Hot springs, outdoor sports, delicious local produce and Pinot-based wines make this pretty corner of Germany a real draw.
Baden Fact file:
Total planted area: 15,400 hectares
Main grapes: Spätburgunder, Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Gutedel, Grauburgunder, Weissburgunder
Production (2011): 1.1 million hectolitres
Main soil: loess, volcanic, granitic, muschelkalk
A glass of Sekt on the terrace of Schloss Staufenberg high above the village of Durbach whets the appetite and sets the scene perfectly for Baden wine exploration. Lapping at your feet are successive waves of steeply planted vines, while up on the eastern skyline is the Black Forest, clothed in hunting green conifers. In the other direction your gaze leads down to the Rhine Valley, beyond which you can pick out the spire of Strasbourg’s cathedral.
People have long beaten a path to this sunny south-western corner of Germany for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, plus bathing in the hot springs of Baden-Baden, Bad Krozingen, Badenweiler and countless other Bad-prefixed spots. But today it is increasingly the food and wines that are Baden’s trump card. Twenty years’ ago, when my family settled in Alsace, there was a steady stream of German cars coming across the Rhine for the day in search of a good meal. Now, much of the traffic goes the other way: study the number plates outside any of Baden’s many fine eateries and you’ll find almost as many French-registered cars as locals.
Meanwhile, Baden’s wines – the three Pinots (Noir, Gris and Blanc; aka Spät-, Grau- and Weissburgunder respectively), plus Müller-Thurgau and some Riesling – have moved way beyond ‘closely guarded secret’ status. Esteemed on their home turf and well represented in Germany’s top restaurants, they’re now winning plaudits abroad, often beating their peers in global competitions (Fritz Wassmer’s Spätburgunder 2009 won the International Pinot Noir Over £10 Trophy at the 2011 Decanter World Wine Awards). Terrific terroirs, reduced yields, precise winemaking, reining in of residual sugar levels in whites (which some of their cousins across the Rhine could learn from) and judicious use of new oak in reds are a few of the factors that have helped put them on any serious wine lover’s radar.
Translated by Sylvia Wu / 吴嘉溦
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