The Gastgarten at Sirbu stretches out behind the Heuriger, in stepped levels of long wooden tables and benches, shaded by leafy walnut trees and hung with brilliant baskets of petunias. We meander through the rows and pick a spot, second row from the far end, raised just enough to enjoy the full loveliness of the vineyards soping away into the distance. My friend agrees to say at the table to order our liters of wine and mineral water, and I volunteer to stand in line inside to select our menu of Heuriger specialities: Kummelbraten (roast pork seasoned with caraway seeds), Schnitzel Cordon bleu (a cutlet folded and filled with ham and cheese), a spinach Strudel, and a cheese and tomato casserole (Auflauf) and the wondrous array of salads without which a Heuriger is not worth of the name: shredded carrots, tomatoes, roasted stuffed peppers, pickled onions, red beans and garlic and (my favourite) Schwarzwurzel, sunflower root in a yoghurt dressing. And teeming baskets of salted bread sticks and fresh sesame roles.
My head filled with visions of succulent roasts and luscious casseroles, I slide out from between the bench and the table, making a mental list of my friend’s requests, when….PLOP! My ankle buckle underneath me and I took a dive to the ground, just barely missing the table corner opposite, and landing in a heap of the gravel, elbow bruised and prize jeans torn at the knee. Those stepped levels….
I sat stunned, collecting myself, as two men from across the way offered to help me to my feet. I rose awkwardly, regained my balance and headed inside. Didn’t I want to switch roles? No. Somehow I sensed it would be better to move, to be upright and get the whole machinery back in gear.
No spoiling my evening!
Minutes later, I was making my way back to the table, tray in hand, hardly the worse for wear. The prospect of a blushing pitcher of new wine put my injuries rapidly in perspective and half a glass later, all was forgiven. We sat, nibbling away at our feast, sipping our wine and gazing out over the beauties of the countryside. Nothing better.
Later, as dusk had fallen, we made our way down the hill, stopping in at another Heuriger whose name we cannot, for the life of us, remember. What we do remember is that they had wonderful big basket chairs and we snuggled in, hidden from the world, and had one of the finest Welschrieslings I ever had the pleasure of coming across.
Then we wandered on down to our regular haunt, Schubel-Auer, in Nussdorf, where we had our final glass—of Grunerveltliner—under the shade of the chestnuts that shelter the back garden. From there, we had only to step out to the street to hop the D Tram and ride in style back to town.