For us Austrians, it is a piece of our identity. The name “Heurige”, or wine tavern, derives from “heuer” which means “this year’s” and the word “Heurige” describes the wine (this year’s wine) as well as the tavern itself. In contrast to other wine taverns, the Heurige sell wine grown by the winegrower who owns the establishment. In 1784 Emperor Joseph II permitted all winegrowers to sell their produce and wine and this created the basis for the “Heurigenkultur”, or jausen culture, and the Heurige and Buschenschank, a similar smaller version, a rustic wine tavern, were born.

“Ausgesteckt is”…

… when the new wine is served this is referred to as “ausg’steckt is” or the “tavern is now open”. In the early days, people would bring their own food with them to eat with the wine as many wine growers weren’t prepared or able to sell food. It was only later on that many used this opportunity to get extra business. A typical characteristic is that the wine was, and often still is, served in a quarter litre glass with handle – a glass which doesn’t look particularly attractive and which has little to do with today’s wine culture. However, this wine glass which was created especially for the Heurige does, in fact, have a deeper meaning and good reason for its existence. As people used to bring their own food from home with them – for example ham, cold meats, cheese and bread – which was then usually eaten with the fingers, a normal wine glass would get dirty and greasy very quickly as people drank in between eating. This led to the wine glass with handle being created especially for the Heurige and it is today not possible to imagine these taverns without this special type of glass.

Brettljausen in the vineyard
Credit: photoflorenzo – iStock / Getty Images Plus

Traditionally, it was only the wine which was served at the table. Guests had to get everything else themselves and would pay for this at the buffet or serving counter. Today it is only the traditional Buschenschank (smaller version of a Heurige) which still operate like this. An increasing number of Heurige are serving their customers. In all countries the “little afternoon indulgence” has a long tradition.

It’s Jausen-Time!

In Austria this involves not only the popular sweet, coffee-time snack, the Kaffeejause, but also savoury tit bits, the Jausen (snack). The Brettljausen is the most popular here which, as the name implies, involves the food being served on a wooden board or platter. This usually includes a hearty bread snack with various cold meats and pickled vegetables, spreads, fresh crispy Kürbiskernbrot (pumpkin seed bread) or Jour-Gebäck (small finger food-sized breads and rolls) such as Kaisersemmerl (small, wheel-shaped bread roll) or Salzstangerl (pretzel sticks). A sour Essigwurst (pickled sliced sausage) or Bauerntoast (farmhouse toast / bread topped with ham, fried egg and cheese) may also be served. The Heurige require a special commercial licence for the sale of warm snacks such as Pork Roast or similar.

Essigwurst, or sausage marinaded in oil and vinegar, is a particularly light, classic down to earth Austrian dish.
Essigwurst, or sausage marinaded in oil and vinegar, is a particularly light, classic down to earth Austrian dish. Besides, it’s quick and easy to make.
The Austrian Bauerntoast is a rustic snack with farmhouse bread, ham and cheese.
The Austrian Bauerntoast is a rustic snack which tastes delicious despite its great simplicity. It’s a farmhouse bread roll topped with ham and cheese.
Pork roast with it's crisy skin and tender, served with potato dumplings.
With it’s crispy skin and tender, succulent meat, Pork Roast, also known as Bratl, is a traditional Austrian dish which is particularly popular on Sundays.

The Viennese Heurige are as well-known as the city’s giant Ferris wheel, the Vienna Boys’ Choir and the Lipizzaner horses. They have also been used as the setting for many films and numerous songs have also been dedicated to them.

Wherever people are enjoying wine you also get social gatherings at a later hour – food and drink do, after all, bring people together! In a cosy and intimate yet quite simple atmosphere, there are often heated discussions as well as gossip and enjoyable conversations. The Heurige, therefore, not only serve food and exquisite wines but also create the opportunity, and this is still true today, for people to get to know one another and strike up friendships. It is for good reason that it is often said that the rustic Heurige, regardless of whether in the centre of town or the picturesque countryside, is a place in which you can really feel at ease and where everyone is welcome.

A group of people toasting with red wine at a traditional Austrian wine tavern.
Credit: franckreporter / getty images

Home-made always tastes better…

In Austria, people also really enjoy having a Jausen (snack) at home and many may enjoy Pumpkin Seed Bread topped with Verhackertes (bacon spread), a Würstel mit Saft (sausage in goulash sauce) or a quick Eierspeis (scrambled eggs) at the end of the day!

Verhackertes is a bread spread made out of smoked bacon, is traditionally eaten in Austria.
Verhackertes is a bread spread made out of smoked bacon, is traditionally eaten in Austria or rather Carinthia and tastes particularly good on fresh bread.
Sausage with goulash juice and bread roll: Austrian fast food Würstel mit Saft.
For a quick and easy snack, simply heat sausages in water, serve it with goulash juice and a bread roll. That’s the Austrian fast food Würstel mit Saft!