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VIEVINUM – VINE LOUSE FOR A DAY

I am not a wine connoisseur. I’m just not. I will admit though that when I once went to a wine social in the US and the “glasses” were plastic cups, I opted for the water instead but I am no wine snob. I like wine. I drink wine. I have no idea what officially makes a good wine, I just know when I drink it, that either enjoy it or I don’t. But my obvious lack of wine 101 hasn’t stopped me from attending VieVinum (http://www.vievinum.com/) in the Vienna Hofburg for the past three years. After all, I might not know a thing about wine, but I do know you don’t serve it in a plastic cup (unless you’re backpacking in the wild). And I happen to agree with the old Viennese song that maybe there’s a little vine louse in all of us.

Steiermark Chamber at the VieVinum in the Vienna Hofburg

Steiermark Wines Chamber at the VieVinum in the Vienna Hofburg

In Austria in the beginning of June  you can let that inner vine louse go wild when hundreds of wine growers come to the Vienna Hofburg to present their best drops of nectar for three glorious days. Your 40 € ticket gets you access to room after room of local and international wineries. Lady Luck shone upon me this year and I won two tickets so I got to spend the afternoon sipping wines on someone else’s tab (thank you, Metropole!).

You stopped processing at the 40 € ticket. Okay, 40 € may be a steep entrance fee price but this isn’t an Epcot Center make-it-look-real-and-pretend-you’re-there façade and doesn’t even cost you a fraction of the price. This is it. The real thing. A once-a-year event. You can spend an entire afternoon (heck, an entire day if you’re so inclined) meandering through the opulent chambers of the former emperor’s palace while nipping on unlimited wines served by growers in Lederhosen and Dirndls. And the ambiance’s completely chilled. Remember all the times you promised yourself you would work to live and not live to work? This is those times – the living, the memory-making. Go for it! And let’s face it, by the third grower, you will no longer be worrying about the steep ticket price, you’ll be looking to the next table, the next bottle, and the next smooth, chilled Veltliner.

Wine Trolley

No. I didn’t get drunk enough to buy this baby but it was tempting even before the first drink – imagine the hissy fit this would cause the US TSA and how eager those guys would be to confiscate it.

My top picks for the afternoon (besides that handy carry on featured on the left):

The surprise of the afternoon was a selection of three red wines from Württemberger Weinberg Werk (www.weinbergwerk.de) – I skipped the first bottle on display and went straight for the Meisterwerk, which was very good but Lebenswerk was even better. In fact, it was so good that all three Austrians who I was making my rounds with praised the smooth, tasty red wine – and for Austrians to freely praise Germans for their wine requires either that the Austrians are drunk (they weren’t, I swear) or for the wine to be that good (it was).

Next, of course, was the Steiermark room. All good Austrians go to the Steiermark for great wine (and wonderful thermal spas) but where to start? We stood in the middle of the grand room, glasses empty, eyeballing all the possibilities and that’s when – like Eve in the garden of paradise – I turned to see the snake wrapped around the bottle. And with a name like Hirschmugl (Domaene am Seggauberg, Seggauberg, Steiermark – http://www.hirschmugl-domaene.at/) how could a girl resist? I convinced a group that didn’t need too much convincing that maybe the snake was on to something. And we were not disappointed. We particularly enjoyed the Muscaris and Sauvignon Blanc. Don’t judge them by their website – I think they are so busy making great wines, they don’t have time to list all their wines. The Sauvignon Blanc smells so lovely – really such an amazing aroma that in an instant I knew what all the sniffing’s about at those stuffy wine events. And if you are interested in a good excuse to do an outing to the Steiermark (as if one needs an excuse), on Saturday, 11 June from 11 am – 6 pm in Leibnitz, Hischmugl will be opening their wine shop and offering a presentation of their 2015 wines.

Vesper, a Grüner Veltliner from the Hohenwarth winery Setzer (www.weingut-setzer.at) was also great. Just the name itself invokes images of labyrinthine, cobblestone lanes in European hamlets, and a lone, romantic table for two on a wine terrace overlooking the vineyards in the warmth of the setting afternoon sun. And at 6.60 € a bottle, you can start saving up for that Vespa to get you there.

