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FOOD & DRINK

Tips: How to buy wine in an Austrian supermarket

Austrian supermarkets have a reputation for being expensive, but it is possible to pick up affordable and decent wine in supermarkets across the country.

Tips: How to buy wine in an Austrian supermarket
You can find decent and affordable wine at Austrian supermarkets. Photo by 9310613 / Pixabay.

For oenophiles, shopping for wine often involves checking ratings and reviews, but price comes into the decision-making process too.

This is where Austrian supermarkets come in – most of which have a decent selection of both Austrian and international wine (Wein) at reasonable prices.

Although it will depend on where you shop, many of the varieties found in smaller, boutique markets can be found in Austria’s supermarkets much cheaper (although wine is less likely to be chilled). 

Here’s what you need to know about buying wine in an Austrian supermarket.

READ ALSO: How to drink wine like an Austrian

Top wine varieties in Austria

Here are the top Austrian wine varieties to look out for, as well as a few tasting and pairing notes.

Grüner Veltliner: Possibly Austria’s most famous white wine (Weisswein). Grüner Veltliner is usually dry but there are also semi-dry and sparkling styles available. 

Riesling: Austria produces lots of highly rated Riesling, so you can’t go wrong with this wine. In fact, sommeliers often describe Riesling as the “king of white wines”.

Gemischter Satz: A white wine made from a variety of grapes (at least three and up to 20) from one vineyard. The term Wiener Gemischter Satz is now regulated by law after Vienna became a protected area for this wine.

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Sekt: Also known as Austrian sparkling wine, Sekt can be found in most supermarkets. It is a classic aperitif that is usually served at special occasions, and it goes well with appetisers and fish.

Zweigelt: One of Austria’s most popular red wine (Rotwein) varieties that is grown in almost every wine region in the country. Perfect with Wiener Schnitzel or sausage.

Blaufränkisch: This is a typical Central European red wine that is mostly grown in Burgenland. This wine also pairs well with meat, such as beef, sausage or Wiener Schnitzel.

How to choose wine in a supermarket

Even people with limited knowledge of wine can find a decent bottle of plonk in the supermarket – as long as you know what to look here. Here are some tips to get started.

Screwcaps: Many beginners think a bottle of wine with a screwcap will be the one to avoid, but experts recommend if there are two bottles at the same price, you should go for the one without a cork. This is because screwcaps keep white wine fresher for longer and prevents wine from being compromised by bacteria in the cork. 

Labels: Knowing a few key wine terms in German will help you to understand wine labels in Austria. For example, Prädikatswein is the top tier wine in Austria and means “Distinction”. Qualitätswein is the second tier of classification and means “Quality Wine”, whereas Landwein is the third tier and translates to “Country Wine”, similar to Vin de Pays in France.

Austria also has its own classification system for typical regional wines known as Districtus Austriae Controllatus (DAC). There are 16 DACs in Austria including Wiener Gemischter Satz, Weinviertal (Gruner Veltliner only) and Wachau.

Additionally, look out for some other key terms such as Extra Trocken (extra dry), Halbtrocken (medium dry), Süss (sweet), Weingut (wine estate) and Winzergenossenschaft (wine growers’ cooperative).

Medals, awards and ratings: Falstaff is a highly rated food and drink publication and you will regularly come across wine in an Austrian supermarket with a high Falstaff rating. This means the wine has been sampled by experts and given a favourable result.

There are also many other wine awards that are displayed on bottles, although it doesn’t always mean award-winning wine is the best option.

Legal age to buy alcohol in Austria

In Austria, there is no national law related to the purchase of alcohol. Instead, it is regulated at a local level by state governments, although it is illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to purchase alcohol across Austria.

From the age of 16 to 18, it is legal for most people to purchase and consume wine and beer, but there are slight differences between the provinces. 

FOR MEMBERS: Everything you need to know about Austria’s wine industry

For example, in Salzburg, 16 to 18-years-olds are not allowed to purchase or consume drinks with an alcohol level of more than 0.5 percent. Whereas in Vienna, people in this age group can buy and consume beer and wine but not spirits.

For anyone in doubt about the rules where they live (or where they are visiting), here is a useful overview of the law in each Austrian province.

Drinking in public is also legal in Austria. This can be a surprise for Brits or Americans wanting to picnic in the park. 

Keep in mind that even though drinking in public is allowed, anti-social behaviour and public drunkenness will not be tolerated. 

Reader question: Is it legal to drink in public in Austria?

Supermarket opening times

Most supermarkets in Austria are closed on Sundays and public holidays, with exceptions at major train stations and in certain towns during peak tourist seasons. 

