A. Christmann, Königsbacher Ölberg, Spätburgunder, 2004
Other than many of my British acquaintances, I don't often complain about the weather in London as I usually like it. Today though it has thrown a spanner in the works of the carefully planned Wine Rambler schedule. Expecting autumn to make its appearance, I had opened a Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) the other day but now England is hotter and sunnier than it has been all summer - and here I am reviewing a wine that most people would rather associate with autumn. Having said that, a good Pinot should always be a great companion, so I hope you can forgive me for appearing unseasonal.
The Pinot in question comes from a highly respected producer in the Pfalz. On about 20ha, Steffen Christmann grows Riesling, Pinot Noir and a range of other grapes including Pinot Blanc/Gris and Gewürztraminer. Christmann is not only lucky to own parts of several very well known vineyards (such as the Ölberg), he also happens to be head of VDP, the leading German association of premier estates.
Perhaps more interesting in terms of wine is that since 2004 Christmann has made the move to first organic and now biodynamic winemaking techniques. Whether my 2004 Pinot has already profited from those approaches I don't know, and then there would of course be the argument about whether organic production does relate to more quality or not. So let's talk quality then, shall we?
While the mushroom risotto was happily bubbling away in the pan, we had a look at the Pinot and found it to be of of relatively dark brown red colour, perhaps with a light metallic touch to it. As I had hoped, the nose had an autumnal quality, an earthy woodland smell with bread dough and moss aromas. Even more unseasonal, among the spices we smelled was not only ground pepper but also something very Christmassy, in particular clove. Add to that soft cherries and strawberry with a meaty quality and you have the ideal companion for a roast game bird.
Luckily, the Christmann did not disappoint on the tongue either. A wine of some substance, it tasted of cherries and brandy, blackcurrant leaves and soft meat broth. Noticeable but well integrated, fine tannins gave the Pinot structure and together with a smooth finish with cocoa and ground pepper flavours this made my friend Mike, who hasn't had any noticeable exposure to German reds, rate it as "very, very drinkable". Mike is certainly right there, although for 24€ you frankly also should expect something good; in fact, I had hoped for a little more from Christmann, but it is definitely not overpriced for the quality either.