The other Burgundy (Baden, Germany – Day Two)

The largest town in Baden is Freiburg, and is famous in Germany for two things. The first is that it is the capital for cycling, and it is hard to miss them. When I say that I don’t mean that I hit a bunch of people on bikes in my rental car, I just mean that there are a lot of them, obviously. They are a little aggressive, but I guess you would be if you finally outnumbered cars on the road. The second thing that makes Freiburg famous in Germany is that it is a university town, and so is filled with plenty of good places to eat and drink for not much money. There is a really nice brauhaus where I enjoyed a stein of local lager with a big plate of smoked ham and sauerkraut, for only 10 Euro. I spent a fair amount of my time in Starbucks taking advantage of the free wifi, as my hostel didn’t have any. The coffee is terrible, but you can’t pass up on free wifi.

Schlossberg vineyards of Weingut Huber

Weingut Bercher is a VDP member winery located in the Kaiserstuhl village of Berkheim. The Bercher family dates back to 1457 and they have been making wine for 10 generations. The 11th generation of the family now runs the winery; cousins Arne and Martin. Their winery sits on the historic walls of the village, and therefore does not allow them to expand any further. They have got around this by processing the fruit a few hundred metres away and transferring the juice to the cellars for the fermentation and maturation. Once this is complete the wine is transferred back where they are bottled, with some transported to market and the rest coming back to the cellar door storage. The vinification is split between stainless steel and oak depending on variety, style and quality, and battonage is commonly performed to add complexity and texture. Each of the vineyards they source from have a different soil composition, but the majority of them have a volcanic element as Kaiserstuhl used to be a volcano. The Bercher wines are all very good varietal examples, exhibiting balance and clean fruit. Click here to read my notes from the tasting.

Weingut Bercher

Bernhard Huber is possibly the most important red winemaker in Germany, and is the only five-star winery in Baden according to German wine guide Gault Millau. It was thanks to this producer that I had actually heard of the Baden region, as the importer Cellarhand had been promoting their wines as being as good as any burgundy. I was naturally intrigued and honoured to be allowed to visit. Bernhard Huber’s family have been in Baden for many years, but it was Bernhard himself that decided to make wines that would rival those of his favourite region. He settled on a site near a vineyard that historically was settled by monks that chose it because of its resemblance to Burgundy, and thus they planted pinot noir and chardonnay. Bernhard’s argument was, if they made great wines in the past from these varieties and sites, why couldn’t he do it now. The vineyards are in the town of Malterdingen, which is north-east of Kaiserstuhl in the Ortenau district, and are on the classic style of terraces found in the Baden region. Of the 25 hectares of vines they cultivate, 65% are spatburgunder, so it is clear what the focus here is.

Weingut Bernhard Huber

Visiting Bernhard Huber’s estate was wonderful, particularly when you consider that through some confusion I arranged the visit the day before. I started off by tasting the fantastic red wines with Astrid who handles most of the sales and marketing. This was followed by a delicious home-cooked meal prepared by Bernhard’s wife and enjoyed with his son Julian as well. Julian then took me through the winery which was typically Burgundian in philosophy and style, and then up into the vineyards. The two most distinctive things about the Huber vineyards are the terraces (which are earth pushed up and then natural grasses to prevent erosion), and the trellising system which uses more cordons and spur pruning than the more typical cane pruning. I then returned and had a look at the white wines of the estate with Astrid. The 2009 spatburgunders are all full, ripe and powerful yet supple and generous with wonderful finesse. They all exhibit a wonderful balance of black forest fruits (interesting considering how close it is to the Black Forest), and savoury earthy elements rarely seen outside of burgundy. As you move up through the range the wines become more complex and denser, as the ripeness and quality of fruit combines with the quality and age of French oak barriques to express the terroir. As a burgundy fan Bernhard actually wanted to only plant pinot noir and chardonnay, but chardonnay isn’t considered a noble variety in Germany and does not qualify for Grosses Gewachs status. Click here to read my tasting notes.

Space issues at Weingut Huber

Located in the Kaiserstuhl village of Oberrotweiler is Weingut Salwey, which has 250 years of wine history in Baden. A member of the VDP, they have parcels in such GG vineyards as Eichberg, Henkenberg and Kirchberg. Using very traditional vinification they make a large range of wines from classic burgundian varieties in moderate quantities and at different levels of quality. The cellars are some of the most historic and have had some serious renovations made to them. I met with Konrad Salwey who led me through a tasting of some of the 2011 weisburgunder wines still in barrel and pre-blending. This was interesting to see how he assesses quality and determines which components will end up where. Most of the wines are fermented and matured in large format stuck barrels, and so have a subtle element of texture and complexity to them. The 2011 wines are all very fresh and ripe, with good acidity and balance. Click here to read my notes from the bottled wine tasting.

Seriously cool cellars at Weingut Salwey

Click here to see more photos from Day Two in the Baden region of Germany.

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