Characteristics of Klevener de Heiligenstein
A well-made Klevener de Heiligenstein--Traminer--tastes as though someone took the wind out of the sails of a Gewurztraminer. Almost everything about the grape is more modest than Gewurz, which should not be surprising, since Gewurz means 'spiced.' Traminer is similarly, if not quite so brazenly, full-bodied. Its aroma often reminds me of cloves or allspice, but in a much more delicate fashion, and I have occasionally caught a very appealing wiff of isinglass (those zippered windows on a Jeep, not the fish bladder). It's yellow fruit flavors are quite satisfying and even exotic, but the first few times I had a Traminer, I found it lacking, but that is because I know that Gewurztraminer lurks behind it.
Traminer--the Klevener of Heiligenstein--has recently been proven to be indentical to the Savagnin grape. The white-berried Savagnin is best known in the Jura region--which is just south of Alsace--as the grape responsible for the famous, peculiar, and somewhat sherry-like Vin Jaune. French ampelographer (a botanist who is concerned with identifying and classifying grape vines) Pierre Galet maintains that Traminer is a pink-berried mutation of Savagnin that he calls Savagnin Rosé. It is difficult to know when the mutation occurred, and therefore hard to determine where it occurred. Most theories hold that Savagnin Rosé did the travelling, not only to Alsace, but Germany and other points east.
Klevener de Heiligenstein does have a significant role in wine grape history, if not necessarily as "Klevener", but as Traminer. If Savagnin mutated into Savagnin Rosé--Traminer--then it was a secondary mutation that brought us Gewurztraminer, as Gewurz is widely considered to be the musqué, or highly aromatic, version of Traminer.
By Any Other Name
In addition to Savagnin Rosé, Traminer, and Klevener de Heiligenstein, this variety also known as Roter Traminer. Klevener de Heiligenstein is not a village appellation in the strictest sense, as the following five different villages are allowed to bottle wine as "Klevener de Heiligenstein": Barr, Gertwiller, Goxwiller, Heiligenstein, and Obernai. And finally, Klevener de Heiligenstein should not be confused with Klevner (or Clevner), which is a common moniker for Pinot Blanc or a Pinot Blanc-based blend.
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