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Heuriger open for business again

By Núria Núnez

Famous as the big wheel, Schönbrunn Palace or the Vienna Boys Choir are the real Viennese Heuriger or wine taverns which sell their own year's wine and small cold and hot dishes in Vienna, the only capital city in Europe that has vineyards within its city borders.

Heurig means "this year’s" as an adjective, so Heuriger is the name given to Eastern-Austrian wine taverns where wine-growers serve the most recent year’s wine. However, the word Heuriger does not just describe the tavern itself, but also the wine from the current vintage, which in accordance with tradition, may be so-called until 11 November (St. Martin’s Day). Alongside the pleasant wine by the glass, Viennese Heuriger also offer their guests fine wines sold in 'Bouteillen' (0,75 litre bottles).

In 1784, Austrian Emperor Joseph II issued the decree that permitted all residents to open establishments to serve self-produced wine, juices and food with the idea of selling some of their products. Nowadays, Heuriger, which are regulated by Austrian Federal Laws, have turned into almost restaurants far removed from the more familiar wine taverns of yesteryear.

But Heuriger do have some legal limitations different to those of a restaurant. Only in-house wine can be served and it is limited to serving a limited selection of food. Still many places provide a very nice selection of small cold dishes, such as Liptauer spread and even several different hot plates, for example the ever popular Wiener Schnitzel.

To pay a visit to Heuriger is part of every-day life in Vienna and pretty much every tourist travelling in the wine regions of Austria will sooner or later end up in a Heuriger.

Heuriger can only be open a certain amount of time per year. Real Viennese open Heuriger are identified by a bunch of pine branches hung above the entrance door and by the word "Ausg’steckt" written on a board, which simultaneously shows when the tavern is open. It is entirely up to Heuriger owners to decide on their own when they would like to sell their wine. Whereas the larger establishments have fixed dates, it is very unlikely that the owner of a small Heuriger will be able to answer your question about opening times.

Well-known areas for Heuriger are in the Viennese wine villages of Oberlaa and Hernals where Heuriger are usually small but always a good bet for epicures. Cosy Viennese Heuriger also await you in the old Viennese wine villages of Neustift, Nussdorf, Sievering and Grinzing. In the Vienna on the "other side" of the Danube you can also find traditional Viennese Heurige villages, less well-known but very authentic, such as Stammersdorf and Strebersdorf. Although the ride with the tram no. 60 to Mauer takes a little longer, it is certainly worth it to visit one of the wine taverns there.

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