Austrian´s wines and culinary treasures

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Wining and dining in Austria… made in heaven

By Klaus Egle

There is always a very special connection between a country’s cuisine and its wines. When it comes to Austrian wine and food, they’re a match made in heaven.

Perhaps it’s the soil and the climate that influence the vines and other agricultural products, which in turn influence regional cuisine. Or perhaps it’s the similar mentality of the people who both press the wine and create, prepare and then savor dishes coupled with the appropriate choice of wine. Whatever it may be: a country’s wine and cuisine have always seemed to form a mysterious symbiosis which has brought forth the greatest of culinary delights. A French bresse pigeon without a Pinot Noir from Burgundy? Unthinkable. A bistecca Fiorentina without Chianti or Brunello? A wonderful dish gone to waste.

It’s no different with Austrian cuisine. What would accompany a hearty snack with “Verhackertes” – ground, garlic-infused, smoked bacon, “Schmalzbrot” – lard on bread, and “Backhendl” – breaded, deep fried chicken, at a west Styrian wine tavern better than the regional staple – Schilcher? Its intense acidity makes it a congenial partner for such opulent meals. Combine that with a view from the terrace of the vines below carrying the Schilcher grapes and heaven doesn’t seem such a distant place anymore.

Or take the most Austrian of dishes – the Wiener Schnitzel. Supposedly it originates from Milan – which at the time actually belonged to Austria. Yet how could this dish find such a perfect accompaniment in such wines as the Riesling or the Weißburgunder grown on the hills of Vienna’s own landmark mountains, the Nussberg and the Bisamberg, were it not a truly Viennese dish? Austrian “Krautfleckerl” – small square noodles (the Fleckerl) tossed with caramalized and stewed cabbage – on the other hand, are ideally partnered with a more racy Welschriesling.

But before moving on to specific examples, let’s consider Austria’s renowned dessert cuisine. All those “Knödel” and “Nockerl” – sweet dumplings in all shapes and sizes – or those “Schmarren” – fluffy sweet omlettes torn into bite size pieces – what would they be without exquisi Where does wine come from?

Salzburger Nockerl © Österreich Werbung, Fotograf: Schreiber
Salzburger Nockerl. © Österreich Werbung, Fotograf: Schreiber

Wine culture means much more than simply drinking good wine. Take the opportunity to visit vineyards, a lane of wine cellars, winemakers’ worlds of experience, or wine seminars to learn the truth about wine both in theory and practice.

The last two decades have seen wines in Austria constantly attaining better quality. As a result, domestic wines, whether Grüner Veltliner from Lower Austria, Styrian Sauvignon Blanc or Blaufränkisch from central Burgenland, have become insider tips even in Tokyo or New York. This has, however, had the side effect of making these premium wines extremely difficult for Austrians themselves to find. Those s themselves to find. Those s themselves to find. Those s themselves to find. Those s themselves to find. Those s themselves to find. Those s themselves to find. Those s themselves to find. Those s themselves to find. Those spending their holidays in Austria, however, will have enough opportunity to get to know Austrian wine better.

Visiting the winegrower The easiest way to do so is by visiting the winegrower’s family. Austria’s winegrowers are almost always family businesses. Their estates often blend traditional and modern architecture showing the vintners’ readiness for innovation. Of course guests are welcome in the wine cellars and tasting rooms. If an advance appointment is made you will probably be led through the facilities by the owner or his wife and, of course, be invited to a wine tasting at the tour’s end. The wines can range from the lightest varieties to rarities and the conversant visitor will have the chance to talk shop about vintage, weather and fermentation process. The less wine literate, however, need not worry: First of all it is quite easy to savour wines without a lot of words and secondly many of the details of the wine tasting will be remembered automatically. There are, by the way, excellent restaurants in wine growing areas. The epicurean experience doesn’t end with the wine tasting. The winegrowers themselves will provide restaurant recommendations or you may consult one of the leading restaurant guides.

