This is Mr Wimmer and no, the gal does not know his first name. This is Austria where, as in neighbouring Germany, you can work for years with someone and not know his first name (how on earth do Americans, who sometimes never use family surnames, manage?). On many occasions GMs of luxury hotels here, when asked the name of their decades-long executive chef, simply say ‘Fischer’. What Fischer? ‘Herr Fischer’. Anyway, Mr Wimmer runs Winegut Wimmer winery in Perchtoldsdorf, 20 minutes drive from Vienna, and it is time for a seasonal day out.
The little winery taverns dotted around Vienna are generally family-run, like this one. The gentleman of the house takes your wine order and brings the drinks to the table. The lady of the house, meanwhile, runs the choose-it-yourself deli that is also part of the operation. There are pâtés and pressed meats, and sausages, and bowls of coleslaw and potato salad, and cakes and breads and all things nice. Austrians know how to eat and eat well and despite the fact that they often eat up to eight times a day I only saw two real fatties during my three day-stay in the Austrian capital. One was the emigration officer on departure. The other was a Brit unfortunately sitting next to me on the plane as I left.
Back to Weingut Wimmer. Mr Wimmer, having taken our order and brought us our drinks repaired to his ‘corner’ of the alpine chalet-like tavern. This is where he stores his wines and beers and this is where he washes glasses. He spends a lot of time washing glasses as our table, for instance, trialled a lot of different wines, and we drank a lot of water, too. As Mr Wimmer washes glasses it is time for story-telling. The gossip that goes on around here must be amazing – like the annual wine ‘harvest festival’, the Hütereinzug, which this year was last Sunday, November 10th, 2013. How did it all go, Mr Wimmer’s friend asked.
This is absolutely the best time to be in the area. Four weeks ago was harvest time, when all the owners of small wineries call on friends to help. Everyone picks and picks, and at the end of the day enjoys pickers’ fare, possibly lamb shanks or something equally filling. This is also the time to drink sturm (storm) which is partly fermented grape juice, with four to six percent alcohol. The photo shows, from left, white grape juice, red wine sturm, a blend between sturm and wine, and wine. My consensus is that sturm is amazing, like a decent gluhwein but without the heat and the spice. It is very, very drinkable.
It went extremely well with my wienerschnitzel, which of course I had to have once during this stay. The local sides, of course, would be cold potato salad and cucumber in a dill sauce but I preferred simply fried potato rounds. With sturm, and sharing wooden benches at a long wood table with Sophia and Benjamin, who played exhausting scissors, paper, stone (remember that game?) and built houses out of wine coasters…. oh what a memorable meal. I felt I never wanted another Michelin star or a ‘the chef has sent this with his compliments’ again, ever.
And of course I was hungry only a few hours later – this is Vienna. We walked around some of the luxury hotels in Vienna’s iceskating rink area, the Ritz-Carlton, the Imperial, the Bristol and the Hotel Sacher. We settled for fabulous comfort food at MediterraNeo in the comfort of the InterCon. My spätzle came in a contraption that holds its cast-iron skillet on a wood base so you do not burn your hands. Also in the photo is a platter of home-made noodles, stirred in a whole hollowed-out Parmesan, cheese grated on top and sage butter to the ready. Yes, Austrian food is extremely agreeable (and, this time, I have not even mentioned sachertorte…)