Learning by Drinking
Pub Klemo has a well-stocked selection and affordable tastings
The vinothek Pub Klemo’s offers affordable lessons in viticulture, with their fine selection available for tasting in their cozy wine bar.
If Rome has coffee and Moscow has vodka, then Vienna’s soul fuel is surely wine. The city is awash in the stuff: dozens of Vinotheken and wine bars, some as vast as supermarkets and others intimate, but all bring us the best that France, Italy or Spain has to offer. To say nothing of the several hundred growers within easy driving distance, happy to open their cellars to the casual caller. So it’s not easy to find a business niche in this world of wine, but Tracy and Robert Brandhofer of Pub Klemo may just have done it. For daytime patrons, their corner shop in the busy Margareten district near Naschmarkt offers 3,500 wines from all over – and never the ones you can also find at Wein & Co. or the other big-scheme emporia. And you certainly feel in good hands. Tracy Brandhofer (who is English) has the bubbly enthusiasm of an islander still discovering the joy of living on a continent where wine is part of daily life. (One is reminded of American chef Julia Child’s joyous discovery: “Do you realize that French people eat French food every day!”). However, any wine dealer who labels a 1997 Austrian Riesling selling for €155 as a “bestseller” is at least taking themselves seriously and perhaps deserves to be treated as such.
OF DAILY, FINE & RARE
For those of us with more modest price horizons, the good news is two-pronged. First, the Pub Klemo wine shop sorts its selection into three categories: daily, fine and rare. Decent everyday wines start around €7, but you do need to be ready to pay €25 to €100 to gain access to the wine wonderland beyond what we normally see on the shelves. Of course they have the classics from Austria, France and Italy well covered, but for this correspondent, their selection of the criminally underrated German or quite simply unknown Swiss wines was a mouthwatering revelation. But back to reality with a bump: Fifty euros upwards for a wine you don’t know is a leap of faith. So their second prong is even better: regular wine tastings across the street at the cozy (read “cramped”) little Pub Klemo Weinbar. Here, tastings are intended to help you learn the nuances between similar wines: Every week, the bar offers two blocks for tasting – six whites and six reds. Each group is closely related by design – for example, all from a single region or from the same grape variety. Sampling a block costs between €18 and €25, a good and affordable way to cover a lot of terroir with minimal shoe leather. If you feel that wine without food is a missed opportunity, there is a limited menu of tempting treats: classic Italian antipasti, soups and homemade tagliatelle with various salse. There are also about 30 wines from their “daily” list available by the glass and another 40 from the “fine and rare” categories. And lest you bristle at the miser’s measure of 1/16th, remember, your hosts are allowing you to sip the nectar of the gods on a mere mortal’s budget. The very best are served in elegant Zalto glasses so thin that you hardly dare to breathe, much less break into song. Serious players can also test their skills and elect to taste blind. Whatever the category, this is a great way for a wine-inspired soul to pass the time till midnight.
Tracy Brandhofer of Pub Klemo has an infectious enthusiasm for wine, making her an excellent guide to the world of viticulture.