Grand Cru

Altenberg de Bergbieten


Long ago, Roman and silver coins were found on this land but its major wealth is from the radiant wines it produced long ago which were served to Merovingian kings and the German emperor!

  • Soil type Marl-limestone-gypsum
  • Surface area in hectares 29,07
  • Exposure South, South-East
  • Village BERGBIETEN
  • Altitude between 210 and 265 metres
  • Grape varieties (in % per variety)
    • Riesling 75%
    • Gewurztraminer 19%
    • Pinot Gris 3%
    • Muscat 3%
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Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbieten

The wines

Altenberg de Bergbieten wines don’t choose between their finesse and fervour, perfectly expressing both intensity and elegance. They easily unravel their cru-specific saline character taste after two years Wine-growers produce some great dry Riesling on this gypsum terroir.

The terroir-tie

Wine specificities

Altenberg de Bergbieten wines have bold and impressive acidity which produces a sinuous touch, discernible on the upper-mouth membranes. Generous and sincere, these wines are based on an elegant structure and very succulent balance. Its long-lasting aftertaste is remarkable and these wines can be identified by their wonderfully pleasant quality, long lingering aromas and tannic finish.
Riesling wines are particularly saline and Gewurztraminer wines have ripe fruitiness when young which evolves towards a more floral pallet with age, but always keeping a wonderful acid structure.

These grape-filled parcels ally generosity to intensity

Its remarkable body coats a decisive acidity which provides character to this wine. The mouthfeel solidly evolves to finely reveal a smoky and typical minerality of the Altenberg de Bergbieten gypsum.
Riesling develops its potential with charisma and elegance, Muscat is fresh marked with intense salinity and Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer have a dense body concentration giving tasters a generous but light taste.

Romain ILTIS
Best Sommelier of France, 2012 and Meilleur Ouvrier de France, 2015 (in the Sommelier category)

Choose and serve

Vintage years

  • 2011: Very beautiful vintage year, wonderfully but not excessively ripe grapes.
  • 2010: Late-ripening vintage years, wines coloured by noble rot, very fresh, beautiful evolution in progress.
  • 2009: Early-ripening and warm vintage year, very intense. Rieslings are dry and nervous, Gewurztraminer sweeter with a surprising freshness. A misty late fall allowed for the production of very beautiful Vendanges Tardives.
  • 2008 : Very standard, rather late vintage year. Riesling wines are dry and explosive, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer are much sweet but very light.
  • 2007 : Early-ripening year if we only consider the high sugar content. But to reach an aromatic maturity the harvests were delayed. Riesling wines are flavoured (but still dry in Altenberg de Bergbieten). The late fall produced some magnificent Vendanges Tardives and Sélections de Grains Nobles.
  • 2006: Difficult year as the September rainfall brought on an early installation of botrytis.
  • 2005: Exceptional vintage year with perfect balances for both the dry Riesling and the semi-dry Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. A humid late fall but no rain which helped produce very beautiful Vendanges Tardives or Sélections de Grains Nobles. Lots of minerality.
  • 2004 : Late-ripening vintage year, very subtle wines which are best drunk as of now.
  • 2003 : Everybody remembers the heat wave, but Altenberg was able to produce surprising balanced wines, not too flat with astonishing freshness.
  • 2002: Fairly late-ripening vintage year with standard wines. The Vendanges Tardives harvested before November are a great success.
  • 2001: Very interesting vintage year, standard ripening and harvest date with mostly the same balances. But the ageing of these wines is surprising, with the pronounced identity and character of Altenberg.

It is recommended to keep this cru for four to six years, which can be reduced to two or three years for Muscat. This waiting time allows the body to become refined and for the cru minerality to blend with the whole.
During early-ripening vintage years: smooth and generous, the wine substance unfolds an erotic spirit and succulent character. The minerality evokes warm, ash-coated rocks.
During late-ripening vintage years: a saline sensation reminiscent of pebbles and flint complete the aromatic range. The acidity is more distinct but the wine is also smoother allowing it to find a new balance.

Romain ILTIS
Best Sommelier of France, 2012 and Meilleur Ouvrier de France, 2015 (in the Sommelier category)

Wine and food pairing

Dry Riesling perfectly matches traditional Alsace dishes such as sauerkraut, meat or fish, Coq au Riesling, seawater and river fishes … regardless whether they are grilled or cooked in sauce.

To move outside the classic circles, why not pair it with some goat cheese or old Parmesan.

Gewurztraminer elegantly and famously accompanies sweet and sour dishes from Asia (caramel pork, duck à l’orange), or from the West Indies (chicken slices with mangos and coconut milk). It also goes great with spicy dishes like cardamom-marinated salmon fillet.

Vendanges Tardives and Sélections de Grains Nobles are ideal at aperitifs or with foie gras but also perfectly match with fruit, caramel or vanilla desserts.
Most of all, remember that all Altenberg wines are lovely to just drink alone, with friends or savvy connoisseurs (or not!) of great terroir wines.

With this Grand Cru, the minerality, which is present but not overwhelming, procures a light sensation enabling it to pair with many dish-types. It pairs well with firm, notably grilled, meaty seawater fish (monkfish, sea bass), but is also worth trying with offal such as sweetbreads or kidneys. Seasoned preparations with soya condiments could surprise and charm the most daring among us!

