Within two hours of arriving in Vienna, I was whisked away in a big, black Mercedes for an afternoon of wine tasting in the vineyards surrounding the city. Normally a red wine lover, I was curious to see if the Viennese whites could win me over.
I’ll admit that I’ve become a bit spoiled when it comes to travel, and my wine experience in Vienna continued that trend. Thanks to Claudia of Kensington Tours, I was matched with a petite, Austrian spitfire named Ulli Müller as my private wine guide, while Ewald, a kind and patient gentleman, was my driver. Both were eager to show me what they love about Vienna, and much of that had to do with the wine culture.
According to Austria Official Tourism Info, grapes have been grown in Vienna since 1132, and now there are 1,680 acres of urban vineyards and 630 wine producers. With so many accessible wineries, it’s no wonder the Viennese are so passionate about their vino.
Within 20 minutes, I was transported from my hotel inside of the Ringstraße to the Wieninger Winery in Stammersdorf, part of the 21st district of Vienna. It was Saturday afternoon, and I had the place to myself. Fritz Wieninger, the owner of this family-run winery, greeted Ulli and me.
Wieninger was founded in the 18th century by Fritz’s great, great grandfather. The wine making duties were passed down through the family until Fritz took the reins from his mother in 1987. In addition to graduating from the Wine School of Klosterneuburg, he’s also worked and studied in acclaimed wine growing regions such as Napa, New Zealand, and South Africa, bringing a world of knowledge back to Vienna. Now, Wieninger spans some 45 hectares and exports 30% of its wine to 29 different countries.
The tour of Wieninger began with an introduction to the modern production room, complete with soaring vaulted ceilings and rafters hundreds of years old. Original and old mixed with contemporary and new is a common theme throughout the winery, thanks to Fritz’s designer wife.
Perhaps my favorite part of the tour, not counting the wine tasting, was visiting the monastery cellar that Fritz and his father converted. Classic wooden wine barrels line the moist rock walls and bricks comprise the arched ceilings and walkways. Floor spotlights create mood lighting, while industrial-looking lights and railings continue the contemporary-meets-old theme. I couldn’t imagine a more picturesque place for wine to develop.
Fritz led Ulli and me to Wieninger’s beautiful cellar door. An unusually placed staircase juts out into the large, bright room. Not sure it would work, Fritz was assured by his wife that it would. And it does. Custom chairs made from old wine barrels surround modern tables, and flat screen TVs on the wall loop videos featuring the winery. Hanging on the walls are Plexiglas boxes containing soil samples from various areas of Vienna. These serve as visuals for Fritz when describing his wine varieties.
I took a seat, eager to taste the fruit of Fritz’s labor. In all, I tasted seven varieties of Wieninger’s wines including:
- 2012 Gelber Muskateller Wiesthalen: This white wine is most commonly enjoyed as a pre-dinner drink. I actually liked this one most and bought a bottle to take home.
- 2012 Grüner Veltliner Herrenholz: According to Fritz, this white is the most beloved wine in Austria, and his third favorite of the ones we tasted.
- 2012 Wiener Gemischter Saltz: “Gemischter” means mixed in German and is a typical Viennese wine. Traditionally, this variety consisted of about 20 different varieties of grapes that were planted, harvested, and vinified together to create a cheap, low-quality wine. Today, Wieninger and four other Viennese wineries have come together to create WienWein, a group that’s goal is to produce high-quality Gemischter Saltz and promote it world wide. This is the winery’s #1 seller in the USA.
- 2012 Riesling Nußberg: This white wine is slightly sweeter than the others and has a “ripe stone fruit notes in the finish.”
- 2011 Traminer Bisamberg: The sweetest wine I tried, it has a noticeable hint of honey.
- 2010 Wiener Trilogie: This red wine is comprised of 70% Zweigelt, 15% Merlot, and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and is perfect for drinking with a meal.
- 2009 Danubis Grand Select: The boldest of all the wines I tasted, the Danubis Grand Select is spicy and tastes of dark berries. It contains 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 10% Zweigelt.
Listening to Fritz talk about his passion was as intoxicating as the wine I drank. Not only did I get a glimpse into Wieninger and its long history, but also into Viennese and Austrian wine culture. I imagine that Fritz would have continued to talk and pour as long as Ulli would have let him, but we had another stop.
Light of head and swift of foot, Ulli and I left the wonderful confines of Wieninger. Ewald and our car were waiting, as was more Viennese wine.
I was a guest of Kensington Tours. In no way was I influenced to write a positive review by the hospitable Fritz, my charming and gregarious guides, or the ever-flowing wine. As always, opinions are my own.