Pub Klemo is a wine lover’s destination in Vienna. A wine bar with a to-die-for list, souped-up Coravin machines, a shop for reserves, and a healthy attitude that helps wine exploration. And Xavier Rousset MS has never been.
A modified Coravin, Austria’s only 100-Parker Point wine, and much more at Pub Klemo
I trace my love of collecting wine, not to the days of helping my father make wines from every fruit imaginable – that ‘blipped’ away in their demijohns on the kitchen window ledge – but more to the bubble gum card collection I had running at the same time.
The nerdish art of buying, trading, collecting and holding out, until finally finding the missing card that completes a collection was one of the loves of my childhood and now (with wine bottles) of my wine-collecting adult life.
It is also the bane of my wife’s life.
So, it was with great pleasure that, after ‘swapping’ Instagram pictures at the dinner table of a recent Burgundy tasting with master sommelier Xavier Rousset, I found that I had ‘one over him’.
A conversation about great wines we had tried this year, and favourite wines (in much the same way that boys would compare their card collections) was punctuated with “Have you got this wine?” “Have you ever tasted this wine?” It’s hard to get one over a wine expert who has tried some of the world’s finest.
Until… “Have you ever been to Pub Klemo?”
“Er no,” came his slightly annoyed reply.
It was with even greater pleasure that I heard Rousset had been so close but so far – Klemo’s infuriating opening hours were enough to catch Rousset out on two separate visits to Vienna.
But I had been there.
It means nothing to me – oh Vienna!
“You know your hotel is dangerously close to Pub Klemo.” So ran the words of advice from my Viennese friend replying to my call-out for places to visit in the city.
In fact, I was way too close to Pub Klemo.
This is a wine bar and shop that ranks amongst the best I have ever been to. Not for swankiness. Not for food. Not for clientele. Although it has a bit of all of those. No, the reason to go to Pub Klemo is all about wine, the love of wine, access to great wine and an opportunity to sample a lot of great wine – over 3,000 wines in fact.
Pub Klemo is a small wine bar in the Boho area of Vienna close to the huge food market Naschmarkt. It is also a shop on the opposite side of the street that runs tasting classes and other educational events. Great for supplies when the occasion demands.
You could easily miss the sign, in fact me and my son Harry did. And once inside you cannot help but feel slightly underwhelmed. There was a smallish bar on the right and then three tables with high stools on the left. A man stood smoking a cigarette (this being Austria, smoking inside is still allowed). Two motorbikers on our left were taking part in a vertical tasting of some kind. In the back was a buzzing room where peals of laughter was an indication that clearly a lot of wine had already been drunk.
The only sign that you were in the presence of great minds was the glass-topped bar that had a who’s who of the world’s greatest wine bottles smashed punk-style underneath.
The other giveaway was a fresh bottle of aged Guibertau Brezé that had just been ordered and was making its way into a back room with a variety of sliced meats.
Harry’s request on our mano-e-mano trip to the city was that we watch Mozart’s Requiem in the huge gothic church that is Karlskirche. Mine was that we visit Pub Klemo, the two followed each other and went hand in hand in logical fashion.
Wine, wine, glorious wine
“So what can I get you?” said one of the two barmen, in a T-shirt with a large reptile on it.
Looking at the superbly organised wine list it was hard to choose. What immediately stood out was that Pub Klemo did wines in 1/8l and 1/16l measures which meant that we could sample a lot. A 1/16l of an entry level Gruner Veltliner was €1.70 a 1/16l of Chateau Rayas 2006 was €36.
One of the ways in which Pub Klemo could offer so many wines in such small measures was the way they had modified their Coravin – removing the argon gas capsules and instead having a tank of argon gas. It looked a little Heath Robinson and well, a tad unsafe, but it seemed to work fine.
I explained that we had no budget, no timeframe and that we wanted him to give us an education in Austrian wine. In fact, with Vienna being my birthplace and my collection already groaning with the weight of top Austrian wine, I felt that I did have a slight headstart on Harry.
But a son’s education is a son’s education.
The wine list featured 120 wines (changed on a regular basis) and we were taken first through four Grüners – Stoa Pur 2015 from Edlinger, Kellerberg Smaragd 2011 from Domaine Wachau and two Smaragd Vinothekfullung 2011/12 from Knoll and Loiben. Pure Heaven.
Then came Riesling, Blaufrankisch, red blends, natural wines.
The highlight of the entire evening was the Riesling Vinotek 1997 from Nikolaihof, Mautern, Europe’s first biodynamic winery. This wine, the only one in Austria’s history to be given 100 points by Robert Parker, had me and Harry sit in stunned silence. Just to be given the opportunity of trying this legendary wine at a mere €11.50 a pop was one thing, but the wine itself was almost beyond description. The power, finesse, balance between depth of fruit and acidity and gorgeous, honeyed length brought tears to our eyes. And the Requiem earlier had been pretty moving.
Simple food followed. More wine. And a short, contented trudge back to our hotel.
The only deeply dissatisfying thing was that for two whole days Pub Klemo would remain shut (the remainder of our stay) and that I hadn’t bought a bottle of the Nikolaihof that was offered to me on the night.
Xavier, if you get there would you mind ….