English Girl in Vienna

Cultural Commentator

Archive for the tag “Austrian wine”

The Joy of Sekt

Austrians love to celebrate and they love to celebrate with a glass of something fizzy. Well, don’t we all? I have been in many teaching establishments and offices over the years in Vienna and whenever I open a fridge to look for some milk for my tea, something which attracts comments from the locals who usually drink tea black, I am always stunned by the amount of alcohol I find and disappointed by the absence of milk. There is always booze, at least five bottles of Sekt in there. Sekt is sparkling wine and is the must-have drink for celebrating anything. Just as Spain has its Cava and Italy has its Prosecco, Austria proudly has its Sekt. There is a lot to celebrate in schools apparently – the start of the year, the end of the year, retirements, birthdays, Christmas, Fridays. Once in school they even celebrated the end of some professional development training, and many meetings end with a glass. Sekt is brought to house parties and is often an integral part of a gift. Sekt is also the main ingredient in the drink called a Hugo, which is sekt, a dash of both elderflower and lime, topped up with soda and garnished with mint. It is deliciously dangerous, seeing as it is like drinking pop.

When you celebrate, it is customary to say cheers, which is “prost”. There are, however, definite rules to how you must perform this ritual of saying prost. For example, you must clink your glass with only one person at a time. The reason being is that you must make eye contact with each person as you say prost and you can only do that one at a time, unless you have eyes that can move in opposite directions and you have control over that ability. You also cannot cross arms, so you cannot reach down to the end of the table over the prosting glasses of another pair; this is bad luck. It is like in Ghost Busters when you cannot cross the streams. You have to wait until the way is clear. You have to, of course, close the circle and say prost with everybody, but you must make sure that there is alcohol in every glass. It is a no-no to say prost without booze. I’ve been with Austrians who will say prost anyway even when somebody raises a soft drink, but they are only doing that to make allowances for the Auslanders who don’t know any better, and would never do that normally. The group-cheers, the very quick and convenient cheers, where you all clink your glasses together and cover a lot of people in one go is also definitely not allowed. That means that the whole process takes a long time and is quite intense with all the eye contact. It is hard to clink your glass with another while looking someone in the eye. There is the constant fear that you will miss the glass altogether or get too carried away and smash the glasses. Another reason eye contact is important is that apparently there is a superstition that says if you don’t make eye contact, you will have seven years of bad sex, and another one warning that you will have ugly babies; serious consequences indeed! So please take it seriously.

Over the summer, I was very happy to find a small bar dedicated to the sole selling of Austrian Sekt. I had actually heard about this place a year or so ago, but back then it was a smoker’s place and I am happy to say that it is now smoke free (a growing trend in Vienna which makes me happy), although the smell of old smoke does linger on. All the produce is from Burgenland, a province next to Vienna, on the border with Hungary. It enjoys the perfect wine-growing climate and produces vast amounts of lovely wine. So, do as the locals do, and get celebrating; it is a highly enjoyable part of the culture.

The Sekt shop

The Sekt shop

 

19 types to choose from. Where to start?

19 types to choose from. Where to start?

http://www.sektcomptoir.at/

 

Wein in Wien

With the onset of autumn, I have started thinking back to the summer and how we coped with the high temperatures. One pleasant way was to head to higher ground. You might not know this, but Vienna is not all just city city city. It is hugged by a forest and surrounded by hills which the locals love to walk in, cycle in, jog in, but mostly, drink wine in. For in the tiny little villages on the outskirts of the city, and in the hills, grow lots of vines which produce lovely grapes, from which you get lovely local wine.

Dotted around the vineyards and walking trails you can find little taverns selling the new wine. The style of these Heurigen varies from very informal ones which operate out of a hut where you can relax on deck chairs only a stone’s throw from the vines, to the longer-established ones with their heavy wooden interiors with twee curtains.

A spring view from a Kahlenberg Hill winery

A spring view from a Kahlenberg Hill winery

Grinzing, a part of the nineteenth district of Vienna, is well-known for its Heurigen and bus-loads of tourists regularly roll up to enjoy some wine and schnitzel, but it’s not just the tourists who visit these. Throughout the long summer evenings, most Heurigen outdoor gardens are full, with tables reserved for large groups of people both young and old. It’s a part of the culture that I really love, as do all of my expat friends. After all, I like to think I am doing my bit for the environment by drinking wine that is literally produced just down the road: my wine doesn’t have to travel half way round the world. Imagine that; drinking wine to help the environment, good conscience booze – another reason to love Vienna!

Winery Mayer in Grinzing which was once where Beethoven stayed (can see the appeal!)

Winery Mayer in Grinzing where Beethoven stayed (can see the appeal!)

Austrian wine is little known in the UK, but actually there are many wine regions throughout the country and wine is an integral part of the culture. I have wiled away many a Sunday afternoon with a walk down Kahlenberg hill, wandering from one vineyard to another, and there are many festivals throughout the year to celebrate the local produce.

Most Austrians drink their wine with soda as spritzers, which is probably wise considering a litre of wine will only set you back around ten Euros and is extremely quaffable. There is always a buffet selling bread, ham and cheese to soak up some of the alcohol.

Heurige Zimmerman in Salmonsdorf

Heurige Zimmerman in Neustift am Wald

Another view of the Zimmerman tavern

Another view of the Zimmerman tavern

The staff need muscles to carry all the wine and fizzy water

The staff need muscles to carry all the wine and fizzy water

Early autumn views

Early autumn views

Lovely wine

Lovely wine

These taverns are open from around mid April to November, so you can enjoy the various seasons of wine. At the moment it’s Sturm time, when people enjoy the very early wine which takes the form of cloudy grape juice still fermenting and is surprisingly alcoholic. So, you see, the English Girl in Vienna is not always pounding the pavements in the city soaking up the culture, but can often be found in the forest and hills imbibing a lot of it – along with the locals, doing my bit for the environment.

View from Heurige Sirbu, about half way down Khalenberg Hill

View from Heurige Sirbu, about half way down Khalenberg Hill

2012-08-18 18.17.19

http://www.pfarrplatz.at/heuriger-eng.htm

http://www.weinhof-zimmermann.at/

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