Cellars small and large If you’re not satisfied with just one cellar, continue looking underground in some of the winegrowing regions of Austria. In the so-called “Kellergassen” in Lower Austria, the curious visitor can stroll from cellar to cellar tasting wines or also admire centuries-old huge arching cellars in castles and monasteries. The cellar of Klosterneuburg monastery north of Vienna – one of the oldest and largest winegrowing estates in all of Austria – lies an astonishing 36 metres (118 ft.) under the ground. The wine world of Northern Austrian Retz extends 21 kilometres (13 miles) under the city. And the Styrian Seggau Castle has one of the largest wine cellars in all of Europe: It is 300 years old, 72 metres(23 ft.) long and eight and a half metres (28 ft.) high.

Shared wine cellars Community vinotheks present another excellent opportunity to acquaint oneself with the most significant wines of a specific area. In this way it is easy to acquire an overview of all winegrowers and varieties of grapes. The visitor has time to study labels, gather information and, of course, sample the wines. Absolutely worth a visit are the Weinwerk Burgenland in Neusiedl am See, the Vinatrium in Deutschkreuz, the Weinquartier in Retz, the Vinofaktur in Ehrenhausen in southern Styria or the idyllic Gesamtsteirische Vinothek situated high above the Styrian hills overlooking St. Anna am Aigen. Vienna also has a large number of excellent, well equipped vinotheks such as the architecturally interesting Unger and Wein in the first district serving also excellent food.

A micro-cosmos filled with wine tradition and modern architecture are united in the wingrowers’ worlds of experience, especially in Lower Austria. The Loisium in Lower Austrian Langenlois, the Sandgrube 13 in Krems, and the Domäne Pöttelsdorf in Burgenland all have the same goal – to experience wine with all of the senses and at the same time to impart knowledge. The lavish stagings in Loisium or in the Domäne Pöttelsdorf demonstrate clearly that the Austrians have known for a very long time how to make good wine. Passing on this knowledge and increasing the appreciation for the vintners’ work is done here with ease. Hardly anyone can depart from one of these wine worlds without great admiration (or thirst). A very special kind of wine world has been created in Vienna: The Hotel Rathaus employs the theme” juice of the grape” in the entire building. Each of the 39 rooms of the widely acclaimed design hotel has an Austrian winemaker as patron – and their wines in the refrigerator.

Understanding wine Wine can also be studied in seminars. There is no need, however, to fear exams or tests while participating in this kind of education. Wine seminars combine theory and practice in a pleasant – and often quite funny – manner. They are organised primarily by the highly respected Weinakademie Österreich, but also by private institutes, vinotheks, and restaurants. The seminars start with an introduction to the characteristics of particular regions, continue with studying the emergence of the final product from grapevine to harvest, to fermentation and aging, and conclude with the bottling process. Beginners learn about how to taste wines, how colour, viscosity, aroma, and, of course, flavour reveal information about age, soil, extraction, grape variety and above all quality. That sounds complicated but with some guidance and practice one gets well versed in a special vocabulary. It should be noted that the acquired knowledge may have consequences: After having experienced wine in a special seminar one might have difficulty consuming wine of lesser quality. It is highly unlikely, however, that this could happen in Austria,

LINKS:

Klaus Egle

is a renowned Austrian author on wine. He also moderates wine events, conducts wine seminars and accompanies wine tours. His opus includes numerous articles in Austrian and German periodicals and magazines and books such as “Der österreichische Wein” – “The Austrian Wine” (Pichler), “Lust auf Wein” – “Keen on Wine” (Pichler) or “Handbuch für Weinsnobs” – “Handbook for Winesnobs” (Deuticke)


Where does Austrian wine come from?

Wine culture means much more than simply drinking good wine. Take the opportunity to visit vineyards, a lane of wine cellars, winemakers’ worlds of experience, or wine seminars to learn the truth about wine both in theory and practice.

The last two decades have seen wines in Austria constantly attaining better quality. As a result, domestic wines, whether Grüner Veltliner from Lower Austria, Styrian Sauvignon Blanc or Blaufränkisch from central Burgenland, have become insider tips even in Tokyo or New York. This has, however, had the side effect of making these premium wines extremely difficult for Austrians themselves to find. Those spending their holidays in Austria, however, will have enough opportunity to get to know Austrian wine better.

