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Introduction

WEINGUT A. CHRISTMANN, PFALZ - NEW RELEASES

It is a very good thing that when we started with the Christmann family, I got the chance, once accompanied by Guy (Seddon), to visit three times in short order – something which has been impossible to repeat these last two years. What is always great about being there is that rather than tasting, the first instinct of both Steffen and Sophie is to jump in the Land Rover and get into the vineyards – always a good sign! I can’t wait to be back there.

The notes in this offer are by Guy and from a tasting we did at the office in November from bottles of the finished wines. The chance to taste and re-taste over the course of two to three days is always a good thing.

I don’t think there is any one producer of ours whose wines I drink more often than the Christmann wines. The reason being I love them (what other reason is there?) But this is also at loggerheads with the very thing I should be doing, which is keeping them for a bit.

The range is set out exactly right, with the first Riesling and Pinot approachable in youth. As you climb to the IDIG (good name for a mountain?) you go up in potential, in texture and in substance but with no drop in elegance. With the Pinots, a particular focus of Sophie’s, the wines are on a stellar upward curve, scary as they were already so good. The Rieslings I feel are amongst the most flexible of wines. They can do the aperitif job well but this is selling them short as it is with food that I love them most. Do not be afraid to decant them or give them plenty of air, they handsomely repay this.

If you are into wine-related New Year’s resolutions then make drinking more Christmann one of them!

Here’s to 2022!

WILL HARGROVE
JANUARY 2022

THE ESTATE

The vineyards

The estate of 20 hectares dates back to 1798. The recent history is one of grandfather, father and daughter.

THE REGION

The Upper Rhine Valley in southwestern Germany has an almost Mediterranean climate. The Palatinate region, within which Pfalz lies, is half an hour from Strasbourg and an hour from Frankfurt.

The Christmann winery is in the village of Gimmeldingen in the centre of the Mittelhaart area, with the Haardt Mountains as a protective backdrop. It is a stunning part of the world with a patchwork of vineyards, akin to Burgundy in many ways.

VINEYARDS & CELLAR

Guy has covered individual holdings in his excellent tasting notes below so I will not repeat this here. In the vineyards themselves the work is done in harmony with nature – no herbicides, insecticides or synthetic fungicides. The estate has been certified biodynamic since 2002.

In the cellar nothing is left to chance. The freshly squeezed juices run into the barrels without further intervention. Once inside, the natural yeasts from the vineyard sites start the fermentation. There is no fining. Only a racking off the lees and a very gentle filtration are required at bottling time.

THE TEAM

These three winemaking generations are the family’s 7th, 8th and 9th. Scroll left and right below...

SOPHIE CHRISTMANN

Steffen (father and president of the VDP “on the side”) has almost 30 years of experience at the estate. Sophie (daughter) has been with the estate for three years now, having studied at Geisenheim and gained experience in wineries around the world. She is involved in all areas of the estate but it is fair to say she has a particular focus on the Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir). Both Steffen and Sophie are still supported by Fritz (grandfather).

STEFFEN CHRISTMANN

Steffen (father and president of the VDP “on the side”) has almost 30 years of experience at the estate. Sophie (daughter) has been with the estate for three years now, having studied at Geisenheim and gained experience in wineries around the world. She is involved in all areas of the estate but it is fair to say she has a particular focus on the Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir). Both Steffen and Sophie are still supported by Fritz (grandfather).

FRITZ CHRISTMANN

Steffen (father and president of the VDP “on the side”) has almost 30 years of experience at the estate. Sophie (daughter) has been with the estate for three years now, having studied at Geisenheim and gained experience in wineries around the world. She is involved in all areas of the estate but it is fair to say she has a particular focus on the Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir). Both Steffen and Sophie are still supported by Fritz (grandfather).

THE LEVELS

A quick guide to the German VDP wine hierarchy

 German VDP wine hierarchy

As we are dealing exclusively with dry wines here, the hierarchy is more straightforward than it may sometimes appear with German wines. It may be lazy to draw parallels but there are many with Burgundy.

This is both in terms of hierachy and the fact that wines can be declassified by a tier, should a producer so wish.

Key:

A - VDP Grosse Lage (think grand cru – e.g. Chambertin)
B - VDP Ertse Lage (think premier cru – e.g. Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru)
C - VDP Ortswein (think village – e.g. Gevrey-Chambertin Villages)
D - VDP Gutswein (think regional – e.g. Bourgogne Rouge)

THE WINES

GUTSWEIN

THE 2020 RIESLING VINTAGE, IN THE WORDS OF SOPHIE CHRISTMANN

One good year follows the next. 2020 was the third sunny year in a row, in which we were once again able to harvest beautiful grapes. More mineral and tighter than 2018, yet a little rounder and more powerful than 2019, 2020 is another reason for us to rejoice.

