Baden and Württemberg are the two constituent regions of Baden-Württemberg, but they remain two distinct wine regions due to historical reasons. For one thing, they have rarely shared the same rulers despite dynastic relations. Situated in southwestern Germany, Baden surrounds Württemberg in three directions – north, west and south – effectively separating the latter from France and Switzerland. While Alsace is clearly the most Germanic part of France, Baden might be the German region with the most Gallic influence.
With just under 16,000ha under vine, Baden is the third largest wine region of Germany, trailing Rheinhessen and Pfalz. Consisting of a total of nine districts – Tauberfranken, Badische Bergstrasse, Kraichgau, Ortenau, Breisgau, Kaiserstuhl, Tuniberg, Markgräflerland and Bodensee – Baden the wine region stretches from north to south along the France-Germany border and bends eastward along the Germany-Switzerland border, forming a distinctive “L” shape.
While Nahe prides itself on possessing possibly the widest range of soil types comprising the entire rock cycle, Baden takes pride in its extremely diverse meso-climates – the result of climatic influences from the Vosges, Rhine, Bodensee (Lake Constance) and the Alps. Vying for titles such as “Germany’s warmest region” or “Germany’s sunniest region” seems to be a regional sport, at least keenly contested by both Baden and Württemberg, but Baden probably has an edge, as it is the only German wine region to be classified in Zone B as per EU administration (Zone A is the coldest, whereas Zone C is the warmest).
In terms of grape varieties, Baden differs significantly from its neighbours such as Württemberg, Switzerland and Alsace. Baden produces more whites than reds, at a ratio of 6:4, which is strikingly similar to Bourgogne. It is perhaps the most Burgundian region outside of Bourgogne, as the Pinot trio of Noir, Gris and Blanc constitutes more than 50% of total hectarage, whereas Riesling merely 10% – one of the lowest ratios in the country of Riesling. Despite its significant production volume, Baden wine is rarely seen on the international market, as most of it is consumed locally or in neighbouring regions.
One of the score of VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter) member-estates in the Baden chapter, Weingut Markgraf von Baden is a force to be reckoned with as much as it is a historical treasure to discover. Its two prized holdings – Schloss Salem near Bodensee and Schloss Staufenberg near Schwarzwald (Black Forest) – account for a total of 124ha. At the helm of the estate is HRH Bernhard, Hereditary Prince of Baden, a scion of the illustrious House of Zähringer, whose history can be traced back to the early 12th century. Named after Burg Zähringen, its ancestral seat, the grand ducal family used to have holdings in modern-day Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy; indeed, numerous towns and cities in Germany and Switzerland were founded by the family, notably Freiburg im Breisgau and Bern.
From the village of Birnau on the north shore of Bodensee (Lake Constance), equidistant from Stuttgart, Innsbruck and Bern. Limpid citrine with light golden reflex, the refreshing nose offers lime, green apple and crushed rock. Supported by lively acidity and stony minerality, the ample palate delivers calamansi, greengage and rock salt. Medium-bodied at 11.5%, the citrusy entry continues through a minerally mid-palate, leading to a fresh finish.
From the town of Durbach near the French border, merely 25km SE of Strasbourg. Luminous citrine with shimmering golden reflex, the fragrant nose presents lemon, green apple and wet stone. Braced by dynamic acidity and saline minerality, the generous palate supplies grapefruit, peach and rock salt. Medium-full bodied at 13%, the high-spirited entry persists through a tangy mid-palate, leading to a clean finish.
Markgraf von Baden Bermatinger Leopoldsberg Spätburgunder Trocken VDP Großes Gewächs 2014
From the town of Bermatingen on the north shore of Bodensee, some 10km SE of Birnau. Sourced from low-yielding (30hl/ha) old vines (average more than 40 years), the wine was matured in French oak (50% new) for 18 months. Bright garnet with cardinal-carnelian reflex, the enchanting nose reveals cassis, red cherry, balsam and fur. With silky tannins and chiselled minerality, the adorable palate unveils blackberry, black cherry, Qimen red tea and forest mushroom. Medium-full bodied at 13.5%, the poised entry evolves into a melodious mid-palate, leading to a lingering finish.
Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain, France, and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages