Hidden in the holiday region of Bündner Herrschaft, just an hour east of Zurich, we find the fifth generation of winemakers, Martin Donatsch, gazing at the acres of his vineyards and thinking of the ways to achieve the production of his high-quality iconic wines. As a winner of 2010 and 2011 world champion Pinot Noir producer, this young man has already made his name, and the name of the region, well known thanks to his Pinot Noir “Passion.”
These awards crown not just Martin’s skillfulness and knowledge, gathered while doing a vocational training as a winemaker all over the world, including Australia, South Africa, Bordeaux and Spain, but also a family tradition that is over 100 years old, as it is only with joined effort, that they have managed to create something so savory that every avid wine drinker and collector will enjoy.
Thomas Donatsch, a pioneer among the Swiss winemakers and Martin’s father, started cultivating Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in 1983. He was also the first person in Switzerland who experimented with wooden barrels; he was given three La Tâche barrels, which he used to cultivate the first Spiger using the classical Burgundy method.
That the courage and a drive for innovations run through the veins of the Donatsch family is shown in the next undertaking that the youngest Donatsch member, Martin, has decided to do. He has his heart set bringing back the autochthonous white variety Completer from the oblivion that seems it has itself gotten into “thanks” to its high acidity and difficult cultivation.
This indigenous cultivar of Grisons region has been known and grown since 1321. First mentioned in the document from the Cathedral of Chur, the name completarium referred to the last evening prayer of the monks, who lived in the region. After the prayer, the monks would drink a white wine, which later became known as Completer.
But, Martin does not see Completer’s, or Malanserrebe’s as many know it, acidity as a problem. In fact, he thinks that this gives it the edge over some other wines, including chardonnay. The only problem he sees is in its harvesting. It should be done at the end of October, or the beginning of November, not prior, as then this mineralic wine will have that residual sugar, which will complement the Completer’s acidity perfectly. It will give it the richness and elegance that it deserves. However there can be snow already these days of the year in this region.
The complexity of Completer will come with time, as Martin sees it. This wine is the one that can age perfectly for decades. Hence why Martin has used 17 % of Donatsch estate, which boasts of 15 acres, for Completer only. Currently about 1,200 to 1,800 bottles are produced, but the idea is to increase this Completer production to 5,000 – 6,000 bottles per year.
Most of the wines are sold to high-end restaurants and hotels, as much as 75 % to be precise, whereas the other 20% are reserved for private clients. Just a handful of these are exported to Germany and Singapore. Yet, for the sake of all the wine lovers, we hope that this will increase in the future.
All those interested in trying the wine, can do so on a tour with Wine Tours Switzerland. Learn about the wines through unique stories about the estate and family. We felt in heaven with every drop of wine we had tasted!
Some of the wines we enjoy while staying at Domain Donatsch.
2010 Completer Malanserrebe Domain Donatsch
This outstanding wine, with a light gold and citrus and honey infused perfume, has that hazelnut and floral undertones that any wine lover will appreciate and enjoy this specialty.
2011 Completer Malanserrebe Domain Donatsch
Just the right amount of spice and hazelnut makes this rather floral honeyed wine a pleasure for all wine lovers. It tastes rich but with a finesse that a faint underlying exotic nuance brings. The flavors complete each other perfectly, leaving the taste of elegance and complexity for a great length on the palate. One of the truly extraordinary wines.
2011 Pinot Noir “Vintage” Domaine Donatsch
This sweep pinot noir, with a light-port quality, is a delight to drink, as the gorgeous perfume of cedar, spice, vanilla and cherry makes layers upon layers of great flavors. The sweetness is balanced with the fresh crispness which makes this wine well rounded. It is very pure and one of the best dessert wines we have ever had a pleasure of drinking. The finish is also quite impressive in length.
This visit is definitely a must for all wine lovers.