We started the year with a good water supply after a rainy February. The sunny spring ensured rather early budding and flowering under perfect conditions in May. This was followed by a wonderful summer with lots of sun, moderate temperatures, and sufficient rainfall, in which the temperature only very rarely exceeded 30°C.

At the beginning of August, the grapes began to ripen. Plenty of sunlight and warmth promoted ripening, whilst cool nights preserved the freshness. The bunches were protected from the sun by our habit of letting the leaves grow in the vineyards.

The harvest began for us this year on 1st September. Within 15 days we were able to harvest perfectly healthy grapes – the best basis for a vintage with a lot of potential.

PFALZ RIESLING 2020

In many ways, this is Steffen and Sophie’s calling card, their ‘Estate Riesling’. Flinty, struck-rock minerality and aromas of white peaches, grapefruit and lime zest. The palate has a core of taut, lemony acidity around which unwind pear and orange zest flavours. A mere 11.5% abv, underscoring this wine’s fabulous drinkability.

Corney & Barrow Score 16.5
Recommended drinking from 2021–2025


£90/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK
ORTSWEIN

THE 2020 RIESLING VINTAGE, IN THE WORDS OF SOPHIE CHRISTMANN

One good year follows the next. 2020 was the third sunny year in a row, in which we were once again able to harvest beautiful grapes. More mineral and tighter than 2018, yet a little rounder and more powerful than 2019, 2020 is another reason for us to rejoice.

We started the year with a good water supply after a rainy February. The sunny spring ensured rather early budding and flowering under perfect conditions in May. This was followed by a wonderful summer with lots of sun, moderate temperatures, and sufficient rainfall, in which the temperature only very rarely exceeded 30°C.

At the beginning of August, the grapes began to ripen. Plenty of sunlight and warmth promoted ripening, whilst cool nights preserved the freshness. The bunches were protected from the sun by our habit of letting the leaves grow in the vineyards.

The harvest began for us this year on 1st September. Within 15 days we were able to harvest perfectly healthy grapes – the best basis for a vintage with a lot of potential.

GIMMELDINGEN RIESLING 2020

This is an Ortswein (the level below Erste Lage, equivalent to a village Burgundy), picked in the second and third passes through the vineyard. It is produced from two young sites in Gimmeldingen: Kapellenberg and Biengarten, both Erste Lagen. Flinty mineral aromas, with ripe pear fruit. The palate is steely and acidity-driven on the entry, opening onto a mid-palate of orchard fruits, tinned peaches and white flower perfume which lingers on the long finish. 12% abv. 

Corney & Barrow Score 17
Recommended drinking from 2024–2030


£125/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK

KÖNIGSBACH RIESLING 2020

This Königsbach Riesling Ortswein comes from the younger vines of Christmann's Grosse Lage monopole, IDIG. Pale lemon-gold colour. Flinty and seashell-mineral aromas, with apricot and honeysuckle. The palate is nicely poised between rigour and flesh, lime zest and slaty minerality meeting generous white peach fruit. A line of steely acidity runs through the palate, making for a wine of real ageing potential. 12.5% abv. 

Corney & Barrow Score 17.5 -18
Recommended drinking from 2024–2032


£135/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK
ERSTE LAGEN

THE 2020 RIESLING VINTAGE, IN THE WORDS OF SOPHIE CHRISTMANN

One good year follows the next. 2020 was the third sunny year in a row, in which we were once again able to harvest beautiful grapes. More mineral and tighter than 2018, yet a little rounder and more powerful than 2019, 2020 is another reason for us to rejoice.

We started the year with a good water supply after a rainy February. The sunny spring ensured rather early budding and flowering under perfect conditions in May. This was followed by a wonderful summer with lots of sun, moderate temperatures, and sufficient rainfall, in which the temperature only very rarely exceeded 30°C.

At the beginning of August, the grapes began to ripen. Plenty of sunlight and warmth promoted ripening, whilst cool nights preserved the freshness. The bunches were protected from the sun by our habit of letting the leaves grow in the vineyards.

The harvest began for us this year on 1st September. Within 15 days we were able to harvest perfectly healthy grapes – the best basis for a vintage with a lot of potential.