Visiting the winegrower The easiest way to do so is by visiting the winegrower’s family. Austria’s winegrowers are almost always family businesses. Their estates often blend traditional and modern architecture showing the vintners’ readiness for innovation. Of course guests are welcome in the wine cellars and tasting rooms. If an advance appointment is made you will probably be led through the facilities by the owner or his wife and, of course, be invited to a wine tasting at the tour’s end. The wines can range from the lightest varieties to rarities and the conversant visitor will have the chance to talk shop about vintage, weather and fermentation process. The less wine literate, however, need not worry: First of all it is quite easy to savour wines without a lot of words and secondly many of the details of the wine tasting will be remembered automatically. There are, by the way, excellent restaurants in wine growing areas. The epicurean experience doesn’t end with the wine tasting. The winegrowers themselves will provide restaurant recommendations or you may consult one of the leading restaurant guides.

Cellars small and large If you’re not satisfied with just one cellar, continue looking underground in some of the winegrowing regions of Austria. In the so-called “Kellergassen” in Lower Austria, the curious visitor can stroll from cellar to cellar tasting wines or also admire centuries-old huge arching cellars in castles and monasteries. The cellar of Klosterneuburg monasterynorth of Vienna – one of the oldest and largest winegrowing estates in all of Austria – lies an astonishing 36 metres (118 ft.) under the ground. The wine world of Northern Austrian Retzextends 21 kilometres (13 miles) under the city. And the Styrian Seggau Castle has one of the largest wine cellars in all of Europe: It is 300 years old, 72 metres(23 ft.) long and eight and a half metres (28 ft.) high.

Stift Klosterneuburg Frontalansicht auf das Stift mit Gartenanlage in Niederösterreich. © Österreich Werbung, Fotograf: Michael Zechany
Stift Klosterneuburg. © Österreich Werbung, Fotograf: Michael Zechany

Shared wine cellars Community vinotheks present another excellent opportunity to acquaint oneself with the most significant wines of a specific area. In this way it is easy to acquire an overview of all winegrowers and varieties of grapes. The visitor has time to study labels, gather information and, of course, sample the wines. Absolutely worth a visit are the WeinwerkBurgenland in Neusiedl am See, the Vinatriumin Deutschkreuz, the Weinquartierin Retz, the Vinofaktur in Ehrenhausen in southern Styria or the idyllic Gesamtsteirische Vinothek situated high above the Styrian hills overlooking St. Anna am Aigen. Vienna also has a large number of also has a large number of also has a large number of also has a large number of also has a large number of excellent, well equipped vinotheks such as the architecturally interesting Unger and Wein in the first district serving also excellent food.

A micro-cosmos filled with wine Old wine tradition and modern architecture are united in the wingrowers’ worlds of experience, especially in Lower Austria. The Loisium in Lower Austrian Langenlois, the Sandgrube 13 in Krems, and the Domäne Pöttelsdorfin Burgenland all have the same goal – to experience wine with all of the senses and at the same time to impart knowledge. The lavish stagings in Loisium or in the Domäne Pöttelsdorf demonstrate clearly that the Austrians have known for a very long time how to make good wine. Passing on this knowledge and increasing the appreciation for the vintners’ work is done here with ease. Hardly anyone can depart from one of these wine worlds without great admiration (or thirst). A very special kind of wine world has been created in Vienna: The Hotel Rathaus employs the theme” juice of the grape” in the entire building. Each of the 39 rooms of the widely acclaimed design hotel has an Austrian winemaker as patron – and their wines in the refrigerator.