For example, branches of Eurospar and Hofer in the Alps are often open for a few hours on Sundays during the winter season.

Supermarkets in Austria also close early in the evening (around 7pm), apart from a few stores in larger cities that are open longer. This can be a shock to people from places like the UK where most supermarkets are open until 10pm or 11pm.

Spar

Spar is the most common store in Austria with more than 1,500 shops across the country. It became the market leader in Austria in 2020 with sales of €8.3 billion.

Interspar is the hypermarket version of this brand, followed by Eurospar that offers a wide selection of food and drink. Then there is Spar Gourmet, which is a “lifestyle supermarket” in Vienna and the surrounding area, which stocks lots of wine.

As Spar is the biggest supermarket brand in Austria, it is a good place to start when shopping for wine. It has a wide selection from Austrian wineries, ranging from cheap and cheerful to highly rated, as well as international wines, including products from Italy, France and Spain.

At the time of writing, The Local found an offer of 25 percent off all Sekt, Prosecco and Champagne at Eurospar.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about supermarkets in Austria

Billa

Billa has more than 1,000 stores across Austria and can be found in most towns and cities. It is easy to spot with its bright yellow and red branding and is known for stocking regional produce.

Billa also operates the larger Billa Plus stores in some locations, as well as an online shop for click and collect orders. 

When it comes to wine, Billa is proud of its Austrian wine offerings and more than half of its stock comes from Austria, including organic wine brands. 

Billa has even partnered with several Austrian winemakers, making it the place to go to find wine by Renner & rennersistas, Hiedler, Zahel and Huber (Falstaff’s Winegrower of the Year in 2015).

MPreis

MPreis is the main supermarket in Tyrol with branches in Salzburg, Vorarlberg, Carinthia and Upper Austria. The independent chain works with 250 regional suppliers and is a proud stockist of regional products, including wine.

The wine selection at MPreis changes regularly and every week there are special offers on selected bottles advertised as buy one, get one free (Gratis). 

For example, at the time of writing, MPreis offers included an Italian red wine for €13.99, an organic Grüner Veltliner for €9 and several brands of Prosecco starting from €11.99 – all of which were buy one, get one free.

MPreis also stocks a wide range of European wines and a selection of higher-end bottles that aren’t included in the weekly offers.

Hofer

Hofer is essentially Aldi but with a different name for the Austrian market. It sells cheaper, lesser known brands that Aldi is famous for, as well as some Austrian products, including a decent selection of wine.

Wine prices at Hofer range from around €3 for standard Grüner Veltliner or Zweigelt, to around €10 for organic wine or bottles with a high rating from Falstaff. 

However, you typically won’t find any special offers on wine at Hofer as the prices are already quite low.

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DISCOVER AUSTRIA

The best Austrian wineries to visit this summer

Sampling wine in beautiful surroundings is a great way to spend a summer afternoon in Austria. Here are the best places to add to your wine tasting wish list.

The best Austrian wineries to visit this summer

Austria is on the same latitude as the Burgundy wine region in France, so it’s no surprise that the Alpine country produces some of the best wines in the world.

But simply drinking Austrian wine and actually visiting a winery are two very different experiences, with the latter often transforming newbie wine connoisseurs into life-long oenophiles.

So, for anyone visiting Austria this summer – or for any burgeoning wine geeks out there – here’s a guide to the best wineries to visit to get an authentic taste of Austrian wine.

Where are Austria’s wine regions?

Grapes for winemaking are grown in every federal state in Austria, but the east of the country is best known as Austria’s wine region.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about Austria’s wine industry

Lower Austria, Vienna, Burgenland and Styria are the most prominent wine producing areas in Austria, and Vienna is one of the few capital cities in the world that can boast a wine industry within the city limits.

In these regions, the land is less mountainous than in the west of Austria and the climate is slightly warmer, especially in summer and autumn. This is important for growing grapes, although Austria is still considered as a “cold climate” country when it comes to winemaking.

Wine-growing regions in Austria (© ÖWM / ÖWM)

Today, Vienna is considered as one of the world’s classic wine regions, and wine making is so embedded in the city that there is one wine producer for every 2,500 residents.

Austria is mostly known for producing white wine, such as Riesling, Grüner Veltliner and Chardonnay, as well as a wide selection of light red wines, such as Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt. 

Additionally, Austrian winemakers produce some famous cuvée, such as Vienna’s Gemischter Satz (a blend of at least three grapes from the same vineyard).

Mayer am Nussberg, Vienna

A favourite with locals in Vienna is Mayer am Nussberg, which is technically a Heuriger (a wine tavern).

