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Vienna’s Heurigen, the New-Wine Ritual

Vienna, Austria

In the Vienna Woods, we experience the tradition of the Heurigen. These famous wine-garden restaurants provide a convivial place for Viennese and tourists alike to sample the season's young white wines, paired with a hearty buffet.

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Perhaps the best way to match this rustic conviviality today is to head into the nearby Vienna Woods. Here in the foothills of the Alps, locals enjoy their natural backyard. And, amidst the famous vineyards, they gather for the ritual of tasting the new wine.

The uniquely Viennese institution of the Heurige is two things: it’s a young wine, and a place to drink it. A long time ago, when the Habsburg Emperors allowed Vienna's vintners sell their young wine tax-free, several hundred families opened up these wine-garden eateries clustered around the edge of town — and a tradition was born.

Today, there are more than 1,700 acres of vineyards within Vienna's city limits, and countless Heurige. taverns. For a Heurige evening ride a tram into this wine-garden district, wander around, and choose the place with the best ambience.

Many locals claim that it takes several years of practice to distinguish between the young Heurige wine and vinegar.

To enjoy a more refined wine some vocabulary helps. Try the grüner Veltliner a dry white wine. Since Austrian wine is often sweet, remember the word trocken, that means dry. While waitresses bring your wine order, the food is self-serve.

As is the tradition, they don't serve fine cuisine — only simple dishes and cold cuts from a hearty buffet like this. Clearly, no one's goin' hungry tonight.

So, here we have everything you can imagine in a traditional Viennese country restaurant: you’ve got your sauerkraut, your red kraut, schweinbraten, Alp cheese, mountain cheese and potato salad and something I think is very important — schmaltz — this is lard actually. And it’s something young people don't eat much but the old timers love it. Mmm, takes you way back. Lard.