A LITTLE HISTORY…
The origin of this grape variety remains mysterious and even today there are several versions. The French Revolution unfortunately removed many documents. Here are the main dates in its history:
Whatever its origin, the Traminer has been planted throughout Alsace since the beginning of the 18th century. In Heiligenstein, part of the “Au” hill was reserved for him and had a soil type ideal for growing Savagnin Rose. But these lands, belonging to the Bishopric of Strasbourg, were occupied by meager pastures at the disposal of Heiligenstein and the neighboring villages, which therefore had to be dislodged. It was not easy, and the proceedings, petitions, trials followed one after the other. It was finally Ehret Wantz, then bourgmestre of the village, who was able to convince the Echevins de Strasbourg in 1742, then assembled in Grand Council. They finally authorized the extension of the vineyard on part of the “Au”.
Given the high quality of the wine obtained, the Echevins granted in 1753 a new extension of the vineyard. But the text already stipulated that the tithe should henceforth be paid in Klevener de Heiligenstein and no longer in current wines: it was worth more than double! The neighboring municipalities, opposed to any further reduction in pasture, sent their herds to graze in the vineyards! It should be noted that at that time, and throughout Europe, we were witnessing this phenomenon of “privatization” of the commons, vain pastures and other Allmend. It was the victory of intensive farming over ancient practices which allowed everyone (and more particularly the modest and landless people) to graze their cow or their three goats on collective lands which the villagers shared.
In parallel with this movement, and throughout the Alsatian vineyard, the traminer was losing ground to its eternal competitor, the gewurztraminer, which gradually took its place almost everywhere in the vineyard. The wars and German occupations having made abandon this grape variety with low yield, the Klevener of Heiligenstein knew a significant decline at the beginning of the 20th century. This grape variety was on the verge of disappearing, since in 1970 only 3 ha of Klevener remained in production. Heiligenstein winemakers, aware of the threat and fortified by the past splendor of this production, asked the INAO for recognition. It was granted to them by the decree of June 30, 1971 supplementing the 1945 ordinance which defined the status of Alsace wines. But it was not until the decree of February 4, 1997 that the delimitation of the Alsace – Klevener de Heiligenstein AOC was finally approved.
THE GRAPE VARIETY
The Heiligenstein Klevener is a pink savagnin, close relative of the white savagnin of the Jura (known mainly for the production of yellow wine), and distant cousin of the Traminers and even of the gewurztraminer. Visually, nothing distinguishes the pink Savagnin grape from the gewurztraminer. Like him, he has a fairly small cluster, pink when ripe, fairly large berries with particularly thick skin. Being a very early grape variety, it is able to reach a very high degree of maturity in its favorite terroir. The berries, very sweet, resist rotting and lend themselves to long ripening at the end of the season.
Watch out for confusion!
Anyway, it is in no way identified with the pinots blancs labeled “klevner”, “clevener”, or “clevner”, even if, in the Middle Ages, this term designated in all three cases, a “wine of quality ”or“ better than the ordinary ”.
GEOGRAPHY – GEOLOGY
It is a place called “Au”, a hill that descends widening from the center of the village to the plain. The terroir thus delimited is exposed to the south or south-east. It covers 97 hectares, 38 of which are currently planted in pink Savagnin.
The Au is an ancient dry moor that was, until the middle of the 18th century, a common pasture disputed by several villages. It is a poor soil, siliceous on the surface, sown with pebbles of flint and sandstone, with a silty matrix which is perfectly suited to this grape variety. All from the glacial erosion of Mont Sainte-Odile in the Quaternary era. This soil is not too rich and dry enough, naturally limiting the yield of the grape variety.
The Heiligenstein Klevener is a very nice guest! It is very comfortable with fish in a creamy sauce, with white meats, terrines of meat or even a foie gras. It is also very comfortable with exotic cuisines (including Indian cuisine) and sweet-savory pairings or even a cheese platter!
Really, when it comes to gastronomy, this wine has conversation! He knows how to speak the different dishes around the table, he highlights them, but continues to express himself with ease.