Sturm: Why you should try Austria's traditional autumn drink

Rachel Loxton
Rachel Loxton - [email protected]
Sturm: Why you should try Austria's traditional autumn drink
Stylianos Stavridis, founder of Exclusive Wine Experiences in Vienna enjoys a drink of Sturm at the Kahlenberg hill. Photo courtesy of Stylianos Stavridis

Wine harvesting season is underway in Austria, and that means the time window is open to try the sweet and semi-fermented alcoholic drink called Sturm. The Local spoke to a wine expert to find out more about Sturm season.


Austrians enjoy eating seasonally and opting for locally sourced produce. 

So perhaps it's no surprise that their drinking habits follow a similar pattern. When the new wine harvesting season rolls around in September, it is customary to drink a beverage made from the first grapes harvested.

Sturm comes in both red and white varieties and is usually enjoyed with traditional meaty and carb-heavy Austrian meals. The season, which for locals usually signals the start of autumn, lasts until around mid-October. 

We asked Stylianos Stavridis, founder of Exclusive Wine Experiences in Vienna to tell us more about Sturm, where you can find it and what it means to Austrian culture.

The Local: How would you describe Sturm?

Stylianos Stavridis: Partially fermented grape must (the juice from the squeezed grapes), known as "Sturm" in Austria or “Federweißer” in Germany, is allowed in Austria when exclusively made from locally harvested and processed grapes.

It can be introduced to the market between August 1st and December 31st of the respective vintage year, as long as it's in a state of fermentation. Fermentation may be temporarily halted during production and resumed before release. Sturm (which is German for storm) gets its name from its cloudy, still-fermenting nature.

READ ALSO: Five things you will find in (almost) every Austrian home


What would you say to someone trying it for the first time?

Since Sturm is still in the process of fermentation, meaning that the yeast is still converting sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide, it is relatively sweet, tart (acidic) and effervescent. This makes it a bit 'dangerous' for someone who is drinking it for the first time.

It almost feels like grape juice, but you need to keep in mind that there is alcohol and yeast which in higher quantities can cause headaches and tummy problems. It is also important to keep in mind that, due to rapid fermentation, it could cause the bottle to explode if corked. Sturm also cannot be stored and must be consumed within a few days, otherwise it might spoil due to the presence of yeast.   

Stylianos Stavridis, founder of Exclusive Wine Experiences in Vienna, talks about Sturm season.

Stylianos Stavridis, founder of Exclusive Wine Experiences in Vienna, talks about Sturm season. Photo courtesy of Stylianos Stavridis

Where are the best kind of places to find Sturm in Austria? Is it usually in bars or do you have to look further afield?

In Austria, Sturm is served in a variety of places, from bars to restaurants and Heuriger (traditional taverns). Heuriger are Austrian-style restaurants, usually family-owned wineries with attached eateries that serve wine made on-site. In Vienna's 19th district, Döbling, you'll find many Heuriger during Sturm season. 

READ ALSO: The Austrian eating habits the world could learn from


What do your guests think about Sturm when they try it?

Most of my guests find Sturm very refreshing and they are surprised at how sweet and simultaneously acidic it is. 

How important is Sturm to Austrian food and drink culture?

In September and October, Austrians often enjoy Sturm together with the arrival of fall and the beginning of the harvest season. Also, instead of "Prost" (cheers), people say "Mahlzeit" (enjoy your meal) before drinking, since Sturm is not yet considered a finished wine. 

How did you get into the Austrian wine business?

I'm originally from Athens, Greece, and I've been living in Austria since 2012. I initially moved here to pursue my Master's degree at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU). During my first year, I worked part-time at a cosy wine bar in Vienna's 1st district, where I fell in love with Austrian wines.

Between 2013 and 2017, I was employed by a company specialising in organising wine tours throughout Austria. Simultaneously, I embarked on my wine education journey at the Austrian Wine Academy. In 2018, I joined a winery in Carnuntum, and at the start of 2019, I took the bold step of launching my own business, offering wine tastings in Vienna, particularly tailored for international guests.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also