Viticulture in a city? Often, urban vineyards serve no other purpose than attracting tourists – but not in Vienna! The city’s 575 hectares of vineyards play a key role in the local economy and help preserve the green belt that surrounds the city – not to mention the fact that they produce some high-quality wines! The special type of wine produced in Wien – the Wiener Gemischter Satz (field blend) – was added to the list of Austrian DAC wines in 2013 and has now become the quintessential symbol of Wien’s wines.
Even in the late Middle Ages, vines were still being grown inside the city walls in what is now Vienna's first district. Today, however, viticultural activity is focused in the capital’s suburbs. Vineyards on the Bisamberg north of the Danube – cultivated by winegrowers from Strebersdorf, Stammersdorf and Jedlersdorf – provide favourable conditions for Pinot varieties. Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc are the most popular grapes grown between Ottakring, Hernals and Pötzleinsdorf – and especially in Vienna’s 19th district (including Heiligenstadt, Nussdorf, Grinzing, Sievering and Neustift am Walde), where the soil contains varying amounts of lime. Vienna’s Nußberg has also been rediscovered recently, with the hillside vineyards attracting young, creative winegrowers from all districts of the wine-growing capital, including some who have found a new vocation in viticulture. Rendzina, brown earth and chernozem can be found south of Wien, around Rodaun, Mauer and Oberlaa. These soils lend themselves to the production of powerful white wines and opulent red wine cuvée blends.
Nearly all winegrowers in Wien produce the traditional Gemischter Satz (field blend), in which different grape varieties are grown together in the same vineyard, are harvested at the same time and turned into a single wine. In 2008, Wiener Gemischter Satz was added to the list of Austrian products in the Slow Food “Ark of Taste” catalogue. Later, in 2013, Wiener Gemischter Satz gained DAC status and is now considered the most regionally typical wine of the Wien region. The regulation regarding Wiener Gemischter Satz DAC stipulates that at least three white Qualitätswein grape varieties must be interplanted together in a vineyard within Wien, and that this vineyard is recorded as a dedicated area under Wiener Gemischter Satz in the register of Wien vineyards. The greatest proportion of any one grape variety must not exceed 50%, while the third largest proportion must represent at least 10%. In total, around 220 hectares in Wien are planted for the production of Gemischter Satz. Depending on the location of the vineyard, the grapes used in Wiener Gemischter Satz DAC and the style of the wine is shaped by the terroir, as described above. Gemischter Satz has always been a favourite choice in the region’s unique Heurige wine taverns, which are still widely popular today. From the smart, open-all-year Heurige with a large buffet, to the small Buschenschank that pops up for a few weeks a year in amongst the vines, all styles of tavern pull in the crowds – both visitors and locals alike. Due to its outstanding cultural significance, Vienna’s Heurige tavern tradition was added to Austria’s list of UNESCO intangible cultural heritage in 2019.
In order to preserve Wien’s vineyards as natural and cultural landscapes for future generations to enjoy, a Viennese state law stipulates that all existing vineyards must continue to be cultivated as such, thereby protecting valuable viticultural land from real estate speculation.
Gemischter Satz: The grapes must come from a Viennese vineyard planted with at least three white Qualitätswein varieties that are then harvested and vinified together; the greatest proportion of a grape variety must not be higher than 50%, the third largest proportion must be at least 10%.
- without vineyard designation: no more detailed geographic indication than Wien; available for sale from 1 December of the harvest year
- with vineyard designation: with more detailed geographic indication than Wien; available for sale as of 1 March in the year following the harvest
- without vineyard designation: max. 12.5% vol.
- with vineyard designation: min. 12.5 % vol.
- without vineyard designation: must correspond to the flavour profile “dry”
- with vineyard designation: not obliged to correspond to the flavour profile “dry”
- without vineyard designation: no perceptible cask tone
- with vineyard designation: not specified
The vineyards on the Bisamberg and in Döbling, Dornbach and Ottakring lie upon hard rocks from the Penninic flysch zone and intercalated coloured marl, as well as on Neogene marine sediments from the shores of the Vienna Basin. Flysch is made up of sandstone (sometimes rich in lime, sometimes rich in quartz), interspersed with layers of marl and clay. The deposits at the rim of the basin, which were left behind some 16 to 12 million years ago, are composed of solid limestone (Leitha limestone) in some places, while in others, they are loose, yet mainly coarse, sandy and gravelly (and, in rare places, marly) rocks. The substratum of the vineyards in Mauer and Kalksburg is also composed of sediments from the rim of the Vienna Basin, which – due to the influence of rivers and the flow of debris from the Vienna Woods – have become either sandy and gravelly, or have solidified into conglomerate and breccia. The vineyards in Stammersdorf, on the Hungerberg and in Oberlaa lie on the terraces of the ancient Danube. These terraces are composed of quartz-rich gravel with a loamy top layer and a substratum composed primarily of either gravelly and sandy or fine-grained sediments from the Vienna Basin, known locally as “Tegel”.
When one thinks of Wiener Gemischter Satz, a hearty wine tavern meal automatically comes to mind. This is not necessarily incorrect, because the fresh, classic version continues to provide inspiration in a rustic context, from cold platters to pasta with ham and cheese, meat patties and crispy roast pork. The elegant elite wines from top estates, however, display adequate style to accompany sophisticated cuisine and Asian or Mediterranean classics as well.