Dahlenheim, an exceptional wine-producing heritage

The Pfister family has been growing vines on the terroirs of Dahlenheim, a French commune situated 20km west of Strasbourg, since 1780.

The sun is said to rise in Dahlenheim and remain hanging in the sky until sunset. This belief is rooted in the orientation of the vineyard, which occupies the southern slope of the Scharrachberg hill. Protected from strong winds and torrential rain by the hill, the village enjoys a rather remarkable level of sunshine. The long-established wine-growing tradition is therefore hardly surprising. First written evidence thereof dates back to 884. At that time, Dahlenheim belonged to the Abbaye Saint-Michel de Honau which rented the steep wine-growing land of Scharrach to local serfs, including Engelberg (or Angels' hill), a named-place that was classified as a Grand Cru in 1985.

Medieval splendour

In the early 12th century, the Grand Chapter of Strasbourg gained control of the Abbaye de Honau and its properties. These great dignitaries used the land and its residents as a means of guaranteeing loans contracted with rich families. In the end, half the village and vineyard area had been signed over (mortgaged) to the De Fénétrange family which occupied other functions on behalf of the bishopric.

Dahlenheim therefore served, first and foremost, as a veritable wine-cellar for Strasbourg's ecclesiastic institutions: the Prince-Bishop of Strasbourg as well as the Abbaye Saint-Etienne (1364) received tithes of wine, while the Abbaye of Neubourg (1177), Chapter of St Thomas in Strasbourg (1229) and the Chapter of St Peter the Younger (1303) owned vines there.haut_en.gif

The quality of Dahlenheim wines

Religious institutions required significant quantities of wine for religious ceremonies,dahlenheim4.jpg but also for day-to-day use. It is highly likely that the significant interest in properties in Dahlenheim stems from the excellent quality of wines produced.
As devout pilgrims, monks travelled continually and brought back new vine varieties to Dahlenheim. For the first time in the history of Alsatian vineyards, vines began producing noble wine, vinum nobile. Thus, in 1255 it is recorded that the Abbaye de Honau owned a cellar, the "Moenchhof" (Monks' Yard) to which two knights were required to deliver noble wines, nobilis vini.

A little later, in the 16th century, there are several references to the terroirs in a series of fiscal documents. A statement of tax due dating from 1534 indicates, in addition to Engelberg, the existence of vineyards in Silberberg, a named-place that is currently being classified.

This section can be rounded off with a series of statistics which demonstrate a downturn in the fortune of the vineyards after the period of wars:

  • 160 hectares in 1687

  • 150 hectares in 1893 : Dahlenheim was the 48th wine-growing commune in terms of area.

  • 141 hectares in 1898

  • 42 hectares in 1955

  • 121 hectares in 2006