Understanding wine Wine can also be studied in seminars. There is no need, however, to fear exams or tests while participating in this kind of education. Wine seminars combine theory and practice in a pleasant – and often quite funny – manner. They are organised primarily by the highly respected Weinakademie Österreich, but also by private institutes, vinotheks, and restaurants. The seminars start with an introduction to the characteristics of particular regions, continue with studying the emergence of the final product from grapevine to harvest, to fermentation and aging, and conclude with the bottling process. Beginners learn about how to taste wines, how colour, viscosity, aroma, and, of course, flavour reveal information about age, soil, extraction, grape variety and above all quality. That sounds complicated but with some guidance and practice one gets well versed in a special vocabulary. It should be noted that the acquired knowledge may have consequences: After having experienced wine in a special seminar one might have difficulty consuming wine of lesser quality. It is highly unlikely, however, that this could happen in Austria,

LINKS:

  • Stift Klosterneuburg: Stiftsplatz 1, 3400 Klosterneuburg, Tel. +43 2243 411-0, www.stift-klosterneuburg.at, info@stift-klosterneuburg.at
  • Vinothek Weinwerk Burgenland: Obere Hauptstraße 31, 7100 Neusiedl am See Tel., +43 2167 20705, www.weinwerk-burgenland.at
  • Loisium Kellerwelt (cellar world): Loisiumallee 1, 3550 Langenlois, Tel. +43 2734 32240-0, www.loisium.com

Great wines with pedigree

by Klaus Egle

Even though Austria produces only one percent of the world’s wines it has gained an excellent international reputation in the last two decades. Austrian wines are distinguished by their quality, theirdiversity and especially because of the local varieties of wine grapes such as the Grüner Veltliner or Zweigelt.

Wine production in Austria still takes place in small segments. Most wine growing activity takes place in farms with tillage and animal breeding and approximately half of them have vineyards with an area of less than 12 acres. These vineyards do not produce large amounts. In trade and export this is often a disadvantage ameliorated, however, by so called “DAC’s” (Districtus Austriae Controllatus), i.e. protected designation of origin for specific types of wine. At the same time this leads to a huge variety and individuality in the wine scene. In other words wine from Austria is not mass produced since every bottle has the designation of the individual wine grower attached to it. Still, wine production in Austria is thriving as never before. Economic upswing, international tasting success and impressive contemporary wine architecture are some of the results of this boom.

There is hardly any kind of wine not produced in Austria. Starting with light dry wines, to the hearty, full bodied reds to the elegantly sweet Hochprädikat wines and ending with the shiny, bubbly sparkling wines or frizzante. And all of this at a level of quality that inspires no matter how unpatriotic the connoisseur might be. Whereby Austrians are not at all unpatriotic in regard to wines, which is confirmed by bare statistics. Almost three-fourths of all of the wine produced in Austria is consumed by the Austrians themselves. This is not really surprising since Austrian wines have a characteristic that distinguishes them from others: they stir the spirit and go down easily.

The climate for wine growing is ideal: Austria is in a so-called “cool climate” agricultural zone with clear seasons and considerable differences between day and night temperatures. This promotes a palpable aroma maturity, resulting in very fruity and aromatic wines on the one hand and leads to enhanced tartness in white wines and hearty tanning agents in the reds on the other hand. This makes for fresh, fruit flavored and delicate wines that are not only a joy to drink but are excellent companions to good food.

(c) Wein Burgenland. Joachim Lukan
(c) Wein Burgenland. Joachim Lukan

Austria is fundamentally a land of white wines; about two thirds of wine growing areas are covered with white grape vines. Unquestionably, the most prominent of these grapes is the Grüne Veltliner of very modest origins but now assuming a highly respected role in Austrian wine production. Cultivated because of its plentiful and reliable harvests it was until the 1980’s an ordinary wine for popular gastronomical consumption and filled into 2 liter bottles fondly called “dopplers” (also known to insiders as the “Austro-Magnum”).

In the meantime the Grüne Veltliner, with appropriate limitations on growth in the vineyards, can produce excellent, diverse, and long-lasting wines. Americans call it for brevity’s sake “Grüner” and in general the wine is popular everywhere abroad because of its freshness and peppery spicy aroma. No other grape reflects the identity of the wine country Austria better.

The Riesling is also a leader: it is produced in smaller quantities but it can be measured against any of the best German or Alsace Rieslings. Especially the late harvests from the stony soil of the Wachau region, the Krems, Kamp, and Traisen valleys excel with their mineral content, the highlights of apricots and vineyard peaches, and with their profuse fruitiness. The best of them can be stored for decades during which the complexity of their taste can easily be enhanced.

