I started helping Vienna Winemaker Jutta Ambrositsch harvest grapes in 2009. Every year I help out on one or two days. It’s a wonderful break from day-to-day work in front of a computer screen.
Jutta’s wine is excellent and she has my favourite Heurigen in Vienna. It moves around and is only open on a few weekends a year, but if you have the possibility do visit, the wine is great and the food is really fantastic, a twist on traditional Heurigen food. Few things could be better than sitting with friends around a bottle of Jutta’s wine and her Liptauer cheese spread on Gragger Chorherr bread.
I’ve ended several of my Janes Walk in Grinzing tours at Jutta’s Heurigen. In the meantime, here’s the post I wrote describing my first picking experience.
Original Post from October 2009
On Saturday I finally did something I have always wanted to do: pick grapes for wine! It started with an e-mail from Slow Foods Vienna asking for volunteers to help winemaker Jutta Ambrositsch harvest her “Sommeregg” vineyard (one of several she has) for Gemischten Satzes wine.
Vienna produces the most wine of any city in the world; the main reason is that the city has a huge land area and over 50% is open space (forest, hills and agriculture). Many of the hills surrounding Vienna produce excellent wine. The city even owns a winery called Cobenzl. Cobenzl has a wonderful view overlooking the city, a restaurant and an adjoining mini farm for children.
A big plus for public transport fans in Vienna is that you can take the city bus to the vineyards! The 38-A bus (direction Kahlenberg) takes you from the U-Bahn (U4) terminal station Heiligenstadt to Cobenzl and on to Kahlenberg (another great view with a nice hotel and restaurant). On the way the bus goes through the Grinzing neighborhood where there are many Heurigen (local wine restaurants).
Anyway, back to the picking. Unfortunately Saturday was gray and cool – but at least it did not rain! – so I dressed warmly. After a brief description of what grapes to harvest (no moldy grapes, no dried out grapes, no grapes damaged by hail or wasps – when the skin of the grape is open it gives a chance for vinegar bacteria to get in – and, very important, no lady bugs – they make the wine stink) we were on our way up the hill with our collection bins.
There were about 30 people helping harvest about a half-hectare area of grapes. The volunteers consisted of friends of Jutta’s and Slow Food members. It was a fun group with lots of talking during the work. I was lucky enough to work with someone studying agriculture and wine making, so I learned a lot and could always ask her if the particular grapes were OK or not before throwing them in the bin. Many hands make light work and we finished the field by about 3 pm (and even had time for a one-hour lunch break).
Lunch was cold salads, cheese, bread, ham and some of Jutta’s 2007 Gemisches Satz (from the same vineyard we were picking) and a 2008 Riesling which was really excellent. When we were finished we had a piping hot goulash soup – nice since when standing around (as opposed to picking) you became quite cold quickly. A little more wine and then back to the bus stop in Grinzing for the trip home.
You may be asking yourself what is “Gemischten Satz”? Translated literally it means “mixed batch”. It is typical to Vienna and is made from vinyards that have many different grape varieties planted together. In Jutta’s half-hectare Sonnenegg vinyard there are about 20 different sorts of grapes including Grüner Veltliner, Weißburgunder, Neuburger, Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Gelber traminer, Gewürztraminer, Zierfandler, Rotgipfler, Roter Veltliner, … and several traditional Austrian grapes that are unique). The Sonnenegg vineyard was planted in 1955 but has probably been used for grapes for centuries.
Later this week we will attend the Slow Foods Terra Madre Austria congress at the Vienna City Hall. The congress highlights traditional foods from Austria and Gemischten Satz will be one of the foods that are officially recognized by Slow Foods at the event. We will go to a class on Gemischten Satz and learn lots more about it, so expect to hear more later. In the meantime, when you visit Vienna look for Gemischten Satz and give it a try – it’s not for everyone, but fun to experience.