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.