all of the Heurigen serve typical Austrian food - most of it excellent! What might once have been a home or a farm has become a polished commercial establishment where patrons can enjoy themselves inside sitting on tables with wooden benches, or outside in cozy gardens. Some of the more upscale Heurigen will have live Viennese music.
In Vienna going to the Heurigen is a very popular activity, a good bang for your buck, and a must for tourists. With 700 hectares (1730 acres) of vineyards Vienna is a wine growing region in its own right. The wines are mostly white, and Grüner Veltliner is probably the most popular one of them. A few reds are also available, and Zweigeld is probably the most popular in that category.
Go visit Vienna or move there. Your choice.
(Sources: personal experiences • wien.info • wien.gv.at)
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