Another wine I really liked was the 2011 Grand Cuvée from the winery Reichardt (www.weingut-reichardt.at) called Supreme. It definitely lives up to its name and at 11.50 € a bottle, you can take a bottle along when invited for dinner without looking like a cheapskate (unless you have very uppity friends who can’t appreciate a good bottle of 11.50 € wine which means you should probably decline the dinner invitation and drink it yourself while searching for a new set of friends).

One winery I actively sought out was Antinori (Tuscany, Italy, https://www.vinorama.at/Weingueter/Marchesi-Antinori-Firenze/) and I found the Dirndl-donning server in the Falstaff room. As a podcast junkie I could tell you a million tidbits about a million-and-one topics so when 60 Minutes’ beloved journalist, Morley Safer, passed away and they re-broadcast his favorite segment about an Italian wine (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-toasts-morley-safer/), my curiosity was piqued. This family has been in the wine-making business for 6 centuries(!) and now three sisters are at the forefront of the operations. The wines presented at the VieVinum were apparently newly acquired wines and they didn’t disappoint. Of course, the classic Chianti tasted like the rolling, green hills of Tuscany in a bottle but the one I thoroughly enjoyed as a perfect, light, summer wine was the Vivia, La Mortelle, 2015 (https://www.vinorama.at/Weine/Alle-Weine/Vivia-Maremma-Toscana-IGT-oxid.html). And an extra goody for those living in or visiting Vienna – the family also has an amazing Italian restaurant in the lane directly across from St. Stephan’s cathedral (http://www.cantinetta-antinori.com/en/vienna/cantinetta-antinori-di-vienna). When I dined there once, the food and atmosphere were so inviting, that I think our little group did like the Italians, lost track of time and ended up staying until closing (no slapping down the check with the after-dinner espresso in these places).

I may have missed some of the best wines at the VieVinum. But frankly, I don’t think so. I’ve noted the ones I enjoyed and I’ll be sure to somehow acquire some bottles for home (they all said to send them an email). And every time I drink a Sauvignon Blanc from Hischmugl or a Vivia from Antinori, I’ll remember our afternoon at the VieVinum and the wine will taste all the better for the memory – not just of a beautiful afternoon with good friends but of the wine makers and that twinkle they get when talking about their wines, the history, the barrels, the soil. You listen, swirl the wine in your glass, inhale the fine aroma, and no sooner have you savored the fine texture, and unique flavor, that you find yourself turning to the winemaker with a “Wow ! That’s great stuff.” Immediately you see it – for them this is more than a hobby, more than a product, a business, a way of life – it’s their Lebenswerk, and when done well, a Meisterwerk.

And a special treat for you – a Viennese classic to accompany your Achterl – Hans Moser singing about his former and future life as a grapevine louse.

I weiß ned was des is,
i trink so gern a Flascherl Wein.
Da muass goar ka bsondrer Anlass oda Sunntog sein…

I’m not sure what it is, I really like to drink a little bottle of wine, And it doesn’t even have to be  a Sunday or a special time… I must have been a vine louse in a former life… And when I die I want to be born again as a vine louse…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Word of the Week – Arschknapp – Butt Close

The word of the week comes from a statement made by an Austrian news reporter describing the head-to-head election results for Austria’s new president. Tarek Leitner of the Austrian public TV station, ORF, offered his professional, analytical take on the situation as “Arschknapp.”

And with the results standing at 50/50 on the evening after the election and a nation holding its breath and this time around – the whole world watching — while the over 800,000 absentee ballots that will decide the outcome are counted, Leitner’s political analysis seems Arschgenau.

Arsch: butt or arse
knapp: close or tight/narrow

News report and video with “Arschknapp” statement: Tarek Leitner sorgt mit „Arschknapp“-Sager für Lacher

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MAY – PARADES, MAY POLES AND THIEVES

Just gotta call it fate. I post the maypole article below a few days ago. Then just two days later, I am walking through the first district past a cozy little restaurant near the university and low and behold, what greets me — a stolen maypole. Some cheeky students snatched the maypole from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences of Vienna (Boku), transported it on the Bim (do maypoles need tickets, Herr Schaffner?) and erected it at that restaurant to hang out for a while and spread May good-cheer to the lawyers, politicians, tourists and students who pass the 1st district eatery on their way to their next appointment.  LOVE IT! (see featured photo at beginning of text). Rumor has it that the green-with-envy Technical University students have asked if the stunt qualifies their Boku brethren for extra credit points because everyone knows, “while the TU students are working their butts off for every point possible, the Boku students are racking them in with far easier tasks and twice the fun.” Well, TU students, if you’re good, maybe the Boku students who swiped the maypole will invite you to the Jause and beer that will no doubt be demanded as ransom.

