The Baden wine region runs east of the Rhine river on the German side of the border to France from north of Baden-Baden (a historic spa town) to the Swiss border at Basel – with the important town of Freiburg also found along the 400km stretch of the region.
Baden is the most southern and the third largest of the German wine regions. It has sun in abundance and is the warmest wine region in Germany, located in the Rhine rift and being protected by the Vosges mountains of Alsace to the west and the famous Schwartzwald (Black Forest) mountains to the east.
Beyond wine, Baden offers visitors a lot in terms of beautiful historic towns, villages and historic fairy tale castles in and around Heidelberg, Lake Constance (Bodensee), Baden-Baden, Karlsruhe and Freiburg.
Still flying under the radar
With all this going for Baden – combined with passionate and talented winemakers – it remains a bit of a mystery why Baden wines continue to fly under the radar compared with other German wine regions. What’s not to like?
As you explore wines and winemaking in Baden be aware that Baden is dominated by co-operatives – some of which do make good wines – but most of the treasures from Baden are hidden from plain sight and derive from a growing number of small-scale craft-focused independent producers.
The “French” wines
With southern Baden’s latitude being similar to that of Bourgogne in France it comes as no surprise that in Baden winemaking, focus on the Bourgogne grape varieties: Pinot Noir known as Spätburgunder when from Germany; Pinot Gris known as Grauburgunder (or Ruländer); and Pinot Blanc known as Weißburgunder.
However, wine made on truly German varieties such as Gewürztraminers and Rieslings are also made in Baden – though let us not forget the Swiss born grape hero of Müller-Thurgau, a cross of Riesling and Madeleine Royale made in the late 19th century. In Baden, Müller-Thurgau accounts for over 15% of grape and wine production.
Only the (much smaller) Ahr wine region in Germany is as focussed on red wine as Baden. The Spätburgunders in Baden make up close to 40% of all wines produced. Obviously, Baden Spätburgunder comes in many styles. While the traditional style of German Spätburgunder – when compared to warmer climate pinots – is lighter in colour, body, and tannins a number of Baden Spätburgunder also offer fuller body and deeper red and black fruit.
Kaisersthül and other sub-regions
Kaiserstuhl is an extinct volcano in Freiburg – and to many the best-known sub-region within Baden. The beautiful terraced (man-made structures, where horizontal stonewalls provide support for the slopes, while preserving the benefits of a hillsides exposure to sunlight's) vineyards and soils around for example Burkheim, Oberrotweil, Achkarren and Ihringen produce some of Germany’s best (“Erste Lage” as exceptional terroir is classified in Germany) Spätburgunder, full-bodied Grauburgunders and Weissburgunder.
Other important sub-regions include Badische Bergstrasse close to Heidelberg, Kraichgau close to Karlsruhe, Ortenau close to Offenburg, Breisgau south of Offenburg and close to Freiburg, Tuniberg also close to Freiburg and south of Kaiserstuhl, Markgräflerland between Freiburg and Basel, and Bodensee’s north western shores.
As mentioned, Baden’s climate is warm and offers a great deal of sunshine which encourages an alternative grape development, different to all other German wine regions. In fact, Baden is Germany’s only wine region classified as zone B which is comparable to Alsace and the Loire in France.
Because Baden stretches for over 400km along the Rhine and is sheltered by the Black Forest and the Vosges mountains, the region offers many different types of soil, such as clay loam, limestone granite and sand – not to forget the volcanic soil around the old volcano Kaiserstuhl and the moraine soils (deposits from old glaciers) around the Bodensee district.
All these micro-terroirs provide distinct conditions for viticulture – and because great wines get their start in the vineyards, wines crafter in Baden are incredibly diverse and makes for great wine exploration.
Baden wines and food
Baden’s diversity in wines really makes it a wonderful region for foodies to discover.
Spätburgunders pair perfectly with hearty and rich fares such as roasts, game, duck and casserole – but also, with lighter delicate meals such as steak tartare and grilled salmon.
On the white side both the Müller-Thurgau and the Grauburgunder - with its white peach and lemon zest flavour - pair well with roast pork. Think also more Mediterranean classics of olives, nuts, cured ham, and salami.
And a delicate Weißburgunder pairs well with gently flavoured seafood and white meat, especially with the local favourite, asparagus. Soft cheeses and savory salads is another good match.
Beautiful historic towns and villages dotted in between the vineyards. Diverse terroir and a growing number of independent winemakers producing some stunning wines undiscovered to most.What are the most popular grape varieties in Baden?
Spätburgunder (Pinot noir), Grauburgunder (Pinot gris) and Weißburgunder (Pinot blanc).What types of food works well with wines from Baden?
The Sea and Weißburgunder. Roast port and Spätburgunder. Charcuterie and Grauburgunder.