Monday, April 20, 2015

Winery Tour and Wine Tasting at Weingut A. Christmann, with Steffen Christmann – Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

Picture: Harvest at Weingut A. Christmann, with Steffen Christmann

Steffen Christmann: Charismatic wines driven by great passion. Noble growths that achieve top ratings. Precious drops for bon vivants, with nature’s blessing. These are the hallmarks of Weingut A. Christmann. For generations, our family has lived for its passion – wines that are at once pure, authentic, and outstanding. Complacency is taboo. Ever striving to be a little bit better. Zeal that can be felt and tasted with every glass. Be it a simple Gutswein (basic house wine) or a Grosses Gewächs (great growth). With these pages, you can learn more about our estate and our portfolio. And the wines? That’s up to you…you’ll have to taste them for yourself. We wish you an enjoyable journey of discovery.

Steffen Christmann not only heads one of the top wineries in Germany, but also the Verband Deutscher Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter (VDP), the association of about 200 elite winemakers in Germany. The VDP is in the process of introducing a new wine classification in Germany, which represents a radical break with the past. Naturally, when Steffen Christmann joined us during the cellar tour, we spent some time discussing with him the main issues of the new classification.

Pictures: Arriving at Weingut A. Christmann


In 1845 Prof. Dr. Ludwig Häusser and his cousin Johann Martin founded a small winery as a hobby. During the next generations, the winery operations turned into a business. In 1894, Eduard Christmann married Henriette Häusser, the granddaughter of the founder. The estate bears the name of their son Arnold.

To this today, the estate has been in the hands of the Christmann family, now in the 7th generation, and the name still stands for top growths that are second to none.

Steffen Christmann

Steffen Christmann was born in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse/Pfalz in 1965. He grew up in Gimmeldingen at Weingut A. Christmann. After completing his basic education and military service, Steffen Christmann studied law in Heidelberg and Speyer. He was admitted to the bar as an attorney at law in 1994 and since 1995, has been a partner at Hofmann & Kollegen, where he focuses on agricultural and wine law. Parallel to his legal studies, he completed his viticultural education at the DLR Rheinpfalz. In 1996, he took over the family estate, which he has continuously developed ever since. He converted to biodynamic viticulture, for example; opened a chic wine bar and restaurant at the estate; and built new production facilities.

Weingut A. Christmann

Weingut A. Christmann is in Gimmeldingen in the Pfalz. The vineyard area totals 20 hectares in several villages: Biengarten, Kapellenberg and Mandelgarten in Gimmeldingen, Eselshaut in Mußbach, Idig and Ölberg in Königsbach, Linsenbusch and Reiterpfad in Ruppertsberg as well as Hohenmorgen, Langenmorgen, Mäushöhle and Paradiesgarten in Deidesheim. Riesling accounts for 2/3 of the output, with Spätburgunder, Weißburgunder, Grauburgunder, Gewürztraminer and St. Laurent accounting for the remainder. Production: 10.000 cases.

Pictures: At Weigut A. Christmann - Harvest Time

Biodynamic Viticulture

Steffen Christmann: As wine-growers, we’re closely connected with nature and seek to intensify this relationship and treat nature with respect in all that we do. This is all the more important for those who cultivate their vines biodynamically. We make certain that our soils are rich in vital humus, and encourage biodiversity in our vineyards to avoid the negative impact of monoculture. We rely upon our vines’ innate immune defense and natural plant protection measures. In addition, our work is geared to the phases of the moon. Our goal is to produce the finest, highly individualistic, and most authentic wines possible by bringing vine/site/climate/soil into harmony with one another.

The Vineyard

Steffen Christmann: The vineyard is the key to a high-quality wine. As winemakers, we feel it’s of the utmost importance to bring out the authentic character of our vineyards in such a way that it can be tasted in a wine. Equally important is a harmonious balance between man and nature. As such, we use natural viticultural methods that foster biodiversity in our vineyards. It goes without saying that herbicides, insecticides, and synthetic fungicides are taboo. Above all, we believe in working by hand. Canopy management and picking are done manually. Fine wines with character are hand-crafted, not mass-produced. In short: we strive to achieve the highest quality possible by using the vineyard’s natural resources

Our Cellar

Steffen Christmann: Passion, attention to detail, and time are indispensable to making a good wine. Things like transporting whole clusters in small containers; gentle, slow pressing under low pressure; preliminary clarification through natural sedimentation; slow fermentation with natural yeasts in traditional oak casks or stainless steel tanks. In addition, young wines do not undergo any treatments and we filter our finest wines only once. Procedures for red wines include traditional fermentation on the skins and lengthy aging in cask. They are not filtered prior to bottling. Although this all entails time, remember the race between the tortoise and the hare…we’re way out front with wine enthusiasts and critics alike. For years, our wines have numbered among the best of the Pfalz or all of Germany, year for year.