Romain ILTIS
Best Sommelier of France, 2012 and Meilleur Ouvrier de France, 2015 (in the Sommelier category)


Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbieten

The terroir

The nature

The original composition of this terroir is made from old seamount which makes Altenberg a remarkable wine-growing area. The gypsum enhances wine finesse, also benefiting from the marly elements which influence its intensity and structure. It sits within an open landscape boasting optimum sunshine and encouraging homogeneous berry-ripening.


In the heart of a large natural amphitheatre in the northern part of the Alsace wine-growing area, the Grand Cru is situated in the municipality of Bergbieten, in the heart of the 19 municipalities which form the Couronne d’Or. The terroir is delimited by the sandstone Vosges mountain range to the north, and the Scharrach hill to the east which isolates it from the Alsace plain. Upon its gentle slopes the Donon peaks can be seen from the Mutzig boulder to the west, and the Scharrach to the east. Only the upper parcels are classified as Grand Cru, with the hill reaching 265 metres.


The Grand Cru is composed of very clayey, gypsum-like brown calcareous soils. Towards the peak, which rises up to 265m, the presence of limestone pebbles and dolomite becomes more widespread. Dolomite enriches the soil with magnesium, encouraging a balanced nutrition of the vines. The abundant reddish, green or grey variegated marl creates hydromorphic-like vertisols during the spring.
Throughout the summer, storm water flows down the steep slope then the ground becomes dry in late fall which stimulates ideal grape ripening. Shrinkage cracks which appear during the summer allow the vine roots to dig deep into the soil.


The Altenberg hill is ideally exposed south/south-east, protecting it from north winds. To the west, the Vosges form a protective screen against the ocean rain. So, along with its open landscape in the heart of a large crater, it bathes in optimum sunlight all day long. The solar rays lead the grapes to physiological maturity in a homogeneous fashion on the parcel.

Grape varieties

Riesling and Gewurztraminer are the kings in Altenberg de Bergbieten and represent nearly 95% of the farmed surface area.
The two other grape varieties also occupy several parcels but their presence is marginal.

The people

For many reasons this Grand Cru is a meticulously-grown treasure. Like most of the municipalities of the Couronne d’Or, Bergbieten started developing thanks to the interest of Merovingian and Carolingian kings. Later on, it was religious congregations which managed Bergbieten before it was returned to the wine-growers during the Revolution. Since that time, they have strived to make Altenberg de Bergbieten a recognised cru in numerous countries helped by its proximity to Strasbourg and the Rhine. Today, agricultural practices target the ideal expression of this distinguished quality.

Heritage transmission

In Alsace, the lieux-dits called «Altenberg», literally «old mountain» are historically those which have always been farmed as vineyards.
Bergbieten is cited in archives as of the 11th century. It belonged to successive religious congregations and to the bishopric of Strasbourg, before being returned to the wine-growers in 1789.
In the archives of Pope Leo IX, Traenheim wine-growers who were farming vineyards in Altenberg, delivered six KarrenWein to the Hesse monastery in Lorraine in the year 1050.
According to a citation by Perrin, the Marmoutier monastery had vineyards in Bergbieten (Bottenheim) as of the 9th century.
Between the years 1138 and 1141, the Probst Buchard von Haslach, later the bishop (from 1141 to 1162), made a donation of 6 «Aecker vineti sis» to Bergbieten.<200/>In 1499, according to income registers from the Strasbourg cathedral chapter fund owning a Dinghoff in Bergbieten, the vines are cited in the lieu-dit of Altenberg.

Throughout the centuries the reputation of the Bergbieten vineyards expanded and was confirmed beyond the Alsace borders. During the inauguration of the Mutzig military camp in 1894, Emperor William II, upon tasting an Altenberg Riesling, was curious to know where it was produced. The vineyard-owner Ellensohn pointed over to the vineyard, upon which the emperor requested that these vines be respected and protected.

Depuis, le travail de la terre a réservé quelques heureuses surprises. On March 13, 1895, Emile Huber, a blacksmith was tilling the soil of these vine acres where he hit something hard. It was 2 terra cotta vases containing priceless treasure: 7000 silver coins dating back from the second half of the 13th century with, on their back side, pictures of a church, an angel, a lamb and an eagle. This extraordinary collection of silver pfennigs, with an unknown origin, was bought by the German museums. It is presently exhibited in Berlin.

Some years later, an Altenberg wine-grower also found an urn containing some Caesar-impressed Roman coins.

But the true treasure of the Couronne d’Or isn’t buried 10 feet underground! It’s the land itself which has proved to be a veritable gem, rewarded in 1983 and classed with the appellation of Alsace Grand Cru.

Beloved vineyards and land

Being fully-aware of their exceptional terroir, Altenberg wine-growers and makers have chosen respectful and sustainable farming practices:

  • Only ridge-weeding is allowed.
  • Pre-emergent products are forbidden.
  • Using spray against botrytis is excluded.
  • Managed fertilising, limited to 30 units per hectare and per year.

Vineyards are only apt to producing wines for the Grand Cru appellation after the seventh leaf, the time estimated by producers for the roots to reach the gypsum.
Altenberg wine-growers actually collectively agreed to limit the residual sugar rate of Rieslings to 9 g/l. Signed in 2001, this local charter clearly aims to protect the Altenberg de Bergbieten Riesling typicity by presenting it as a great dry wine.