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Baden is one of the most beautiful and misunderstood wine regions in all of Germany. It is a large region, the third biggest in Germany for wine production and acreage (15,900 ha under vine). It is also confusing in that Riesling does not rule the roost here. Grauburgunder, Weissburgunder, Gutedel (Chasselas), Muller-Thurgau, Silvaner and Spatburgunder are what Baden is known for. Baden is also hot. Much hotter than the more northerly regions like the Mosel or the Saar. In fact, Baden, has the highest average temperature of any German wine region. This is the reason the emphasis is on these non-Riesling varieties.  Unfortunately, these lesser known varietals have been difficult to market, in the international market, inhitibing recognition for this still mostly undiscovered wine region. Riesling and very warm climates do not mix, although, there are some sub-regions in Baden, like the Ortenau, where Riesling excels. There are other promising pockets for Riesling in Baden as well, but in order to really dig your teeth into Baden you need to open your mind to other grape varieties.

The Kaiserstuhl is one of nine sub-regions (Bereiche) within Baden and has 4,200 ha under vine and produces the most famous wines to come out of Baden. Dr. Heger produces their legendary Spatburgunders, Weissburgunders and Grauburgunders out of Ihringen in the heart of the Kaiserstuhl.  It has the warmest micro-climate of any region in Germany. Butterflies roam around freely and such exotic fruits like figs are grown here with ease. Orchids dot the countryside as the warm temperature enables these to flourish. With such a warm climate, a large number of co-operatives and the sheer amount of selections offered every year, getting the word out on Baden wines has been difficult. Marketing has been very unsuccesful, but for a region with so much promise, the odds are in Baden's favor.

The soils in Baden are varied with some loess, loam, rich mineral-infused soils and many others. In traveling the 250 miles of Baden's swath of vineyards, you will really encounter every type of soil imaginable. This plays to Baden's advantage. With its warm climate and varied soils and extremely different microclimates, style is varied and there are so many different styles of wines coming out of Baden and many growers who march to their own drummer. One stylistic similarity is the relative strength of the alcohol in a large portion of the wines of Baden due to the warmth. 

The beauty of Baden is due to many things but the Black Forest is what sets this region apart from the rest of Gernany. Driving in and around Baden, the trees tower over you in their majesty. Some of the towns and vineyards surrounding them are lovely and quaint and have the ultimate small town German village feel to them. And it is green. So much green especially during the growing season. My favorite area in Germany for pure aestehtics.

So what do the varied wines of Baden taste like? It's hard to paint them with one brush but I will try. The wines tend to be riper than their more northerly counterparts and most of them have a lovely minerality along with wonderful expression of site. The inexpensive wines have lovely, purity and balance and are easy going down. These are varietal labeled Silvaner, Muller-Thurgau, Grauburgunder and Weissburgunder and simpler Spatburgunders. These wines can be tremendous values but due to the lack of Baden wines you will rarely see them. Usually, the retailer or restaurant that carries them has to have an expansive German wine program to include Baden in the mix, which really is a shame. As you go up the ladder the value becomes less obvious and you really have to love high end Spatburgunder (over $75 a bottle) to dive into the deep end of the pool. Or you have to love Weissburgunder and Grauburgunder. Most people do not, but the higher end wines are immensely popular in Germany and are on the lists of a tremendous amount of Michelin starred restaurants. 

Baden wines generally are meant to be drunk on the younger side but some do age very well. The 05 Spatburgunder Grosses Gewachs from Dr. Heger (retails north of $100 a bottle) is one good candidate. Joachim Heger believes that these wines will age around ten years. I also think that the Weissburgunder and Grauburgunder Grosses Gewachs (Dr. Heger) from the Ihringer Winklerberg have the structure to last a bit. These will age in a very different way than Riesling. 

Notable Recent Vintages: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2005, 2002, 2001, 1999, 1997

Top producers of Baden (in no particular order) include:
  • Dr. Heger
  • Salwey
  • Bernhard Huber
  • Andreas Laible
  • Fritz Wassmer
  • Zeiresen
  • Enderle & Moll
  • Henrik Mobitz
  • Weingut Reinhold und Cornelia Schneider
  • Burg Ravensburg
  • Freiherr von und zu Franckenstein
  • Seeger
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