Sharing the food platter of a Brettljause in a locally run Buschenschank Steiermark is one of the most pleasurable ways of spending a Sunday afternoon in Styria, Austria.
Like the Heuriger elsewhere in Austria and the Osmiza in Slovenia, these focus on local produce and a relaxed good time with friends. But there are differences.
Here’s what it’s like to share Brettljause in a Buschenschank Steiermark in Austria. And it's more fun than it sounds ;-)
I love to discover new things. New words, new traditions, new flavours.
And a Brettljause in a Buschenschank Steiermark hit that holy trinity of newness in Austria.
First, the words, all buoyant and brilliant with their German love for capital letters bish, bash, bosh in the centre of a sentence. No strict one capital letter diet for them!
Then, the joy of hearing the words said aloud. Brettle-YOWza. Boosh – n- shank!
Half joyful Ali-G in the hoodz, half cool dance moves.
Styrian Wine: what is it like?
Styria is famous for white wine in particular. Expect the Buschenschank Steiermark you find to serve Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling. Possibly rose but less likely reds.
But before I get too carried away (and before my GCSE German teacher whrugs with despair) let’s get to the meat of the thing shall we?
What on earth is a Brettljause in a Buschenschank Steiermark all about?!
The answer, my friend is in the meat. And the cheese, pickles, peppers, breads, trout and more.
The world Brettljause literally translates to mean “snack on a board” and it’s a culinary tradition found in Austria, particularly around the region of Styria.
Not to be confused with the country without the “T,” you’ll find Styria at the eastern edge of Austria, snuggling up to Slovenia and sweeping its arms around Austria’s second biggest city of Graz.
As Austria’s second largest city, Graz also has a wealth of other impressive accolades. It’s a cultured UNESCO World Heritage City. It’s also a UNESCO City of Design. And it’s officially Austria’s Capital of Culinary Delights.
That’s a lot going on for a place that’s so pretty and easy to get around on foot! Find out more about unusual things to do in Graz here.
Styria often describes itself as a kind of “Austrian Tuscany” and as the roads twisted and turned higher into the mountains, that description seemed, well, rather hopeless.
Tuscany is gentle, rolling, easy.
Styria is steep. Her roads spin and swerve.
But then the silhouettes of her curves started to shift, amid tall pines instead of cypress and I began to see the similarities.
An eye-soothing, heart-lifting beauty, of shifting shapes of blue-tinged green, calm vineyards and stylishly sparse houses in white and burned red.
We were heading to one in particular, the Schauer Winery in Kitzeck with a driveway like a jack-knife, requiring reversal skills of a ninja.
On the Sausal Wine Route
The white-haired lady just leaving seemed to manage this with ease.
There we met Stefan, one of the brothers behind the Buschenschank and he clued us in to what the whole thing was about.
First, the vineyards, clinging perilously to the slopes beneath the blazing, August sun.
At 564 metres above sea level, this is one of the highest wine-producing regions in Central Europe.
The Schauers produce a range of whites and roses in an endeavour that’s clearly fuelled by love.
Like most local Buschenschanks, the small scale of their production means that it simply isn’t economical for them to try to ship their produce abroad.
So, if you want to taste this mineral-sweet stuff (and I really think you should) you need to come here.
But there’s more to a Buschenschank than just the wine.
A traditional Sunday afternoon in Styria involves hiking or cycling between Buschenschanks, tasting wine and catching up with fiends over a Brettljause.
It’s a healthier version of an American brunch (as long as you agree not to factor in the wine.)
But the Buschenschank still has a twist in its tale. Thought the flavours mount up, there are certain things you can’t find here.
Beer, for example. Coffee, for another. Why? Because strict laws forbid them.
Buschenschanks are only able to sell their own produce. Or at least, only things produced in these nearby mountains.
It turns out that in 1784 Emperor Joseph II allowed winegrowers to sell home-made products without a license to get past some other piece of tricky legislation.
And while the Austro-Hungarian Empire no longer remains, this tradition does, and you can find its footprints across the regions where it used to apply.
You can find Buschenschanks around Trieste in Italy. In Slovenia, they are called frasca or osmize.
And here on the beautiful slopes of Styrian Austria, it’s known as Brettljause in a Buschenschank Steiermark.
The exact contents of a Brettljause vary from Buschenschank to Buschenschank but expect to see the following:
Watch Stefan talk you through a Brettljause in the video below:
How to Arrange Your Own Trip to a Buschenschank Steiermark
Despite my alarm earlier, it really is easy to hire a car from Graz and drive into the Styrian countryside yourself.
You don’t need an appointment (although reservations are advised during the busy wine harvest months) and you don’t need to speak German (although it’s always appreciated if you do.)
It’s a 30 – 60 minute drive, depending on how often you stop for photos and how comfortable you are with the turns.
Also look out for Backhendl: fried chicken served with salad. I'd highly recommend the one served on the terraces of Weinhof Kappel, also in Kitzeck. Amazing views.
And come back to this blog soon for more on the varied and interesting tastes of Austria!
Disclosure - I travelled to Styria in Austria as part of a project with Captivate and Visit Graz to discover the different tastes of Austria. As usual, I kept the right to write what I like. Prost!