It is the greatest pleasure of any wine lover to taste a wine, and for it to be better than expected. Perhaps the single greatest crime of a wine taster is to have any expectations at all. To keep an open mind, and to not be influenced by what you have read or heard, or be anchored by the numbers prescribed by critics. Goethe reminisced in his book Italian Journey, ” The Pantheon, so great within and without, has overwhelmed me with admiration. St Peters has made me realise that art, like nature, can abolish all standards of measurement”. Your taste is the only standard of measurement that matters.
Stefan Christmann – seventh generation winemaker
But I am here to confess, that in the case of Christmann, I had very high expectations indeed. And why not? The current custodian of the estate is Stefan Christmann, the president of the VDP. The critiques of the estate’s wines are always excellent. Hopes and dreams can still be dashed of course, and putting all this from my mind, I tasted my first Christmann wine, the 2018 Riesling Trocken. It was the essence of Riesling. Lemon, and chalk and thyme. Beautiful pitch, succulent stone fruit and bone dry. Excellent.
Based in Gimmeldingen, Pfalz, the Christmann story began in 1845. Currently the estate has 22 ha, 70% of which is planted to Riesling. The estate has 6 Grosse Lage vineyards, situated in Gimmeldingen, Rupertsberg and Deidesheim. Soil types vary amongst the vineyards and are best expressed when tasting the Grosse Lages. The estate converted to Biodynamics in 2009. There are absolutely no additions in the winemaking process, save for a minimal dose of sulphur. Fermentation and ageing is either in stainless steel, oak or both. The Grosse Lage’s are always made in oak.
Christmann – history and tradition meets the present
How often do you sniff a wine and a flood of memory, prised open from a long forgotten dusty box, summons up remembrances past? Tasting the Christmann wines, the flavours were familiar. The younger wines possessing primary flavours of tropical notes, lemon, lime, stone fruit and minerals. The older wines, white chocolate, nougat, butter, honey, tobacco. These are flavours and textures that were entirely expected, and yet the wines were thrillingly new, complete and different to anything from my vinous past. Here was a producer, steeped in tradition and history, yet the power and the glory of this suite of Christmann wines is modern, contemporary and present. History, a new and better history, was cast from the glass and wine as I knew it was entirely new again.
Christmann is the Chateau Latour of Riesling. They are wines of freshwater purity, their flavours and textures threaded perfectly like the finest Bruges lace. Nothing is out of place, or overdone. To be sure, perfectly pitched wines can seem repetitive, a little dull and not possessing that indefinable something that marks the boundary between excellent and transcendental. Relentlessly powerful, elegant and complex, every sip bracing, urging another.
Christmann – tasting notes
A. Christmann 2018 Riesling trocken – Lemon, chalk and thyme. Lovely weight. Stone fruit. Excellent.
A. Christmann 2017 Gimmeldingen Riesling trocken – Lime, nougat, malty notes, acacia honey. Richer, fuller. Lithe, and more extracted. Palate of kiwifruit, guava, melon, lime and paw paw. Serious. Very long.
A. Christmann 2014 Königsbacher Ölberg Riesling trocken Erste lage – Butter and honey. Flowers, malt. White flowers. Supple. Gorgeous. Tobacco, white chocolate, flint.
2017 Reiterpfad – Hofstück Riesling trocken Grosses Gewächs – Subtle tropical notes. Extract and length. Acidity is perfect. Long, long, long. Melon, paw paw, kiwifruit, lime lemon. Amazing.