Baden is Germany’s warmest, sunniest region. Nestled in the country’s southwest border alongside Switzerland and France, Baden stretches from Lake Constance’s glistening shores along the brooding Black Forest to historic Heidelberg. Castles, thermal springs, expansive conifer forests and half-timbered villages lie in between to explore. So much sunshine means that the Pinot varieties can play a starring role, but Riesling also gets its due. Topography and a patchwork of soils create steep vineyards, arresting landscapes and stunning wines. Taste the differences between wines grown on granite, basalt and loess soils, and enjoy Baden’s distinctive cuisine. —Anne Krebiehl
Where to Dine
The cosy gaststube at Spielweg in Münstertal offers Baden cuisine at its finest. Hunting for the best ingredients is a literal pursuit of owner-chef Karl-Josef Fuchs—seasonal game is a speciality, as are cheeses from the in-house dairy. Converted stables are the rustic backdrop at Winzerhaus Rebstock in Oberbergen, run by the Schwarzer Adler winery. Enjoy flammkuchen here, a sour cream, bacon and onion tart. No visit to the region would be complete without Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte—Black Forest cake—at Café König in Baden-Baden.
Where to Stay
In Oberkirch, family-run Zur Oberen Linde set in the Ortenau, Baden’s central stretch, offers half-timbered perfection. Experience all-out luxury and glamour and rub shoulders with the international jetset at the five-star Brenners Park Hotel & Spa in Baden-Baden. In the far south, head to Gästehaus Siebter Himmel in Burkheim for antique-furnished rooms in the heart of one of the Kaiserstuhl’s most picturesque villages. Take an evening excursion with the costumed nachtwächter, the medieval night-guardsman.
Strap on your hiking boots for scenic, signposted Black Forest or vineyard trails. You can also attain spa nirvana in Baden-Baden’s unrivaled Friedrichsbad or play roulette in its sumptuous Casino. Climb the gothic spire of Freiburger Münster for spectacular views, or visit one of the countless local distilleries to savour eaux de vie made from cherry, plum and pear.
Get down-to-earth in besenwirtschaften, the historic pop-up restaurants run seasonally by wineries that serve their products with rustic local foodstuffs, based on ancient law. Watch for the prominent homemade signage.
When to Go
Visit in fall for besenwirtschaften, game, zwiebelkuchen (onion tart), colorful vineyard foliage and the best hiking weather.
Local in the Know
Robert Schätzle, winemaker at Weingut Schloss Neuweier, loves the rotating modern-art exhibitions at the Museum Frieder Burda in Baden-Baden. The spa town’s Festspielhaus houses ballets, operas and concerts that regularly attract world-renowned artists and orchestras. For scenic beauty, he recommends a drive on the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse, the 37-mile stretch from Freudenstadt to Baden-Baden on the panoramic highway B500. A sports car equals fun here.
Where to Taste
Schloss Staufenberg in Durbach, a striking castle that still belongs to the Margrave of Baden, offers cellar tours with barrel tastings paired with amazing views that reach all the way to Strasbourg Minster. Taste Riesling—called Klingelberger here—from granitic slopes. For an architectural highlight, taste Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) at Franz Keller’s contemporary winery built right into the mountainside in Oberbergen. Sip delicious vintage fizz at Schloss Neuweier just outside Baden-Baden. Compare Germany’s best Pinots—including Blanc, Gris and Noir—grown in side-by-side volcanic and loess soils from neighbouring villages at Weingut Bercher in Burkheim, Weingut Salwey in Oberrotweil and Weingut Dr. Heger in Ihringen (check for opening times). The Pinot Noirs from limestone soils by genius Bernhard Huber in Malterdingen are another absolute must. On Friday nights from April to October, Staatsweingut Meersburg on Lake Constance offers tastings in its vaulted cellar.
Baden’s southerly locale is ideal for Pinot varieties: Pinot Noir has been cultivated here since the Middle Ages. Baden has 5,641 hectares of Pinot Noir alone—more than either New Zealand or Australia. Traditional, light styles are matured in large fuder (casks), whereas smaller, Burgundy-style pieces give full, long-lived styles. While elsewhere, Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder) and Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder) are often treated as also-rans, they reach astounding heights in Baden, where some are matured in wood. Riesling thrives, particularly in the granitic soils around Baden-Baden and the Ortenau area, while the southerly Markgräflerland area offers light-bodied, white Gutedel.