I was flicking through one of those trade magazines, one which always helps to form a disorderly pile beside my bed after a big event like the London Wine Fair. Anyway, this copy had one of those rankings of young people said to be having the greatest influence on the wine trade right now. How they manage to rank fifty people, I don’t know. I only knew two or three of the people listed, and that’s the thing…you see I know a few young people (and not so young) who have had a significant impact on the UK wine trade, especially on independent retail and education recently, and whose influence, and achievements are no less significant. It got me thinking I should write about a few of them. Perhaps over time, I will. I refuse to call them “influencers”, but they are all leaders in taste, so “Leaders” it is.
I thought who better to kick off with than one of the most open, and frankly nicest people you’ll meet on the UK wine scene. This is someone who has shown considerable focus to get where they are, but at the same time someone who is developing quite a few strings to their bow. I’m talking about Christina Rasmussen.
Christina was born in the UK to Danish parents, as it turns out just over a month after my own daughter. Her parents had been in the UK for just a year and they were very keen that their daughter should have Danish as her first language, so that is what she learnt to speak before English. After school, south of London, Christina left home to study French, taking a four-year degree at Exeter University. Perhaps her linguistic abilities, honed by already being fluent in two languages, helped.
Christina told me that when she went off to Exeter, she didn’t really know what she wanted to do after university, maybe journalism or writing of some kind. As part of her four-year course, she needed to spend a year in France and managed to secure an internship in public relations at Louis Latour, in Beaune. It was here that her passion for wine was ignited. After seven months she had to move on, to a role with an organic cosmetics company in Paris, but having been unaware that wine could be a career she had by then made up her mind what she wanted to do. For someone who loves nature it seemed perfect.
On returning to the UK, we are still looking at an inexperienced, but very resourceful Christina. She didn’t really know to what extent wine PR was a thing, but she was soon contacting Westbury Communications, where she bagged another internship in 2014. It was the foot in the door she needed and over the following almost five years she rose from intern to junior executive, and eventually to director.
During this time, she wanted to write more, so she began her own blog, “Vintage of all Kinds”, soon rebranded to christinarasmussen.co. In 2017 she was writing on other blogs, especially citing Doug Wregg (Les Caves de Pyrene), one of wine’s most wonderful human beings, as a great help and mentor. Equally helpful was Sue Harris, the experienced founder and MD of Westbury. She knew how much Christina wanted to write, and in spite of being her boss, she introduced Christina to people at trade mags like The Buyer, where she could cut her teeth in wine journalism.
One day, out of the blue, Christina got a call from Peter Honegger, who along with partner Daniela Pillhofer, runs Newcomer Wines. Newcomer started out in 2013, wow, almost a decade ago, in order to sell low-intervention Austrian wines out of a shipping container shop in Shoreditch Boxpark. I was a fan from early on, and used to visit before each one of the monthly Oddities lunches I used to co-host at nearby Rochelle Canteen. Newcomer Wines soon outgrew those tiny premises and moved to a shop at Dalston Junction, whilst expanding their range into other European regions. They have become one of the most exciting wine shops and trade suppliers in London, worth even the long bus journey east for me, occasionally (more often than not, come to think of it) accompanied by an empty suitcase.
Peter and Daniela had a vision to do something outside their sphere at the time, something more content-based and educational. Eventually, after six months hard planning, Littlewine (littlewine.co) was born in April 2020. Christina came on board as partner and Head of Content, running the site alongside Daniela. If you don’t already know, Littlewine is a subscription-based platform for wine knowledge, but for wine with an organic and ethical base. Members get high quality wine information across the whole wine world, perhaps with a European focus. This can be regional, winemaker-based or wine-specific.
There is a wine club too, introducing members to some rather fine bottles, many under the radar, small production or stars of the future. Recently, the club included Tim Phillips’s Charlie Herring label, bottles which usually sell out on his open days or go on single bottle allocation (now by ballot). Such selections show not only both deep and wide knowledge, but a finger firmly on the pulse of what is happening in natural wine right now. Littlewine also had an online shop, now closed to focus more on the content, but it was one of those places where you could happily shop nowhere else if you could choose only one place to source your wine.
Anyway, having honed her journalistic skills, Christina was well placed to help create this amazing online resource. Anyone who has read her words will know she’s a very good writer, imparting the facts with just enough passion. She likes to tell a story, and like me feels that this is far more interesting than a florid tasting note. I would describe it as writing with soul, and the reason it appeals to me so much is that this is exactly what I aim for. Christina is also an accomplished photographer, and in fact this led her to learn to pilot a drone which has captured some of the most spectacular images on the Littlewine site. I think I first saw it sweep over some beautiful vineyard scenery in Burgundy on her first trip with it.
Even when working at Westbury Comms Christina had done a bit of grape picking, especially In Beaujolais, one of the accounts she handled there. After leaving Westbury she went out to LA to harvest and make wine with Abe Schoener, for his Scholium Project, as well as for the inaugural vintage of the Los Angeles River Wine Co. She counts Abe as one of her dearest friends and mentors, together with Rajat Parr.
Abe having set up an urban winery in LA with assistance from Christina, they travelled and worked together for two months, and with Raj, to discover and understand the old vineyards in Southern California. Currently, from sites in Cucamonga and Temecula, Abe creates the Los Angeles River Wine Co range, and Raj makes his Scythian Wine Co wines.
