Dining on the Wine Trail: Bruder, Vienna
Lucas Steindorfer and Hubert Peter's labyrinthine cocktail bar and natural wine terrace packs an unexpected blast of youthful energy.
Each time I find myself seated at a certain, well-regarded Vienna restaurant, I vow privately never to return. The food is superb; there is good natural wine; the décor is refined. But the chilly sommeliers have the infuriating and firm habit of never letting one serve one’s own bottle at the table, instead keeping it under watchful guard in a service bucket several meters away - rather as if one were some kind of clumsy child, and not, say, a fellow wine professional trying to enjoy a meal.
If one were apt to read into things, one might assume this restaurant’s patrician froideur with regards to wine service to be representative of Austrian or Viennese wine culture as a whole. But one would be wrong, as I learned last May, when I joined my friend the German négociant Jas Swan at Bruder, a sprawling, fermentation-themed cocktail and natural wine bar by Lucas Steindorfer and Hubert Peter.
One strides past Bruder’s street-side front terrace into a dark, cavernous bar overshadowed by shelf-upon-shelf of mood-lit, wide-mouthed glass demijohns. The visual effect can’t help recalling the vokda pineapple jars of countless trash bars on Brick Lane or rue Oberkampf - only at Bruder, the demijohns contain actual fermentations along with all manner of cocktail tincture and infusion.
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Bruder’s cocktails themselves strike the same amusing balance of good and bad taste, their sturdy execution and fine ingredients belied by heavy-handed garnishes. (These garnishes may have been an ironic touch. It is very hard to discern irony abroad. But then I suppose this dynamic also applies to the European embrace of American mixology culture.)
Wriggling down a hall at the rear of the bar-room, one passes a kitchen, and takes a left out into yet another terrace, this one situated in the building’s expansive courtyard. On that occasion the terrace was chock-a-block with Karakterre vignerons and their entourages; I found myself seated with two or three, and apologized for having zero foreknowledge of their wines.
One in particular seared itself in my mind that evening: a magnum of Burgenland vigneron Georg Schmeltzer’s de-stemmed macerated scheurebe, which, if memory serves, he explained was never racked and spent a long times on its lees. The wine possessed a peaceful, panoramic energy, fine quince-paste fruit, and a delicate granularity I associate with patient, extended, significant lees contact.
I saw neither a menu nor a wine list on that visit to Bruder. Plates of snacks arrived, most pleasingly low-concept, a reminder that - for this visitor, at least - the ideal accompaniment to a nation’s wines is often whatever the common bar snacks are in said nation, in this case dry sausage, pickled peppers, and preserved herring, all produced in-house. (The Bruder team also produce proprietary beer, vermouth, cider, even a Prosecco-like wine they call “Bro-secco.”)
My awareness of the excellent wine selection at Bruder comes only from a visit, later that evening, to the bar’s adjacent retail space, where Swan’s own wines shared shelf space with the work of a who’s-who of young natural central European vignerons, including those of Moravian maestro Martin Vajcner.
I believe we outlasted terrace seating hours that evening, but the bar’s interior remained thronged when I left, right down to the narrow hall beside the kitchen. In the main bar I recall a churning crowd of young Austrians belting along to Rihanna’s “Umbrella” - with someone helpfully wielding an umbrella, for emphasis. Freewheeling, energetic ambiances like this - the opposite of self-serious sommelier culture - don’t build themselves. They take a vision, a will, and far more hard work. Bravo, brothers.
Tel: +43 664 1351320
Falstaff conclude their glowing review of Bruder by noting that “Everything is weird, exciting, alternative, different.”
A terrific interview with Hubert Peter at The Pouring Tales.
A blurb on Bruder at The World’s 50 Best.
A Roundtable at Rundbar: A chat about the state of natural wine at Vienna’s Rundbar with founder Mortiz Herzog, Kollektiv Peternell’s Dave Ferris, Gut Oggau’s Stephanie Tscheppe-Eselböck, Maria Koppitsch, and Aran Healy of Ruby Wine.
Ten Questions for Paul Bodner of Vienna natural wine institution Glacis Beisl.
An April 2021 visit with Jas Swan in her former cellar in Kröv.