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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. 

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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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FOOD & DRINK

‘Prost!’: A guide to toasting in Austria

As we head towards the festive season in Austria, there’s a high chance you will be involved in more than one “prost” in the coming weeks. Here’s how to do it properly.

'Prost!': A guide to toasting in Austria

For many people, “prost” is one of the first words they learn in German, which comes in handy as it often comes up in social situations. 

But if you’re new to Austria and wondering what it means, or you simply want to make sure you’re doing it right, here’s a useful guide.

READ ALSO: Austrian traditions: How to celebrate St. Martin’s Day in Austria

What does “prost” mean?

“Prost” is the German equivalent of “cheers”. The word comes from the Latin word “prosit”, which basically means to wish good health before drinking.

Some alternatives to “prost” that you might hear are “zum Wohl” (to good health) or simply “gesund” (healthy).

But whatever you do, try to avoid mixing terms. If someone says “prost” or “zum Wohl”, then say that back.

When is it used?

“Prost” is used in the same way in Austria that you would use “cheers” – when having drinks with other people and clinking glasses.

So you will probably come across it at the pub with colleagues or during a weekend get together with friends. 

You will almost certainly say it before having a beer or schnapps with others.

READ MORE: How did the Wiener Schnitzel become an Austrian icon?

How to say ‘prost’ – the Austrian way

There are a few rules to be aware of when prost-ing. 

First, make sure you clink your glass with everyone involved in the prost (within reason – if it’s a room full of people at a wedding, for example, just raise your glass and nod your head towards others instead).

READ ALSO: Wiener Weinwandertag: Everything you need to know about Vienna’s ‘Wine Hiking Day’

Second, always maintain eye contact. If there is a group of four people, you will say “prost” and clink the glass of every person while looking them in the eye. This is standard practice and you will be called out if you don’t.

In fact, some Austrians will tell you it is bad luck (or a sentence for “seven years of bad sex”) not to look into the eyes of the person you are cheering with. Clinking glasses and making eye contact is an absolute must, then.

Third, do not start drinking until everyone has clinked glasses and said ‘prost’. As explained in a guide by Visiting Vienna, not waiting for the prost to finish before taking a swig of beer is like queue jumping in the UK. Terribly rude behaviour that will be noted by everyone else involved.

So get ready to socialise like a local and impress your Austrian friends with your prost etiquette.

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