Pictures: In the Cellar with Steffen Christmann

VDP Classification

Although many people think that there is only one wine classification system in Germany – the classification system of the Law of 1971 – this is not correct. True, the classification system of the Law of 1971 with its pyramid of ripeness of the grapes at harvest (Qualitaetswein, Kabinett, Spaetlese, Auslese …) at the center is the standard classification system in Germany and the vast majority of winemakers in Germany use this approach. A large number of winemakers, however, have moved away from the standard, in particular the producers of premium and ultra-premium wines. Importantly, the powerful group of German elite winemakers – the VDP (Verband Deutscher Praedikatswein Produzenten) – has conceived its own classification system and is developing it further. The latest modifications are those that came into effect with the vintage of 2012.

The VDP Wine Classification Matrix

The new VDP Wine Classification System is basically a matrix classification. On one axis you find the different quality levels of the wines, along the Burgundian terroir approach, with estate wines, village wines, first growth (premier cru) wines and great growth (grand cru) wines.

Following their colleagues in the Bourgogne, the terroir principle has taken center stage in the VDP classification. Effective with the 2012 harvest, the VDP classification has the following 4 quality layers (In brackets, the equivalent quality classes in the classification system of the Bourgogne):

• VDP.Grosse Lage (Grand Cru in Burgundy)
• VDP.Erste Lage (Premier Cru in Burgundy)
• VDP.Ortswein (Village level in Burgundy)
• VDP.Gutswein (Bourgogne régional in Burgundy)

Note that for some legal reasons, the VDP has started to use the terms Grosse Lage, Erste Lage, Ortswein and Gutswein with the pre-fix VDP.

On the other axis, you find the sweetness levels: Trocken, Kabinett, Spaetlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese as well as Eiswein. Please note that in the new VDP classification system the Prädikats have lost their critical importance that they have in the traditional classification system of 1971 and that they have changed their meaning. In the VDP classification system, they have become an indicator for the sweetness range of the finished wine, while in the traditional classification they are an indicator of the sugar content of the grapes at harvest. Generally, in the new VDP classification system, the Prädikats are to be used exclusively for wines with residual sweetness, “thereby enabling the Prädikats to resume their traditional meaning”, as stated by the VDP.

Pictures: Karl-Friedrich Christmann, Steffen Christmann's Father

VDP.Grosse Lage - The Peak of the Pyramid

VDP.Grosse Lage is the peak of the terroir-based pyramid, equivalent to Grand Cru in the Bourgogne. These are the very best vineyards of Germany. Note: For a Grosse Lage vineyard, like in the Bourgogne, you don’t use the village name on the label, just the name of the vineyard.

Maximum yield is at 50hl/ha. The grapes have to be harvested by hand while the sugar content of the grapes at harvest has to be at least at Spätlese level. The grapes can be fermented in a dry, fruity-sweet and noble-sweet style.

A dry wine from a VDP.Grosse Lage is designated VDP.Grosses Gewaechs and labeled Qualitätswein Trocken. A Grosses Gewaechs wine is from 2012 on the ultra premium dry wine made from a Grosse Lage vineyard.

A fruity or noble sweet wine from a VDP.Grosse Lage is labeled with one of the traditional Prädikats: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein or Trockenbeerenauslese.

VDP.Erste Lage - First Class

VDP.Erste Lage designates first-class vineyards with distinctive characteristics, equivalent to Premier Cru in the Bourgogne. Erste Lage vineyards provide optimal growing conditions, as evidenced over a long period of time.

They are planted with traditional varieties. Maximum yield is at 60hl/ha. The grapes have to be harvested by hand while the sugar content of the grapes at harvest has to be at least at Spätlese level.
A dry wine from a VDP.Erste Lage is labeled Qualitätswein trocken. Note that there is no “VDP.Erstes Gewaechs” designation.

A fruity or noble sweet wine from a VDP.Erste Lage is labeled with one of the traditional Prädikats: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein or Trockenbeerenauslese.