GIMMELDINGER KAPELLENBERG RIESLING 2020

Kapellenberg, in Gimmeldingen, forms the southeast slope of a vineyard situated high in the foothills of the Haardt mountain range. A chapel below the vineyard gives the site its name. Reticent white peach and apple aromas, with stony minerality. The palate is juicy on the attack, wet-stone minerality soon asserting itself and providing impressive structure, fleshing out somewhat on the mid-palate, whilst remaining cool and herbal. Still embryonic, with a long, taut finish. 12% abv. 

Corney & Barrow Score 17.5
Recommended drinking from 2026–2036


£175/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK

RUPPERTSBERGER REITERPFAD RIESLING 2020

As Steffen Christmann related, “we have decided this year to use the cooler, water-bearing sites Hausbrunnen and Quelle, as well as the Spiess and our Grosse Lage Hofstück together as Ruppertsberger Reiterpfad Erstes Gewächs. Lemon and sherbet aromas, with slaty minerality. Pliant citrus and pear fruit on the attack, opening onto apricot and orange blossom on the mid-palate. The more generous and approachable of the two Erste Lagen, this is the pick for earlier drinking. 12.5% abv. 

Corney & Barrow Score 17.5 -18
Recommended drinking from 2026–2036+


£195/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK
GROßES GEWÄCHS

GROSSE LAGEN – THE GROSSES GEWÄCHS

THE 2020 RIESLING VINTAGE, IN THE WORDS OF SOPHIE CHRISTMANN

One good year follows the next. 2020 was the third sunny year in a row, in which we were once again able to harvest beautiful grapes. More mineral and tighter than 2018, yet a little rounder and more powerful than 2019, 2020 is another reason for us to rejoice.

We started the year with a good water supply after a rainy February. The sunny spring ensured rather early budding and flowering under perfect conditions in May. This was followed by a wonderful summer with lots of sun, moderate temperatures, and sufficient rainfall, in which the temperature only very rarely exceeded 30°C.

At the beginning of August, the grapes began to ripen. Plenty of sunlight and warmth promoted ripening, whilst cool nights preserved the freshness. The bunches were protected from the sun by our habit of letting the leaves grow in the vineyards.

The harvest began for us this year on 1st September. Within 15 days we were able to harvest perfectly healthy grapes – the best basis for a vintage with a lot of potential.

MEERSPINNE IM MANDELGARTEN RIESLING GG 2020

Meerspinne is a Grosse Lage sub-plot of Mandelgarten, dating back to 1456. In those days, this site was known for its outstanding yield potential; today it is considered the best plot in Gimmeldingen. Fine white peach aromas with green citrus and a honeyed intensity. A hewn sense of dry extract on the attack, opening onto ripe fleshy pear and stone-fruits on the mid-palate, the stony mineral texture reappearing on the finish. 12.5% abv. 

Corney & Barrow Score 17.5 - 18
Recommended drinking from 2027–2040+


£325/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK

IDIG KÖNIGSBACH RIESLING GG 2020

The Grosse Lage IDIG, a Christmann monopole, is one of the most highly-rated sites in the Pfalz. As we have come to expect, this is a supremely complete wine – aromatically it is poised between slaty rigour and fleshy generosity. The palate has a nervy tension, which opens onto a salty, stony-mineral driven mid-palate of lemon, gooseberry, pear and peach. A steely arc of acidity will need patience but promises brilliantly for the future. 12.5% abv. 

Corney & Barrow Score 18 - 18.5
Recommended drinking from 2027–2047


£335/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK

ÖLBERG-HART KÖNIGSBACH RIESLING GG 2020

Ölberg, in the oldest part of the Gewann Hart, has previously produced the fruit for Christmann’s auction wine, Kapelle. Described by Steffen Cristmann as “a fantastic wine – slightly reductive, long, and cool.” Honeysuckle and riper white peach aromas, very pure and stony-mineral. The palate’s succulent stone-fruit is offset by a brittle slaty minerality, finishing salty and precise, with lingering textural, grippy extract. Were it not for that lovely fruit, I’d call this an intellectual wine – but as it is, it’s just impressively complete. 12.5% abv. 

Corney & Barrow Score 18.5
Recommended drinking from 2026–2047


£325/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK

VOGELSANG NEUSTADT RIESLING GG 2020

Yellow-hued, slaty-mineral and apricot aromas. The fleshier aspect comes through on the palate’s delectably succulent white peaches and juicy pears. The back-palate is tangy and bitter, a saline bite making for a long, shapely finish, once again driven onwards by that high-line of steely acidity. Or as Steffen puts it, “Mineral and herbaceous, with dark depth, it is a really great wine.” 12.5% abv. 

