Sunday, March 6, 2016
Tour and Tasting at Weingut A. Christmann in Gimmeldingen, Pfalz, with Steffen Christmann – Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015), Germany
Weingut A. Christmann is owned and run in the 7th generation by Steffen Christmann, who is the current President of the VDP, the association of about 200 elite winemakers in Germany . Since its founding in 1845 the estate has produced Riesling and Pinot Noir. Devotion to soil vitality and the preservation and individuality of the terroir has lead Steffen Christmann to practice organic agriculture, strict vineyard management, and severe yield reduction. In the cellar, he employs long and gentle pressing with low pressure, clarification through natural sedimentation, and a slow, not too cool fermentation sometimes until as late as June with only one filtration. All of the wines are vinified in the dry style, because he feels that the conditions in his vineyards are ideal for producing dry wines.
Esther Grüttner was our host. Steffen Christmann joined us for an hour and discussed with us the new classification of the VDP.
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.
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, we spent some time discussing with him the main issues of the new classification.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (Qualitätswein, Kabinett, Spätlese, 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 Prädikatswein 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 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.
The Wines we Tasted
2014 Weingut A. Christmann Gimmeldingen Weissburgunder VDP.Ortswein
2014 Weingut A. Christmann Pfalz Riesling VDP.Gutswein
2014 Weingut A. Christmann Königsbach Riesling VDP.Ortswein
2014 Weingut A. Christmann Königsbacher Ölberg Riesling VDP.ErsteLage
2012 Weingut A. Christmann Idig Riesling GG VDP.GrosseLage
2011 Weingut A. Christmann Gimmeldingen Spätburgunder VDP.Ortswein
Thank you very much Steffen for the very informative conversation and the wonderful tasting.
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