(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
Many of the Heurige out there have big arched doorways that lead into hidden green oases where the clinking of glasses, the hum of chatter and, on occasion, an accordion can be heard.
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 Heurige.
3. The waiters and waitresses have super human strength
Quite honestly, we don’t know why carrying a tray full of jugs of wine and food that weighs over 10kg isn’t listed as an Olympic sport.
Watching the Heuriger staff weave in between tables with super heavy trays loaded with litres of wine and dishes has always inspired respect in us.
And this sight halts us in our tracks every time when we’re about to complain that the glass of wine we ordered 5 minutes prior still hasn’t arrived.
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 Heurige buffet
So, at a typical Heuriger you’ve got to order your food at a buffet. And normally, as it’s busy, there’s no time to mess around. You’ve got to get in there and get the hell out with some tasty treats. To do this, you need to know the lingo.
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
Due to regulation that was put in place as a decree during the Hapsburg empire, but scraped a while ago, some Heurige only open their doors during certain times of the year. We guess they do it out of habit, or lack of want for being open all of Summer and Autumn.
7. The quality versus the cost of wine will confuse you
In these microcosm worlds in which wine is worshipped as a God, you can down litres of wowsah!-wine for prices that will make you go – Aaaaaa- what?!
What we mean by this is that the prices are super low for the high quality of wine you can drink in Heurige. And the cellar prices for bottles will have you trying to balance bottles wherever you can on your body as you wobble out the door.
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 Heurige 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.