“I’ve got a theory about this place,” I said as I gulped from a tasty glass of Zweigelt. “What?” said Mrs. NH. “OK,” I continued, “see that flag under the light over there? I’m betting P.C.I. stands for ‘partido comunista de Italia’ (said with my Spanish accent – not Italian). And by looking at the wines, this guy isn’t from Vienna. He’s Italian.”
Well, I was right about the flag. The letters do stand for the Communist party of Italy. The hammer and sickle kind of tipped me off, too. And sure enough, the owner spoke Italian to the next guy who came in. And with a name like Enrico, I’d consider that a trifecta. Still, my little theory was totally missing the point. The point was, we had by grace of collective foggy memory and sheer good luck, managed to find the best wine bar in Vienna for the second time.
The “Enrico Panigl” is something of a throwback to a different time. Not just the flag under yellow light but the bric-a-brac nature of the decor, dark wood, marble bar and candle light. It’s dark, inviting, cozy and bar-fly-romantic. Its romance is in the dust on the bottles. Rustic romantic, not frills and satin.
If you aren’t feeling the atmosphere when you walk in, it won’t take long. Taking a look up at the beautifully written chalkboard wine list, you can choose from some of the tastiest (and affordable) wines from Austria, Italy, Spain and Montenegro. There’s a grape and a character to suit every palate. On this occasion I think I found at least three wines that were incredibly impressive.
Then there are the bottles lining the walls. They’re all spent – uncorked, dusty, ageing mementos of revelries long past. The dates on some of them go back to the 60’s. Their labels look like yellow parchment stuck to precious vessels of the nectar of the gods.
Adding the last bit to the Enrico Panigl equation are the patrons. People from all ends of the spectrum seem attracted to this place. During our brief visit we saw ageing Viennese, a biker couple, an older Italian speaking gentleman that looked like a regular, and a young couple, seemingly on a first date, both from different corners of Europe trying to communicate in English. Did I mention that people watching is part of the fun?
Enrico Panigl is one of the truly great bars in Vienna and I’d put it in my top ten bars of the world. There’s no pretense, just good wine and feeling that you’ve really found a treasure in the middle of Vienna. Even with communist flag on the wall, the place just feels right. Hmmm, maybe I’ll ask him about that next time.