THE WINES OF BADEN
Winemaking in this part of Baden-Württemberg, just over the Rhine from Alsace, is on the move. There’s a new generation of winegrowers with international experience and sights set high who are busy winning plaudits not just locally but on the world wine stage – Fritz Wassmer’s Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) regularly wins top gongs in Decanter’s World Wine Awards. Progress has been especially marked amongst the three Pinots – Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc). Watch out too for Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Syrah, all of which are succeeding in the region.
For clues to the geology and geography of Baden and the Black Forest, look across the Rhine: the plains and vineyards of Alsace and the Vosges to the west are Baden’s mirror image. A few million years ago the Vosges and the Black Forest formed a single range of mountains. As the climate warmed after the Ice Age, the glaciers formerly covering the area melted away, the central area collapsed and the Rhine basin was formed, flanked by the plains of Alsace and Baden. Elements of the topography and the terroirs of these two winegrowing regions are common to both, with interesting local/regional quirks and differences. Their winemaking styles, however, are refreshingly and subtly different. Increasingly the winemakers of Baden are giving their neighbours across the Rhine a run for their money not only with their dry whites, but also – and above all – with their reds.
And if the wines of Baden weren’t enough reason to add this beautiful, natural playground to your shortlist of must-visits, here’s another: the food. Thanks to the highest concentration of Michelin stars in Germany, Baden-Württemberg has serious gastronomic pulling power and there are some terrific restaurants to try out.
Selected Baden growers
Most growers welcome visitors without an appointment weekdays and Saturdays during office hours, with a two-hour break for lunch in the middle of the day. To be sure of opening hours it’s best to make an appointment. No charge is made for tastings, but it’s generally assumed that you will buy some wine.
Fritz Wassmer, Lazariterstr. 2, 79189 Bad Krozingen-Schlatt
Tel. +49 7633 3965
Fritz Wassmer made a deft (and long-planned) sidestep from asparagus and strawberry cultivation into wine growing just 11 years ago with the purchase of some prime wine-growing sites in Breisgau (north of Freiburg) and the Margräflerland to the south. Careful massal selection, rigorously low yields (average 39hl/ha), traditional open vat fermentation à la bourguignonne, judicious use of oak – and a lifelong love affair with Burgundy and the Pinot Noir grape are hallmarks of Wassmer’s winemaking style. His Spätburgunder XXL won the German Regional Trophy in Decanter’s 2010 World Wine Awards and his Syrah has won countless local gongs. Also fine Grau- and Weissburgunder and tiny quantities of Viognier.
Ziereisen, Markgrafenstrasse 17, 79588 Efringen-Kirchen, Tel. 07628 28 48
Another star in the Markgräflerland making minuscule quantities of prize-winning Spätburgunder and Syrah.
Karl-Heinz Johner, Gartenstrasse 20, 79235 Vogstburg-Bischoffingen
Tel. 07662 6041
One of the best-known wineries in the Kaisterstuhl, whose volcanic soils give superb Spätburgunders and finely aromatic whites. Karl-Heinz Johner also has vines in New Zealand, where he spends his winters while son Patrick keeps the home fires burning in Baden.
Weingut Franz Keller Schwarzer Adler,
Badbergstr. 23, 79235 Vogtsburg-Obergerben
Tel. +49 7662 93300
An old-established family wine concern with a Michelin-starred restaurant and hotel. Fully dry white wines and fine, Burgundy-style Spätburgunders pioneered by the late Franz Keller (now succeeded by son Fritz).
Another family business in the Kaiserstuhl making fine reds and elegant whites, many of which are sold at the cellar door as well as to top restaurants throughout Germany.
Weinhaus Pfaffenweiler, Weinstrasse 40, 79292 Pfaffenweiler, Tel. 07664 97960
One of the smallest and best co-ops in the region, highly rated by the German GaultMillau wine guide, among many others. Look out for their Sauvignon Blanc and Spätburgunder, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon (some in barriques).