Above all, make no mistake. To get to the cellar of the Hospices de Strasbourg, you have to go down a small staircase just before the entrance door to one of the many buildings of the public hospital and the faculty of medicine in the Alsatian capital. Otherwise, you end up in the admissions and outpatient department. This means that the cellar, which offers some 150 to 200 references for sale, including a hundred Alsatian wines, is perfectly integrated into this high place of health employing nearly 12,000 employees, including 3,000 doctors. And the history of this marriage is very old.
The origin of this cellar dates back to the end of the 14the century, 1395 exactly. At the time, the Strasbourg hospital was located near the cathedral, in the center of the city. He already owned vines, because only 10% of the people who were cared for there paid in money, the others honoring their debt in kind, either squares of land or plots of vines. This scenario is not unique to Alsace, since many hospitals in France have become landowners, thus owning vineyards. Like the Hospices de Beaunein Burgundy, whose auctions, every year in November, are a highlight in the country’s wine-growing traditions.
“During past centuries, wine was considered a therapy and, for the wealthiest patients, it could be up to 2 liters of wine per day per person. » Thibaut Baldinger, cellar manager
In Strasbourg, the numerous epidemics which, in the 14the century, decimated the population resulted in the relocation of the hospital, created in 1119, outside the city, on the other side of the Ill, which constituted a natural border ensuring better quarantine of contagious patients. A real city was born with forty-five buildings on more than 20 hectares.
The institution has consolidated its wine-growing heritage over the centuries. There is of course no question of producing wine there – the current hospital does not have either a press or a wine cellar, contenting itself with breeding. But the wines are stored in the large tuns which occupy the basement of the cellar. The hospital even buys bulk wine from other regions, which is then bottled after several months of ageing. A tradition that explains why at the Hospices de Strasbourg we find Saint-Estèphe, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and even Brouilly.
During the French Revolution, the hospices had to start reselling land. The wines, themselves, from the origin to the XXe century, were strictly reserved for staff and patients. “During past centuries, wine was considered a therapy and, for the wealthiest patients, it could be up to 2 liters of wine per day per person”, says Thibaut Baldinger, 33, cellar manager since 2014.
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The healthy wine-growing tradition of the Hospices de Strasbourg
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