A love for the Palomino variety came from drinking the Listán Blanco (a synonym) wines of Tenerife. Back in California, Christina discovered a very old-vine blend of Palomino Fino and Muscat (with other varieties added) made by Cline Cellars from the historic Bridgehead Vineyard in Contra Costa County, while tasting with Megan Cline (second-generation of Cline Cellars). It’s called Cline Cellars Farmhouse White Blend. The Palomino vines were planted in 1935, are head-trained, and are only sprayed with sulphur once a year and nothing else. Christina managed to persuade Megan to part with half-a-ton of fruit and the result was 200 bottles, made in LA, sitting now in the UK awaiting labelling before going on sale very soon. This is where I remind Christina that she did swear and cross her heart that I can get one (honest!).
In 2020 Christina made new friends, picking and helping make wine at Domaine Dujac in Burgundy. Christina met Jeremy Seysses’s wife, Diana, back in 2017, when profiling her Snowdon Vineyards in Napa for The Buyer. The Seysses not only extended a very warm welcome in Burgundy, leading to an ongoing close friendship with Jeremy and Diana, but they also gave her more confidence in the wines she had made herself back in California in 2019, and indeed later inspiration for her own vineyard’s Pinot and Chardonnay vine plantings in Oxfordshire (see below). Christina and I share another of those odd skills which sometimes come up in one of those “tell us something we don’t know” questions: we both learnt to drive a forklift truck. I learnt in the early 90s, and Jeremy taught Christina the basics in Bourgogne.
Littlewine goes from strength to strength, but Christina has another project. I’m not sure hobby would be the right way to describe it, being a bit more serious than that word suggests – a vineyard. It’s on land owned by her sister between Oxford and Swindon. One would think its location is marginal, yet rainfall levels mirror the Côte d’Or. The terroir is based on Cotswold Brash, a mix of sandy clay and gravel, and soil samples show limestone strata half-to-one-metre down.
Working with a well-known South of France vine nursery, Lilian Bérillon (www.lilian-berillon.fr ) Christina has planted a thousand Pinot Noir vines, 600 Chardonnay, 600 Savagnin, 400 Gamay, 444 Trousseau, 50 Pineau d’Aunis, and 20 Mondeuse, on one larger and two smaller sites. All of the vines were propagated by massale selection. You can see Christina’s wine tastes in those choices, for sure. It’s now a matter of tending the young vines during the dry summer months and protecting them from hungry mammals.
Whilst she’s an advocate of minimum intervention and regenerative farming, always deeply knowledgeable about soil ecosystems, it has nevertheless been necessary, manually of course, to minimise competition directly around the vine saplings themselves (especially hand-plucking the dandelions which have been so profuse seemingly everywhere this year). Otherwise, this is very much a place where nature is left to do its own thing. So far, Christina has just sprayed with a horsetail ferment and a “tea” which she brewed herself. No synthetic inputs here.
All of this is already a massive achievement for someone hardly into their thirties. Somehow Christina manages to find time for her other passions: photography, yoga, music (like me, she’s a drummer) and (yes) houseplants (something of an obsession she says). Certainly, there is one other thing which surpasses all of these, a love for (and I would say empathy with) animals.
No longer a lizard owner, Christina does still have her chinchilla. Then there are two Shetland ponies (one a rescue pony), and a rescue horse kept at her sister’s place. I think she would certainly keep a dog were it not for the massive amount of traveling she does (her Instagram account suggests she rarely stays still for more than a few days). I am absolutely certain that we shall hear a lot more from Christina Rasmussen over the next decade or two. Her impact on the wine scene has already been immensely positive.
I asked Christina, at the end of our chat, if she could list her favourite wines. Each one of these is full of meaning to a deeply thoughtful wine obsessive (I certainly know one when I see one). These are Christina’s special wines in her own words.
“M……. 14 – Michel Grisard ‘Priez Saint Christophe’ (Domaine Prieuré Saint-Christophe)
The last vintage of iconic grower Michel Grisard, who preserved the Mondeuse grape variety and put it firmly back on the map for fine wine. This is one of the most complex wines I’ve ever had, full of pepper yet soft as silk. He retired with a bang!
Les Granges Pâquenesses La Pierre Savagnin 2016
Loreline Laborde creates wines that bring a tear to my eye (of the good kind). They are invigorating and full of soul, and her Savagnin cuvées inspired me to plant Savagnin myself in the UK.
Domaine des Miroirs Ja-Nai 2016
Doug Wregg was so kind to share this with me. It is light as a feather; one of the gentlest wines I have ever tried. This little Jura domaine is simply magical — pure in both philosophy and in wine.
The Sadie Family Wines T’Voetpad 2016
It’s hard to express what Eben Sadie has done for our wine world; not only in terms of creating delicious wine, but also for safeguarding old vines, farming in a sensitive and planet-friendly manner, and planting for the future. This bottle captures all of his energy and effort.
Dard et Ribo Saint-Joseph Blanc Les Opateyres 2017
Meeting René-Jean Dard and François Ribo and profiling their domaine for LITTLEWINE was one of the highlights of my career. This duo creates some of the most energetic and vibrant wines of the Northern Rhône, and every time I drink them I beam from ear to ear.
Werlitsch Ex Vero II 2006
This sits firmly on my desert island list. I simply cannot put this wine into words except Dagueneau meets Raveneau and together they have a Styrian love child.
Finally, I must add that the many wines I have been fortunate to taste and drink made by Domaine Dujac, Rajat Parr (in particular Phelan Farm, his new venture) and Abe Schoener (Scholium Project and Los Angeles River Wine Co) have all moved me immeasurably. Drinking, learning and speaking about wines made by friends and mentors enables a deeper understanding of not just wine, but also people — how we think and how we see the world. Great wine sparks and solidifies great friendships.“
Thanks Christina, for finding time to meet up and chat with me, and thank you for sharing some of the wines which have had the greatest impact on you. Like you, I believe a great bottle of wine can change the way we think about so many things, and can have a genuine effect on the way we feel at the time. Great wine can have lasting impact, and even improve our lives on a certain level.