In any case, I’ll keep my readers updated as the story progresses…

Original post about the maypole tradition:

While flag-waving workers and balloon-tied toddlers led by SPÖ politicians parading to the beat of marching bands through Vienna’s street culminate in a sea of red at the city’s Rathaus, another Austrian tradition takes places in what may appear to be tranquil town squares throughout the country. Perhaps it’s the chimes of the church bells or the gurgling of the square’s fountain that lure you into the belief that here is one place in the the world at least, where one can sip one’s Melange, admire the budding window boxes and enjoy the scent of freshly baked bread tempting you from the bakery next door.  No worries. The universe of this little town square is on its proper course.

But then you look up to admire the town’s symbol of pride. The pole that you noticed the townspeople raising the day before with music and fanfare, the tall, slender, wooden pole that towered above the highest house in town with the small pine tree attached to its tippy-top, it’s different now. There’s something missing. The tree! The tree is gone! And from the corner of your eye, you spot ’em. Two young men stealthily stuffing the last remaining pine branch into the back of their Opel before they speed off in the direction of the neighboring village.

maypole

maypole

Yes, in an annual attempt at one-upmanship, villages throughout this serene land of white windy winters that melt into spring, engage in a tradition of a more mischievous thing. They steal each other’s maypoles. And because the maypoles only rival the Gamsbart in their display of pride and masculinity, they are guarded round-the-clock. But some villages prove more clever than others. Upper Austrians, for example, have been quite crafty. In 2012 a group from Engerwitzdorf, a town outside of Linz with just 8000 inhabitants, managed in three nights to steal a total of twelve maypoles from neighboring villages. And afterwards they even had the audacity to cheekily  display their bounty along the highway.  In Lower Austria, another group of thieves chose an even more brazen place to display their prize — the lion’s enclosure of the Haag zoo.

But it’s all in good fun. And tradition doesn’t only stipulate the amount of days that the trees can be stolen (three after being raised) but also the means of return. The home village loads some kegs of beer onto a tractor and drives the ransom payment to the hostage-taking village in return for the “missing” tree.  Unless you are the mayor of Linz, in which case you may decide not to pay the beer because the tree went up 4 days before May 1 and was guarded 5 days, and then stolen 10 days after it went up. Whoever said math isn’t useful in the real world? And that sometimes it pays to turn a blind eye to numbers and stringent rules in the name of good fun.

Is stealing a Maypole Illegal: According to this gov. flyer if you keep to the tradition, it is rarely ever penalized: http://www.bmi.gv.at/cms/BMI_OeffentlicheSicherheit/2014/03_04/files/Brauchtum_und_Recht.pdf

Krone report about stolen maypole in Vienna and its subway adventure: http://www.krone.at/Oesterreich/Studenten_mit_gestohlenem_Maibaum_in_Bim_unterwegs-Spassaktion_in_Wien-Story-508471

 

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY PRATER

250 years ago today, the emperor opened the imperial hunting grounds to the “common man” and “common woman.” Every Austrian child pays a visit to the amusement park after confirmation and at least twice in a lifetime (once as a child and once with their own children) every Austrian enjoys unparalleled views of Vienna from Prater’s “Riesenrad.” Personally, I love Vienna’s “green lungs” where the Fiakers go to sleep at night, the beavers build their homes and the attire of the chestnut trees reveal the season. Some of my favorite Prater pastimes include running, renting 4 person bikes and racing friends, consuming a greasy hunk of pork leg with freshly grated horseradish and frothing Budweis, and soaking in the beautiful Viennese sunsets from the Riesenrad. Prater is a required stop for all Vienna visits – no matter how old or young the visitors.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BEAUTIFUL PRATER!

Viennese Prater Map

Viennese Prater Map

Check out my story about what other surprising things you can find in Prater: http://www.kcblau.com/runninginprater/

 

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