Third: VDP.Ortswein - Sourced from Superior Soils

A VDP.Ortswein originates from a village's best vineyards that are planted with grape varieties typical of their region, equivalent to a village wine in the Bourgogne. Maximum yield is at 75hl/ha.
A dry VDP.Ortswein is labeled Qualitätswein Trocken.

A VDP.Ortswein with residual sweetness is labeled with one of the traditional Prädikats.

Fourth: VDP.Gutswein – Entry Level

VDP.Gutsweine are the entry-level wines in the VDP's hierarchy.

Generall, the Prädikats are to be used exclusively for wines with residual sweetness. Gutsweine, however, are excluded from this general rule as it applies only to the top 3 quality categories. Thus, we might see Gutswein Kabinett trocken and Gutswein Spaetlese trocken in the shelves.

Pictures: Tasting at Weingut A. Christmann

The Wines we Tasted

Gimmeldingen Weissburgunder 2013 VDP.Ortswein
Pfalz Riesling 2013 VDP.Gutswein
Königsbach Riesling 2013 VDP.Ortswein
Könisbacher Ölberg Riesling 2012 VDP.ErsteLage
Mandelgarten Riesling GG 2011 VDP.GrosseLage
Spätburgunder SC 2010 VDP.Ortswein


Thank you very much Steffen for the very informative conversation and the wonderful tasting.

Picture: Annette Schiller, Christian Schiller and Steffen Christmann at the 2. Internationale Riesling Symposium in Hattenheim, Germany

schiller-wine: Related Postings

4 Wine Tours by ombiasy coming up in 2015: Germany-East, Germany-South. Germany-Nord and Bordeaux

Coming-up: Wine & Art Tour to Saale-Unstrut - Saxony - Franken - Württemberg: Germany-East Tour by ombiasy WineTours (June 11 - June 20, 2015)

Germany-North Wine Tour by ombiasy, 2014

Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy, 2014

German Wine and Culture Tour by ombiasy, 2013

In the Vineyard and the Wine Cellar (and Lunch) with Robert Schätzle, Owner and Winemaker, Weingut Schloss Neuweier in Baden – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Wine Tasting Luncheon at 1 Star Michelin Röttele's Restaurant im Schloss Neuweier in Baden, with Winemaker Robert Schätzle and his Weingut Schloss Neuweier Wines – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Weingut Zähringer in Baden: Cellar Tour and Tasting with Winemaker Paulin Köpfer – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombasy (2014)

Weingut Freiherr von Gleichenstein in Baden: Tour and Tasting with Baron Johannes von Gleichenstein – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014), Germany

Weingut Franz Keller in Oberbergen, Kaiserstuhl, Baden: Cellar Tour and Tasting with Fritz Keller – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Lunch at Restaurant Schwarzer Adler in Oberbergen, with Weingut Franz Keller Wines – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Wine Tasting at Weingut Bernhard Huber – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Visit: Weingut Dr. Heger in Baden – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Weingut Karl-Heinz Johner in Baden: Cellar Tour and Tasting with Karl-Heinz and Patrick Johner – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

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Wine Tasting at Weingut Friedrich Becker – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Lunch, Wine Tasting and Winery Tour at Weingut Jülg in Schweigen, Pfalz with the Jülg Family – Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

Wine Tasting at Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz in Siebeldingen, Pfalz – Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

Cellar Tour and Wine Tasting at Weingut Geheimer Rat Dr. von Bassermann-Jordan in Deidesheim with General Manager Gunther Hauck – Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

schiller-wine: Related Postings (VDP)

The new (VDP) Wine Classification in Germany: Tasting Weingut Robert Weil Wines from Gutswein to Grosse Lage Wine

Steffen Christmann (Weingut A. Christmann) and Wilhelm Weil (Weingut Robert Weil) Presented the New Wine Classification of the VDP, Germany

Approaches to Classifying German Wine: The Standard Approach (the Law of 1971), the VDP Approach and the Zero Classification Approach

Stepping up: From 3 … to 4 Quality Levels - The New Classification of the VDP, Germany
German Wine Basics: Grosse Lage and Grosslage (and Grosses Gewaechs)

VDP.Grosses Gewaechs, Erstes Gewaechs, Spaetlese/Auslese Trocken, … Labeling Dry Ultra-Premium Wines in Germany

The VDP - the Powerful Group of German Elite Winemakers - Refines its Classification System, Germany 

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