Mayer am Nussberg is located in the middle of a vineyard with views overlooking Vienna and is only open on good weather days from Thursday to Sunday (as well as public holidays).

READ ALSO: Five of the best things to do in Vienna this summer

Guests can sample a variety of wines by the glass or the bottle, including the Mayer am Nussberg classic house red and white wines. Snacks and regional delicacies are also available to order alongside the wine.

Visitors can make their way to the winery with the Heurigen Express (which runs from Vienna between April and October), by a hiking trail from the Kahlenberg Station or via tram line D.

Grafen Bergerin, Carinthia

Recommended by Carinthia resident Wyn Owen, Grafen Bergerin is the province’s highest vineyard, located at 880 metres above sea level in Flattach.

Grafen Bergerin is a fairly new vineyard – planted in 2012 – but already boasts 1,600 vines growing Regent, Zweigelt, Merlot and Rösler varieties.

Not only is Grafen Bergerin open to visitors for tastings, but owner Ernestine Berger also organises vineyard hikes from September to October, which ends with a wine tasting at the Weingut (winery).

Austria’s wineyards by the Wachau valley (Österreich Werbung, Fotograf: Harald Eisenberger)

Domäne Wachau, Lower Austria

This is one of Austria’s top wineries that was voted number one in Europe and third in the world in the 2020 World’s Best Vineyards rankings.

It is located on the banks of the Danube River where winemaker Heinz Frischengruber works with vintner families from across the Wachau Valley to produce a range of white, red and rose wines.

Visitors to Domäne Wachau can explore the Baroque cellars and sample a selection of the wines every Saturday at 11am from June to October. The price is €15 per person and includes a tasting a four different wines.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Austria this summer

Tastings outside of the scheduled times can be organised by request, and they can also be facilitated in Czech or Slovak.

Additionally, Domäne Wachau runs special activities throughout the summer months, such as yoga and wine, music and street food events.

Hirtzberger, Wachau, Lower Austria

Wine buffs highly recommend Weingut Franz Hirtzberger in the Wachau for sampling Austrian white wines.

The Wachau Valley is an internationally-renowned wine region and UNESCO world heritage site, and the vines at Hirtzberger have been growing at the site since the 13th century. 

READ ALSO: Which Austrian cheeses are protected foods and why?

The winery has also been in the Hirtzberger family for five generations and is still run as a small family business today.

As a result, the website advises visitors to book in advance to make an appointment for a tasting. They are closed on Sundays and public holidays.

Weingut Knoll, Wachau, Lower Austria

Another winery well-known for its white wines (and grand, distinctive labels) is Knoll, which has been in operation since the 1950s.

Riesling and Grüner Veltliner are the most famous Knoll wines to taste during a visit to the Dürnstein-based winery, but the family also produces highly-rated Gelber Muskateller.

The website advises guests to book an appointment for tastings in advance.

austria village BURGENLAND

The village Donnerskirchen in the region of the Neusiedler See in Burgenland (Österreich Werbung, Photographer: Andreas Tischler)

Umathum, Burgenland

For red wines, look no further than Umathum in Frauenkirchen in Neusiedl am See – another prime location for wine touring in Austria that is easy to reach from Vienna.

Umathum has 30 hectares of vines on both sides of Lake Neusiedl with around 85 percent dedicated to the Austrian red varieties of Zweigelt, St. Laurent and Blaufränkisch.

READ ALSO: Discover Austria: Five beautiful hikes and destinations south of Vienna

Umathum has also been consistently ranked as a top wine grower in Austria since the 1990s, which further adds to its appeal.

The wine estate is open to visitors from Monday to Saturday and is closed on Sundays and public holidays.

Stift Klosterneuburg, Lower Austria

The architecturally-stunning Klosterneuburg Abbey in Lower Austria is home to one of Austria’s oldest wineries, boasting a blend of traditional and modern winemaking practices and centuries of history.

Wine tours take visitors through the Baroque cellar complex down to a depth of 36 metres to learn about the background to the estate and how it operates today. There is then an optional wine tasting at the end.

READ ALSO: Tips: How to buy wine in an Austrian supermarket

At the top of the tasting list should be the award-winning Wiener Gemischter Satz and the Pinot Noir, but all Klosterneuburg wines are regularly awarded high points by judges.

Tickets for the wine tour costs €11 and includes admission to the abbey. Wine tasting is an additional cost. 

Klosterneuburg is easy to reach from Vienna by bus, train or car.

Useful vocabulary

Wein – wine

Weingut – winery

Weißwein – white wine

Rotwein – red wine

Heuriger – wine tavern

Vinothek – wine shop

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