The province of Styria is distinguished by its Sauvignon Blanc. This internationally known variety of grape is especially aromatic and fruity with typical highlights of black currents. Equally popular is the Gelbe Muskateller, drunk as an aperitif and the Traminer, reminiscent of rose buds. The Burgundy varieties of Weißburgunder, Grauburgunder, and Chardonnay also do well whereby the Chardonnay is aged in oak barrels (Barriques). A local specialty are the Zierfandler and Rotgipfler – except for a small area in Hungary they grow exclusively in the spa region south of Vienna.

© Österreich Werbung, Fotograf: Wiesenhofer
© Österreich Werbung, Fotograf: Wiesenhofer

While Austrian white wines have an established tradition, the local red wine tradition is relatively new. Nevertheless the local grape varieties of Blauer Zweigelt, the Blaufränkische and the St. Laurent and the internationally known Pinot Noir, as well as the Merlot, Syrah, or Cabernet Sauvignon have attained such a level of excellence that many winegrowers sell out their production of top wines in short time. The connoisseur of these wines will however need a bit of patience, since these wines will thank the consumer with a rich structure and a harmonic taste experience after some years of in-the-bottle aging.

The same is true of the Prädikat wines. The so-called “sweet gold” thrives on only very few spots in the world, among them in the Austrian Burgenland. The climate around the Neusiedler lake in eastern Austria with its warmth and high temperatures enables the growth of the precious Botrytis cinerea fungus that invades the skin of the grapes to cause dehydration which results in a huge increase in sugar graduation. After a long and slow fermentation from berry and dry berry harvests (“Beerenauslese”) a golden yellow, honey-sweet nectar is produced with fine raisin accents. These precious gems of wine production have their price, but are especially popular in export markets.

Any discussion of the wide variety of Austrian wines would not be complete without a mention of sparkling wines – from the fruity frizzante made from the west Styrian Schilcher grape to the elegant, hand shaken vintage sparkling wine. In addition to the production of the traditional sparkling wine cellars such as Kattus or Schlumberger (founded in 1842) it is the sparkling wines of individual winegrowers that have created a booming market of special products.

Klaus Egle is an eminent Austrian author of wine books. He also moderates wine events, holds seminars and accompanies wine tours. Some of his opus includes contributions to numerous Austrian and German periodicals and magazines as well as books such as “Der österreichische Wein” (Pichler), “Lust auf Wein” (Pichler) or “Handbuch für Weinsnobs” (Deuticke).

Three top winegrowers:

  • Red wine Gernot & Heike Heinrich 7122 Gols, Baumgarten 60, www.heinrich.at
  • Sweet wines Weingut Kracher 7142 Illmitz, Apetlonstraße 37, www.kracher.at
  • Sparklingwine directly from the winegrower Weingut Steininger 3550 Langenlois, Walterstraße 2, www.weingut-steininger.at

LINK RECOMMENDATIONS:


Beer straight from the tap by Conrad Seidl

The whole world seems to assume that Austria is a land of wines. That the Austrians actually drink far more beer than wine can be confirmed not only by statistics, but a tour of the many beer establishments and beer gardens. Among those in the know, Vienna is famous as the origin of the Viennese lager beer. This is proof of the rich Viennese historical beer culture–which continues to bring forth frothy innovations in new small breweries.

Not much is said about beer in places where good beer has always been a matter of course. The quality of beer goes without saying and it is rather futile to ask a Viennese what is special about Viennese lager. The truth is that the style of beer brewing that was responsible for the global reputation of the royal capital and seat of government, Vienna, has essentially died out. We are referring to a beer that is prized throughout the world: a bernstein hue with a light aroma of hops, fully flavored but rounded off with a slightly bitter palate of hops. This is Viennese lager as it was intended to be – and this was the beer that the young brewery owner Anton Dreher cultivated in his small brewery in Schwechat near Vienna at the beginning of the 1840’s. This was the beer that attained worldwide fame.

