Established in 1897, this family-run estate in the strategically positioned village of Malans, is now in its fifth generation, but the philosophy remains the same: to produce wines of outstanding quality that reflect the region’s terroir and respect the environment.
Located in the Bündner Herrschaft sub-zone of Graübunden, the estate draws its grapes from four and a half hectares of vineyard across five distinctive plots at Bovel, Halde, Frassa, Selvenen and Spiger. Each plot benefits from Malans’ unique location at the juncture of three valleys, enjoying its sun-trapping southern aspect and the warming effects of the Föhn wind. There are of course subtle variations in soil composition between parcels, as well as differences in elevation and gradient which lend themselves to the cultivation of specific grape varieties.
The Pinot varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir), together with the rare Swiss white grape Completer, dominate the Donatsch vineyards, and there is also a small amount of Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Martin (Donatsch) is the chief winemaker, assuming this role from his father Thomas - whose pioneering spirit and penchant for Burgundy tradition introduced a number of radical changes to the Graübunden (and subsequently Swiss) wine scene in the 1970s and 1980s. The planting of previously untried varieties - Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, the use of oak barrels to grow and age the wines and the pressing of sparkling wine according to the champagne method are all ‘Swiss firsts’ attributed to Thomas - a national ‘Icon of Wine’ recognised by Gault & Millau on a number of occasions. And whilst Thomas still plays a pivotal role as manager of the Domaine (alongside wife Heidi who runs the family tavern), son Martin continues to elucidate the name of this small winery on the world stage. His commitment to tradition and terroir, his incessant will and attention to detail, his constantly searching for new ways to refine processes and enrich offering, has led to his establishing a dedicated following and seen him twice crowned ‘Champion du Monde des Producteurs de Pinot Noir’.
Domaine Donatsch is a boutique winery producing around thirty-thousand bottles annually. Three- quarters of these are sold to high end restaurants in Switzerland and neighbouring Germany, and the wines are also available direct to the public from the family’s Winzerstube zum Ochsen - where tastings and tours of the winery can also be purchased. Flagship varieties Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are offered at three levels branded ‘Tradition’, ‘Passion’ and ‘Unique’ - broadly equivalent to the French Villages, Premier Cru and Grand Cru classifications. The 2013 vintage Pinot Noir Unique - produced from the carefully selected, hand-harvested grapes of Selvenen and aged in new French oak barrels - is a particularly celebrated example which was named in Decanter magazine’s ‘top ten Pinots outside of Burgundy’. Other varietals include Pinot Blanc (Weißburgunder), Pinot Gris and the acclaimed Completer which is fermented in old oak and aged on its lees to preserve its minerality. The estate also produces a rich, aromatic red blend (Pinot Noir / Merlot), as well as dessert and sparkling wines.
Undoubtedly amongst the country’s most distinguished wineries, Domaine Donatsch with its uber-attentive vine to wine philosophy, looks set to further enhance its reputation in the coming years. The winemaker believes that the potential of the Bündner Herrschaft has been far from exhausted, which makes for an exciting future for the wines of this region.