Corney & Barrow Score 18+
Recommended drinking from 2026–2046


£325/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK

Pinot Noir 2018

2018 was Sophie Christmann’s second vintage fully in charge of the Pinot Noir. Sophie, who started working here three years ago, represents the 8th generation.

Based on her experience in France and Baden, Germany, Sophie introduced some winemaking changes in last year’s 2017 vintage. These included larger fermentation tanks and a greater reliance on pumping over rather than punching down, as well as shorter post-fermentation maceration and less new oak. Or to put it another way, she modernised the estate’s winemaking, prioritising delicacy of fruit and aroma. In doing so, she has also allowed the terroir to shine.

Over 16 years of biodynamic cultivation clearly helps greatly here, although in Sophie’s opinion, it is the calcareous marl soils, similar to those found in Burgundy, which allow her Pinot Noir to shine.

A little whole-bunch fermentation was employed in 2018 – 15% in the estate wine and around a quarter in the single vineyards. This has resulted in an aromatically lifted, gently spiced character which is also on the rise in Burgundy – and which we love when done well, as here.

PFALZ SPÄTBURGUNDER 2018

This comes from vineyards around Gimmeldingen. Pretty raspberry and rose aromas, with flinty minerality and a lick of cedar. The palate is fresh and vivaciously red-berried, medium bodied and with an orange zest lift. 12.5% abv. 15% whole-bunch fermentation, with one year in barrel. Burgundy shaped bottles have been used for the Pinot Noirs for the first time this vintage.

Corney & Barrow Score 16.5 - 17
Recommended drinking from 2022–2027


£115/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK

GIMMELDINGEN SPÄTBURGUNDER 2018

This is voluntarily declassified as a Gutswein, although it comes from the earlier ripening grapes of an old-vined Erste Lage site in Kapellenberg. Delicate, ripe raspberries and dark rocky mineral aromas lead into a palate of succulent wild strawberry fruit, with a core of rich red cherry and chocolate, all framed by fine, supple tannins. 15% whole-bunch fermentation, 12.5% abv. 

Corney & Barrow Score 17+
Recommended drinking from 2023–2028


£150/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK

GIMMELDINGER BIENGARTEN SPÄTBURGUNDER 2018

This Erste Lage vineyard consists of steep terraces in the Haardt hills between Gimmeldingen and Königsbach. The site is protected from cold winds by a small hollow in the hillside. Ripe, raspberry-fruited aromas, with roses, cedar and sweet spices. The palate is joyous, with succulent red berries, exotic spices and a sappy, focused finish. The best vintage of this wine I have tasted. 25% whole-bunch fermentation, 12.5% abv. 

Corney & Barrow Score 17.5
Recommended drinking from 2024–2031


£245/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK

KÖNIGSBACHER ÖLBERG SPÄTBURGUNDER 2018

Ölberg is a high, sloping Erste Lage site in Königsbach, recognised as one of the best in Pfalz. It benefits from morning sun and late afternoon shade. As at IDIG, limestone marl and the brown earth known as ‘terra fusca’ predominate, with red sandstone. Fine dark-berried aromas with cedar and tea leaf spices. The palate is nimble on the attack, cool red and black berries, with sappy spices on the medium-bodied mid-palate, then a long, saline, focused finish, framed by very fine tannins. This is really good – note to self to buy some! 25% whole-bunch fermentation, 12.5% abv.

Corney & Barrow Score 17.5+
Recommended drinking from 2024–2031


£225/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK

IDIG SPÄTBURGUNDER GG 2018

The Grosse Lage IDIG vineyard is one of the most highly-rated sites in the Palatine region and is a Christmann monopole, making this the flagship holding of the estate. In simple terms, Grosses Gewächs, or GG, is comparable to Grand Cru status in Burgundy. Pale ruby colour. Gorgeous rose petal and whole-bunch exotic spice aromas, we could very easily be in Burgundy here. The palate is supple and pliant, with juicy raspberry and tea leaf spice flavours and a seductive weightlessness, leaving a trail of perfume in its wake. Such fine, melting tannins, with a frisson of salinity on the finish lending focus. 25% whole-bunch fermentation, 12.5% abv. 

Corney & Barrow Score 18
Recommended drinking from 2024–2030+


£425/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK

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