Of all places this beer fell out of favor in Austria. Only in recent decades have young ambitious brewers harked back to the old tradition and are producing this true Viennese beer once again. Examples are the unfiltered “Rotes Zwickl” from the Ottakringer brewery, the “Hadmar Biobier” (“Hadmar organic”) – from the beer workshop in the small town of Weitra in the forest quarter of Austria. Early on the “Siebensternbräu” in the Viennese seventh district joined the trend to reintroduce old and even forgotten styles of beer brewing.

The owner Sigi Flitter can even sometimes be found at the beer vat when the basis for the black – and, in contrast to most of the other dark beer varieties, not at all sweet – “Prager Dunkel” (“Prague Dark”) is prepared. His personal favorite is smoke beer, for which he himself procures bags of gently dried malt from a Bamberg malt factory.

To learn about the different malts – and in general how beer goes from wheat stalk to the beer mug – you can travel to Salzburg. The Stiegl brewery has turned a former malt production building into the largest beer museum on the continent. “Stiegl’s Brauwelt” documents wheat growing, brewing techniques, the craft of the coopers and barrel makers, as well as the connection between beer consumption and development of society. Since we are in Salzburg Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, of course, is involved; he is known to have savored beer from the Stiegl brewery. In the basement, on the old malting floor, there is a small brew house providing the opportunity to compare its product with that of the large brewery next door.

The Brew master  carefully attends to every detail: in this case the highly successful Goldbräu from the large industrial brewery, to a red ale from the Brauwelt that is distributed to interested friends of the brewery craft as beer of the month. Specialty beers distinguish themselves from mass production: many beer drinkers have no idea what they are missing if their taste extends only to Pils, the traditional lager or even wheat beer.

© Österreich Werbung, Fotograf: Wolfgang Zajc
© Österreich Werbung, Fotograf: Wolfgang Zajc

Specialty beers are seldom produced by the large breweries; they need to cater to the tastes of restaurants and beer gardens that serve beer in large quantities. The birthplace of the Viennese lager, the Schwechat brewery half way between Vienna and Vienna Airport, is still one of Austria’s largest breweries – the beer they produce there, however, has little resemblance to the original Viennese style of Anton Dreher. On the international scene light, easily consumed beers are in demand, whether from large beer concerns or from moderately sized breweries. And Austria is no different: the most common beer in Austria is called “Märzen” (pronounced “mair-tsen”), a light lager beer with five percent alcohol content and with a mildly bitter taste.

The small and smallest breweries, however, are intent on providing alternatives. Gerhard Forstner, for instance, has set up a “hand brewery” in the village Kalsdorf south of Graz: as he guides a group of bicyclists through his miniature “Hofbräu” he explains, “I call it ‘hand brewery’ because I have to do everything myself, even filling the bottles.” A bicycle path goes past the entrance to the brewery – anyone who wants to stop by Forstner’s can treat himself to absinthe beer, a Styrian ale, or even “Brewsecco,” bottled in a champagne flask.

Other brewers have been inspired by this creativity. One of them is Horst Asanger who runs the “1516 Brewing Company” in Vienna’s inner city, arguably Austria’s most international beer restaurant. In addition to the light and dark lagers, American ales and Irish stouts are brewed in front of the eyes of the patrons. The traditional Austrian toasts of “zum Wohl” and “Prost” are heard next to “cheers” and “slainte,” turning beer into a common link among peoples of the world.

LINKS:

Conrad Seidl Has become the “beer pope” with books, syndicated columns and seminars on the subject of beer. The author also annually publishes “Conrad Seidls Bier-Guide” providing an overview of the Austrian beer scene.

