Every month, our blog series ‘Whose Wine is it Anyway?’ profiles one German winemaker to give you a behind-the-vines look at the world of German wine. This month’s spotlighted estate dates back to the 16th century but continues to evolve and adapt – perfectly epitomizing the intersection of tradition and innovation at the heart of the German wine industry. Read below to get to know Weingut Christmann and the father-daughter duo, Steffen and Sophie, who manage the winery today.
Whose *Wine* is it Anyway? Meet The Christmann Family
The Christmann Family
Estate: Weingut Christmann
Region: The Pfalz
The extended family has cultivated vineyards in the Pfalz since 1508, but it was only in 1798 that their ancestor, Georg Köhler, was finally able to purchase the vineyards his family had long farmed. In 1845, Köhler’s only granddaughter and heir to the estate, Anna, married Hermann Häusser, the son of another nearby winemaking family, joining their properties and establishing the framework of the Christmann estate of today.
Half a century later, Anna and Hermann’s daughter, Henriette, married Eduard Christmann. The couple named the estate after their son, Arnold Christmann, and the estate has remained in the hands of the Christmann family ever since.
Fast forward to today – 7th generation Steffen Christmann has managed the family winery since 1996. He is a trained winemaker, former lawyer, and current president of the VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter), an organization dedicated to developing quality standards for German wines and promoting the country’s top wines and estates.
Steffen is dedicated to producing authentic, artisanal wines in harmony with nature. With his wife Daniela, his parents, Fritz and Gisela, and his four children, Sophie, Victoria, Carl, and Julius; running the winery is a complete family affair.
“Family has been the hub of the winery for many decades and it is still the center of the estate today.”
Sophie, who graduated from Geisenheim University with a degree in viticulture and oenology, is Steffen’s avid apprentice and right hand. Having worked in the Pfalz, the Nahe, and Baden, as well as in Bordeaux and Australia, she applies her worldly experience at Weingut Christmann.
Recently, the Christmanns have acquired new shell-limestoine soil vineyards in Neustadt, where Sophie plans to plant more Pinot Noir. As Pinots grow in importance, this is a step towards the future.
The Christmanns cultivate 22 hectares of prized vineyards, all within 5 km of each other along the edge of the Haardt mountainside. Despite the short distance between them, each vineyard has its own distinct micro-climate and soil composition.
Worth noting is the famous Idig vineyard in Königsbach, which produces wines fit for royalty – literally. The site was once owned by counts and electoral princes, and its wines were served at the royal table. Nevertheless, the site somehow was underappreciated for much of the 20th century, until the Christmann family purchased it in the early 1990’s and put Idig back on the map with award-winning Riesling and Pinot Noir. Nowadays, the Christmanns own 95% of the classified side of the Idig and are the only vintners producing Grosses Gewächs Idig wines (the highest VDP designation).
“The soil is reflected in the wines’ distinctive salty, mineral tone that lends them elegance and a silky texture, ensures that their acidity is well integrated, and enhances their longevity... Even today, Idig wines would appeal to the electoral princes.” – Steffen Christmann
Across the family’s properties, the Pfalz landscape provides excellent conditions to produce dry Riesling and Pinot wines, with the diversity in soil types and climates contributing to unique flavors and aromas. Per winegrowing tradition in the Pfalz, Riesling is the dominant variety grown on the estate, comprising nearly 70% of the vines. The remainder of the Christmann vineyards includes Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc).
Recently, the Christmanns were offered new vineyards in some of the best parcels in Gimmeldingen and Königsbach. The vision for this vineyard area includes a new project in cooperation with acclaimed winemaker Mathieu Kauffmann. Together, long-time friends Steffen and Mathieu have founded Sektgut Christmann & Kauffmann, dedicated to producing biodynamic and handcrafted Sekt. The first grapes for the new estate were picked in 2019, and they hope to release the first sparkling wines in the next two years.
The Christmanns view themselves as caretakers of their land, carefully managing it in order to pass it on in even better condition to the next generation. For over 15 years, they have abided by biodynamic viticulture practices, with the belief that the health of the vines establishes the superior quality of the wines.
Instead of synthetic chemicals, the Christmanns use horse manure, horn silica, and compost to enhance the health of the soil. Respecting the land and viewing the vineyards as habitats is paramount in their viticulture philosophy.
“The biodynamic cultivation methods form the basis for the production of truly individual vineyards and wines. This is the path we have chosen in order to achieve full harmony between the vines and their surroundings, leading to wines made with grapes that are full of flavor.”