Vienna’s unique wine culture is like no other, as the city is the only major European metropolis with vineyards within its limits, totaling more than 600 producers across 1,700 acres of vineyards.
A Rich Historical Tradition
Vienna’s connection to viticulture has deep historical roots dating back to the time of the Celts and the Romans. The Heurigen, as rustic winery-run taverns, truly began to flourish after a decree in 1784 by Hapsburg Emperor Josef II, allowing farmers to sell their wine and produce directly to customers tax-free.
The Green Side of Heurigen
Heurigen have played a vital role in keeping Vienna green. A law from 1905 prohibits real estate development in the city’s green outskirts, preserving these areas. Around 70% of Vienna’s annual wine is consumed in its Heurigen.
The Unesco Recognition
In 2019, Vienna’s Heurigen tradition was recognized by UNESCO and inscribed in its Intangible Heritage List. It showcases the endurance of this time-honored practice, which fosters community culture.
Sustainability and Proximity
Vienna’s Heurigen also embrace sustainability. The close proximity of vineyards to tables is a significant part of this sustainability. It’s common for the grapes and most kitchen ingredients to be sourced locally.
Elevating Quality: Wiener Gemischter Satz
Viennese winemakers have made significant strides in raising the quality and prestige of Vienna’s wine, particularly the signature Wiener Gemischter Satz, a field blend of different grapes grown, crushed, and fermented together.
As younger urban sophisticates have been drawn to Heurigen for wine, the food served has evolved. Many taverns now offer seasonal menus featuring ingredients like chanterelles and asparagus.
Cold Buffets Remain a Tradition
While food offerings have diversified, the heart of a Heuriger meal remains the cold buffet. Original taverns didn’t have cooking licenses or even kitchens, so patrons often brought their own picnic-style dishes. The contemporary cold buffets continue this tradition with an array of local hams, sausages, salads, and savory spreads.
Vienna’s Heurigen offer a unique blend of tradition and evolution, where a rich viticultural history meets modern sustainability and culinary creativity.