Christmann Aus den Lagen Riesling 2022


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“The 2022 Riesling Aus den Lagen was harvested in the Idig, with lots of Kapellenberg in Gimmeldingen and Neustadter Vogelsang, along with smaller portions from Meerspinne, Olberg und Reiterpfad. The nose is bright with fruit; all edged with citrus leaf: white and yellow peach, green and yellow apple. The palate carries right on with the juicy fruit, now verging more into tart yellow apple territory, rounded, bright and refreshing with a little citrus tang on the creamy and slightly salty finish. (Bone-dry) Drinking window: 2023-2035. 90 points

Weingut Christmann has made radical changes: “Between 2020 and 2021, we have shrunk the estate by a good 20% – or 5 hectares – so we now have 19 hectares left, all in Erste and Grosse Lagen,” says Sophie Christmann. “We gave up Pinot Gris, Muskateller, Sankt Laurent, most of Pinot Blanc and we already had let go of Gewürztraminer earlier, just to focus on what is most important and what we do best.” But change is more radical than that, especially considering that Sophie’s father Steffen Christmann is the chairman of the VDP: “We changed and optimized the basic structure because we want to make single vineyard wines and one second wine,” she says. This meant abandoning the VDP categories of estate wine and village wine. The move has met with some criticism, from fellow winemakers and clients alike, but for the Christmanns, this is a well-thought through adjustment and in clear contrast to so many local winemakers who try and cover every base, ending up with wide ranges of various varietal wines. “Nobody will miss our Grauburgunder,” Sophie says perceptively. She has a point: every estate has one, and Christmann is known for Riesling and, since Sophie’s arrival, increasingly elegant and fine-boned Pinot Noirs. Steffen Christmann had taken over the family estate in 1996 and started the conversion to biodynamic farming. Geisenheim graduate Sophie Christmann trained with Schäfer-Fröhlich and Bürklin-Wolf in Germany, Château Mazeyres in Pomerol and Jeffrey Grosset in Australia. She followed this with a further degree in agricultural economics in Berlin. Father and daughter devised a way of working together and while he had focused on Riesling, she planned to focus on Pinot Noir. She deliberately added a stage with Huber in Baden in 2017 before joining her home estate full-time in 2018, which she now runs jointly with her father. Pinot Noir is not new at the estate: Christmann made it as far back as 1906 – and sold it to Hotel Adlon in Berlin. The Christmanns farm 19 hectares of which 68% are Riesling, 30% Pinot Noir and 2% Pinot Blanc. For Riesling and Pinot Noir, Erste and Grosse Lagen are bottled separately, and each has a second wine label, “Aus den Lagen,” which are blends of various sites, including those bottled separately. For Weissburgunder only one wine is made, also under the “Aus den Lagen” label, but this is from the single site Gimmeldinger Schlössel, even though it is not named on the label. They slimmed down, and the clear-cut portfolio now amounts to 12 wines. Riesling is hand-harvested, grapes are crushed and pressed directly without prior skin contact, and the juice is fermented without sedimentation in large barrels. They try not to let the fermentation temperature rise above 28°C, and if malolactic fermentation happens, it does so concurrently with alcoholic fermentation. For Pinot Noir, the aim is to harvest at no more than 90° Oechsle, which corresponds with 12% potential alcohol, “so no overripeness,” Christmann says. Fifteen-twenty percent of whole clusters are used in the ferments that follow a cold maceration at 12°C with remontage. The moment the musts begin to ferment, this changes to gentle pigeage, early pressing after 15-16 days of skin contact and transfer into wood, where the wines spend 16-18 months, followed by 3 months in stainless steel before bottling. Christmann notes that the “Aus den Lagen” Piot Noir can have more new oak than the single-site wines as the wine is used to season barrels. For the whites, it is the Pinot Blanc that season the barrels that will later hold Riesling. About 2022, Christmann says that localized June rain helped them get over the hot and dry summer alongside some ultra-local thunderstorm showers. When the autumn rains arrived on 10 September, luckily almost all Pinot Noir had been picked, but the Rieslings “were harvested in rainy, autumnal weather, we had to sort a lot, but Oechsle levels were moderate.” The wines are measured, bright, elegant and fresh. During my visit, I tasted the 2022 Rieslings and the 2021 Pinot Noirs.”

Anne Krebiehl, Vinous (12/23)