Vintner's Bush Osmizza Italy
Taken from Wikimedia Commons user Betta27.

Vintner’s Bush has many forms and can be found in almost all European countries. In France, it is seen as a bundle of straw; in Austria and Italy, it is a pine branch; in Spain and Slovenia, you’ll find it as an ivy bush; in Germany and Switzerland, it is famous as a birch broom.

Vintner's Bush Poem
“He that will an ale-house keep, Must three things have in store ;
A hogshead of ale his guests to regale, And a bush to hang at his door. – A hostess to fill the tankard at will, And what can a man wish more ?”
Reference to the Vintner’s Bush, from the Journal of American Folklore, 1902.

What do all these symbols have in common? Regardless of the way the different European nations have incorporated them into their folklore and traditions, all these elements can be gathered together around the notion of Vintner’s Bush. This is perhaps the oldest advertising form found on the Old continent.

Vintner’s Bushes can be seen in many European countries, signaling the opening of a temporary farmstead tavern. “Why do they need them?” you may ask… Well, they are a symbol of homemade wine and food, something the owners are proud of. Besides, the taverns that offer the homemade delicacies and wine are not open all-year-round, so they need something to mark the opening of the tavern. And Vintner’s Bushes perfectly do the trick!

According to the tradition, German winemakers offered homemade wine and food directly in their homes! All the family would help in cleaning the house and removing any furniture that would make it difficult for guests to enjoy their drinks and food. Living rooms and bedrooms were turned to temporary taverns where guests were invited. Other popular areas used as temporary taverns (even today) are gardens, farms, barns, wine cellars (of course), and even chicken coops!

But how can we be sure that this is the oldest European tradition? Let’s take a look at some examples that make us think we’re on the right track to the oldest European tradition:

1. Shakespeare mentioned this tradition, namely, “good wine needs no bush” (from “As You Like It”.
2. There are some drawings of the Vintner’s Bush dating back to the 1400s.
3. There are several Latin sayings (dating back to 1st century B. C.) that have the same meaning Shakespeare implied, namely, “good wine needs no bush”.
4. The area of the former Roman Empire covers all the countries in which you can find “bush taverns”. It is believed that the Roman legate, Galienus, who was also the founder of the Viennese bush tavern, used to serve wine and nuts to Roman legionnaires in Vienna.
5. The name “vintner” (wine merchant or wine maker) comes from Middle English (vinter).

Vintner's Bush Poem
Another instance of the Vintner’s Bush reference, this time coming from Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, June 1889.

We cannot be sure if this is actually the oldest European tradition. It is, however, worth knowing that this centuries-old European homemade wine advertising method is still used today and you may come upon it under the following names on your next trip to Europe:

• Besenwirtschaft (Strausswirtschaft) – Germany
• Buschenschank (Heurige) – Austria
• Osmica – Slovenia
• Frasca – Italy
• Bouchon – France
• Furancho – Spain

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