A. Christmann Aus den Lagen Spatburgunder 2020

£36.50

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“Christmann’s 2020 Spätburgunder Aus den Lagen opens with a pure, fresh, earthy and spicy/toasty bouquet of dark cherries and black berries. Silky, lush and saline on the palate, this is a pure, very elegant and charmingly fruity Pinot with fine tannins, good salinity and intensity. Diam cork. Tasted at the domaine in November 2022. Drink: 2023-2026. 90 points

Even—or especially—established domaines can, or should, question themselves and, if necessary, reinvent themselves in order to take a big step forward. At Weingut A. Christmann in Gimmeldingen, Pfalz, this has happened over the last five years, and this also has to do with the arrival of the new generation. Mind you, it was not a change of generations that lifted the family domaine to the top of the Palatinate, but the cooperation between father and daughter.

Steffen Christmann is not only the president of the Prädikatsweingüter VDP, a tireless politician in matters of wine law, origin marketing and one of the fathers of the Grosses Gewächs (GG). He also runs a long-established family business that has been producing top wines for a generation, most notably the Riesling Grosses Gewächs from the Königsbacher Idig. But right after 2003, Christmann had switched to biodynamic viticulture, not only to better and more sustainably meet the new challenges of nature, but also to better get to the bottom of the secret of his vineyards between Neustadt and Gimmeldingen. Christmann knew that other, lesser-known or established wineries could also produce good single-vineyard wines; after all, the world does not stand still. But could the up-and-coming producers also handcraft unique, distinctive wines of great individuality and radiance? Did he do so himself?

It already dawned on him at that time that the technical possibilities in the cellar had long been exhausted and perhaps even exaggerated, and from then on, he focused on the work in the vineyard. First organic, then, inevitably, biodynamic viticulture: Chrismann’s wines became leaner and more purist but also wilder and, at least, more untamed as the new century progressed. Partly, the development even went too much into the freak or nerd area for me, but in the meantime, finesse and elegance are back. However, there is also grip that demands much more from the customers than classically elegant, fruity Rieslings.

The new wines, including the 2021s, have yet to find themselves, as tightly closed as they still are at the core. This also has to do with the entry of daughter Sophie into the business, which took place in 2017. Even then, the new Rieslings struck me as extraordinarily lean, elegant and full of finesse. In soccer, one would have spoken of a spectacular new acquisition. But here it is the own daughter who, in exchange with the smart, open-minded father, has provided for a new dynamic and, to all appearances, for a kind of complete renovation of the domaine. This was possibly not even the goal, but rather the path and thus also the result of permanent questioning, continuous reconsideration and change of perspective. The domaine was already very chic on the outside, but now it also radiates a clarity and focus on the inside that is rare in Germany, but exemplary.

“Teamwork makes the dream work,” is how Sophie sums up the new culture at Christmann. The domaine downsized to focus only on top sites, around exclusively Riesling as well as Pinot Noir: of the new essence core! Well, there is also a leftover of 3% Pinot Blanc in the Schlössel Erste Lage that is vinified in new large oak to prepare the cask for future Rieslings and marketed as Aus den Lagen. Everything else was sold or exchanged. Since then, the price list of the house has become much leaner, much clearer and the run on the wines much greater. Now at the end of this year, there is nothing left to sell at the domaine.

What’s more, this father-daughter team founded the Christmann & Kauffmann Sektgut with Mathieu Kauffmann of Alsace in 2019, which will bring world-class sparkling wines from top sites to the market in the coming years. Kauffmann can do it; he was cellar master at Bollinger Champagne for years before he was deemed not good enough or his ideas not marketable at von Buhl. Christmann is a sly fox and brought the Palatinate by choice to Gimmeldingen. And to ensure that his second newcomer doesn’t eventually leave him, he made him, as well as his daughter, partners in the new sparkling wine estate, which is housed on the premises of a neighboring winery that could be newly acquired. In the future, one will hear a lot about Weingut Christmann as well as the previously mentioned Sektgut.

This is also due to the Pinot Noir red wines, which Sophie is responsible for and which have never been as good as they are now. But there will be more details on that in the summer, after I will have dedicated myself specifically to the development of this genre.”

Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate (12/22)

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