Peter Morrell tastes the fresh and elegant Markgraf Von Baden wines
Along the shoreline of Lake Constance (Bodensee in German) below picturesque castles and monasteries vines cascade down the sloping hills to almost the water’s edge. The lake effect creates consistent and temperate weather which help grow grapes that make aromatic, fresh, elegant wines ideal for summer drinking.
Bodensee is also the name of the region around the body of water which encompasses four countries, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein and where I spend most of my stay Germany. I was in the region to see the wealth of well-preserved heritage attractions in this cultural crossroads of Europe.
One of the most impressive places I visited was Schloss Salem an enormous monastery complex with an imposing Gothic church, Salem Minster that dates back to the 12th century. Since secularisation in 1803 the buildings are now part private residence of the Markgraf Von Baden, the Grand Duke of Baden, part private school (Prince Philip was a former pupil) and there is a large section open to the public which is well worth a visit.
After a short al fresco lunch at Gasthof Schwanen in the grounds there was an opportunity to taste the wine produced at Schloss Salem. Grape production was started here by monks who planted 1000s of acres of vines. Little wonder as each monk had a daily wine allocation of 1.4 litres, although it was weak and sour. Today the descendants of the Grand Dukes have continued the tradition producing smaller quantities of very high quality wine.
In the shadow of an enormous grape press I sampled the Markgraf von Baden wines from the local vineyards with a tutored tasting led by expert Heike Sattler. The first wine was the Bodensee Secco white which I had been introduced to a couple of days earlier in the most perfect of circumstances. On a warm evening it was served as a pre-dinner aperitif on the lakeside terrace of my hotel, the Steigenberger Insel, a short ferry ride away in Konstanz.
The wine was light and sparkling and only 10% ABV so was ideal to drink on its own. It’s a blend of the Müller-Thurgau and Bacchus grapes. A delicate floral nose developed into flavours of peach and apricot on the palate and the finish was fresh and uplifting.
The second was another white made purely from Bacchus. The bouquet was very aromatic, showing yeasty aromas interlaced with elderflower. In the mouth it was spicy mixed with soft gooseberry flavours and the finish was smooth and elegant. This would make a good pairing with a salad made with the delicious fresh produce grown on nearby Reichenau Island.
My third wine was the other grape in the Secco, Müller-Thurgau. This grape is a cross breed created in 1882 by Dr. Hermann Müller in the Swiss canton of Thurgau and was specifically bred to suit the growing environment around the lake.
The wine had a vibrant quality showing strong flowery notes in the bouquet. On the palate it was fruity and fresh with a pleasant astringency and tones of vanilla. The finish was crisp and clean. The wine would make an excellent match with the lake fish which is widely available in local restaurants.
The next wine was the Spätburgunder Rosé Trocken, literally translated, Pinot Noir Rosé Dry. Made from grapes grown in Bodensee, Pinot Noir is another popular variety in the region. This was an exceptional wine with intense aromas of soft summer fruits on the nose. In the mouth it evolved into strawberries and cream with hints of raspberry. The finish was fruity and persistent, drink this as an aperitif or pair with a fresh fruit dessert.
The final wine was a red, the SpätburgunderTrocken, a dry Pinot Noir. The grapes for this wine were grown about 5km from the lake in Bermatinger. The deep ruby red colour gave a clue to its intensity, lovely aromas of red stone fruit in the bouquet led to smooth, well structured tannins on the palate, there was lots of fruit and subtle notes of spice and vanilla. The finish was vivid and sustained. Drink this with red meat or strong cheese.
The tasting had given me a good insight into the quality and diversity of the Markgraf Von Baden wines but I had only scratched the surface. Not that I needed an excuse to go back but there are still the Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines to sample.
To help you get the best from the region take a look at the packages, which include a visit to Schloss Salem, from Inghams (01483 791114;www.inghams.co.uk). For example they have 3 nights at the 5* Steigenberger Hotel, with prices starting from £659 per person on half board, including return flights to Zurich and resort transfers.
For more information about Lake Constance visit www.constance-lake-constance.com
For more about the Bodensee Region go to www.bodensee.eu