The most popular beer brands in Austria

  • Brau Union
  • Edelweiss
  • Eggenberger
  • Egger
  • Fohrenburger
  • Gösser Hirter
  • Bier Hubertus Bräu
  • Kapsreiter
  • Ottakringer
  • Puntigamer
  • Stiegl
  • Trumer Pils
  • Wieselburger Bier
  • Zipfer

Beer Hotels

Tirol

Biererlebniswelt Schloss Starkenberg 6464 Tarrenz/Tirol Tel: +43 (0) 5412/ 66201 Fax: +43 (0) 5412/ 66201-25, www.starkenberg.at

Lower Austria

Gasthof zur Kirche*** Familie Schrammel Kottes 21 3623 Kottes-Purk Tel: +43 (0) 2873/ 7254 Fax: +43 (0) 2873/ 2544 E-Mail: info@waldviertler-bierbad.at, www.waldviertler-bierbad.at

Hotel Schwarz-Alm Almweg 1 3910 Zwettl Tel: +43(0) 2822/ 53173, E-Mail: info@schwarzalm.at, www.schwarzalm.at

Upper Austria

Landhotel Moorhof Familie Bauer Dorfibm 2 5131 Franking Tel: +43 (0) 62277/ 8188 Fax: +43 (0) 62277/ 818875, E-Mail: moorhof@landhotels.at, www.landhotels.at/moorhof


Austrian menu

On an Austrian menu you will find not only regional specialties but also a number of dishes from the former crown lands of the monarchy. Sometimes not even the Austrians know the origin of their favorite dishes.

Austria’s varied cuisine still shows vestiges of the former monarchy. Vienna was the prime culinary melting pot with its multi-cultural and multi-ethnic population of Hungarians, Bohemians, Slovaks, Poles, Croatians, immigrants from Triest, Dalmatia, Subcarpathia, Bukovina and Carniola or simply newcomers from Austria’s modern day provinces. All of them came to Vienna, their tried and true recipes in tow. The best went on to become fully integrated into Austrian cooking. But the cooks in the crown lands, of course, also looked over the shoulders of Austrian chefs. This led to reciprocity benefiting both, a partnership that did not end with the downfall of the monarchy.

One of the first cookbooks containing recipes for all these dishes from the crown lands was “Die Süddeutsche Küche” – “Southern German Cooking” written by cookbook author Katharina Prato. She had started collecting recipes while accompanying her husband on business trips. When her collection was published in book form in 1858 it became a surprising best seller. Since a name change to “Der große Prato” – “The Great Prato” following World War II – her collection of recipes has been and is still found in Austrian bookstores.

No matter whether it was food scarcity that led to the invention of “Serviettenknödel” – bread dumpling mass wrapped in a large cotton napkin then boiled and cut into slices for serving – today they are as popular as their sweet Bohemian counterparts, the “Germknödel” – yeast dumplings. This dessert, often served as a main course, is usually filled with “Powidl” – thickened plum jam and served dusted with poppy seeds, melted butter and sugar. The only difference today between the Czech yeast dumpling and the Austrian is that the latter is larger.

Gulasch
Gulash

Since the main sources for grains of the former monarchy are now on Czech land it is no wonder that desserts such as Topfengolatschen – filo-type pastries filled with a mixture of sweetened quark and often raisins, Bohemian “Buchteln”– baked, jam- filled yeast dumplings, “Powidltascherln” – sweet ravioli filled with Powidl, Mohnnudeln – large noodles made from potato dough tossed in butter, poppy seed and sugar, found their way into the royal cuisine.

While some of the dishes – perhaps due to their straightforward and simple preparation – have changed very little, others have undergone significant transformations. Take gulash (sometimes still spelled gulyas), for instance: The original “gulyas” was a Hungarian stew with beef, which has nothing in common with what is internationally known as “gulash.” That world-renowned dish is known to the Hungarians as pörkölt. What caused the linguistic mismatch is a mystery. All we know is that Viennese Gulasch, as we know it today, did not develop until the we know is that Viennese Gulasch, as we know it today, did not develop until the we know is that Viennese Gulasch, as we know it today, did not develop until the we know is that Viennese Gulasch, as we know it today, did not develop until the we know is that Viennese Gulasch, as we know it today, did not develop until the we know is that Viennese Gulasch, as we know it today, did not develop until the we know is that Viennese Gulasch, as we know it today, did not develop until the early 19th century as brought in by the 39th Hungarian Infantry regiment stationed in Vienna.

