Spain has Jamón. Austria would like to have its own Jamón, but cannot. Because Spain had it first, obviously. So, Austria comes up with the Vulkano ham.
So goes the cynical interpretation of the state of affairs, which does not have to do anything with the truth. The fact is, however, that the Vulkano products taste quite good, are well packaged and marketed and are there at the top in terms of their price.
Now there is also a special place to try them. The Vulkanothek, a tiny wine bar combined with a shop is located in the Palais Ferstel Passage, which I have always considered one of the most beautiful places in Vienna. Here one can buy one of the Vulkano sausages, Styrian cheese and nicely packaged jams, as well as enjoy South Styrian wines and typical Styrian food, as long as it is a Brettljause.
With the place being so small, you can actually see the Brettljause being prepared before your eyes by the friendly lady, who is the establishment’s only staff member. In addition to the classic Vulkano ham, the well-presented board contained Vulkano Speck, Vulkano Pepper salami and Asmonte cheese, as well as fresh radish, Styrian horseradish, a pickled cucumber, a Pfefferoni and, strangely, a few slices of sweet pickled chestnuts.
Now, whether or not you would appreciate this Brettljause greatly depends on your fascination with the Volkano ham. As far as I am concerned, the thinness of the slices is such that the taste is really hard to appreciate. A thinner cut would have probably made the slices transparent. The quality was there, no doubt, but having the meat literally melt on your tongue feels weird. On the other hand, the bread was commendably fresh and the cheese suitably strong.
Both wines I tried were excellent, including the cheapest (which does not mean cheap) house wine. For fairness sake, I must mention that the wines and the ham come from two quite different regions of Styria: the wine from the South Styrian wine street at the border with Slovenia while the ham from the area to the east of Graz. The Brettljause was really small, however, and under different circumstances I would have called it greatly overpriced. Considering the nice location and the bar’s obvious positioning as a sort of a cozy but exclusive location, it should be viewed and appreciated as a light snack to accompany the wine. If you are hungry, you can easily eat it as a tasty starter and then head to some other place with a more filling Brettljause. Like I did.