We read and hear so much about the Bavarian Oktoberfest, but little to nothing about Heuriger which is considered an important social affair in Vienna and builds on several centuries of tradition.
By Peter Pabisch
Its name alone deserves special attention as it recalls roots of the oldest Bavarian-Austrian German: hiru jāru (from this year) comes from Old German, spoken from the 8th to the 11th century. Whereas in modern German one would say diesjaehrig, in Viennese dialect from the wine growing regions along the Vienna Woods one still states that the wine is heurig (from this year—and very young and tasty). For Viennese to decide to go to the Heurigen clearly means to frequent a very traditional place in this unique city … maybe tonight with family and friends. Unlike Oktoberfest, going to the Heurigen does not indicate that one will be attending a gathering of hundreds of people accompanied by lively marching music. Rather one is looking for a few hours of recreation in a small vineyard to enjoy good food and unique wine over a warm-hearted conversation with family and friends. Normally one orders two pints (one liter of golden grape) and asks for some small glasses to be distributed among guests. Food always accompanies wine so that the danger of getting drunk is minimal, yet one will feel a whiff of happiness after imbibing up to half a pint of the good stuff—to which the Viennese refer as an Achterl or a Vierterl (an eighth or a quarter of a liter). Notice that the Viennese like to use diminutive noun forms to reduce the sinful effect of their meaning to a less dangerous degree. Understandably anybody situated around a rustic table with wooden benches will shed any form of shyness and enjoy a carefree conversation about “God and the world”, as the German expression goes.