© Österreich Werbung, Fotograf: Wolfgang Schardt
Viennese Gulasch. © Österreich Werbung, Fotograf: Wolfgang Schardt

The journey of the Austrian version of the Crêpe – the Palatschinke, which is somewhat thicker than its well-known French counterpart and usually served filled with jam or quark – was far longer. From France, the birthplace of the Crêpe, it was brought to Romania where it was called “placinta,” and from there on to Hungary under the new name of “palacsinta” finally landing in Austrian kitchens as Palatschinken.

Further influences on Austrian cuisine and other Austrian cultural aspects came from Judaism. East Galicians for instance brought “gefilte Fish,” a forerunner to the “gesulzter Karpfen” – jellied carp so popular in Austrian gourmet establishments. People who know both dishes will easily recognize the transformation the original dish has undergone, though the principle of preparation and main ingredient have remained the same.

Beuschel” – the lung and upper intestines of the calf – is most likely also of Jewish origin. At least according to Austria’s three-toque gourmet chef Ewald Plachutta and gourmet columnist Christoph Wagner, who have both long studied Austria’s culinary history. It has become a delectable main course usually served with the “Serviettenknödel” mentioned above or the common dumpling of bread mass.

Even Vienna’s staple dessert – the apple or quark strudel is an imported dish. It came to Vienna from Turkey by way of Hungary. Other Turkish imports include coffee, the “Kipferl” – a crescent-shaped pastry made from sweet dough – and countless spices. Corn, the South American staple was known as “Türkenweizen” – “Turkish wheat“ – well into the 19th century and was made into “Türkensterz” – also called polenta in modern-day Austria. Ewald Plachutta would tell you that the right to the origin for polenta is unfairly attributed to the Italians, since it was being prepared in Styria at the same time.

The Italians did, however, with their stewed meat inspire Viennese “Tafelspitz” – boiled beef, whereas Serbia brought “Reisfleisch” – a risotto on a beef basis – and many grilled specialties. The true origin of the Wiener Schnitzel, termed “eingebröselte Kalbsschnitze” – breaded veal cutlets – in Katharina Pratos’s times is yet unknown. A plausible explanation is that it derived from the Viennese “Backhendl” – deep fried chicken breaded with flour, egg and bread crumbs – which has been fried with breading and by floating in hot oil since the 16th century.

Wiener Schnitzel © Österreich Werbung, Fotograf: Wolfgang Schardt
Wiener Schnitzel / © Österreich Werbung, Fotograf: Wolfgang Schardt

Finally, a curiosity: Who would deny that snails are a French delicacy? Well, guess again. In the 18th century snails were almost an Austrian staple. They were made into snail dumplings, pâtés, salads, omelets and sausage and deep fried. FeeIing a little queezy? Then remember that there is a Styrian saying that promises higher male potency to men who take on the challenge of eating snails.

 Restaurants – LOCAL RECOMMENDATIONS

Dinner out on historical paths

  • K.u.K. Restaurant: Piaristenkeller, Piaristengasse 45, 1080, Vienna Dishes from the time of the monarchy.
  • Ilona Stüberl: Bräunerstr. 1, 1010 Vienna, A tiny piece of Hungary in the heart of Vienna.
  • Restaurant Kardos: Dominikanerbastei 8, 1010 Wien Austro-Hungarian cuisine from the times of the monarchy.
  • Zum Franz: Dornbacher Straße 103, 1170 Vienna, Austro-Bohemian specialty restaurant: Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia permeate the menu.

Viennese cuisine

  • Korso, Mahlerstraße 2, 1010 Vienna – One of Europe’s best restaurants with one of the world’s best chefs.
  • Plachutta, Wollzeile Wollzeile 38, 1010 Vienna – Tafelspitz is their specialty. Fine Viennese cuisine.
  • Meierei im Stadtpark, Restaurant Steirereck, Am Heumarkt 2a, 1030 Vienna – www.steirereck.at, 120 kinds of cheese from all over the world with classic Viennese dishes.
  • Grünauer, Hermanngasse 32, 1070 Vienna  – Traditional Viennese cuisine and new twists on Pannonian cuisine.

Foto: (c) disobeyart.Shutterstock


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