True to the family tradition, Christoph Donabaum cultivates the steep terraces rising from the Spitzer Graben ravine. We accompanied him while harvesting Ried Offenberg, literally the Open Hill Vineyard.
Steep slopes, narrow terraces and shallow soils: why of all places grow grapes here? Where so much needs to be done by hand. Where you are already in a sweat once you have made it up – even before beginning to fill the heavy baskets with grapes. Christoph Donabaum fires back his answer: “Because this is our home. I couldn’t imagine making wine without the hill, it’s just so much a part of our craft,” the vintner from the town of Spitz tells us.
His estate lies in the ravine known as Spitzer Graben, on the western fringes of the Wachau region. Here the influence of the wooded highlands to the north is clearly felt: welcome to a #coolclimate. For Christoph Donabaum it’s the perfect spot for growing grapes that yield superior wines. “Rieslings especially depend on steep terraces. Excellent Smaragd wines result, yet with not too much alcohol.”
Josef and Herta Donabaum are proud that their son has taken over the estate. “If you are a role model for the positive sides of the profession, chances are the next generation will follow in your footsteps,” the two agree. After an internship in New Zealand and later employment with the Stadt Krems winery, Christoph Donabaum decided to devote himself full-time to the family estate. That was in 2020. But in reality his course had been clear for many years. “Already at age 10 I knew I wanted to be a vintner,” he confesses with a laugh.
Experience abroad proved valuable for the young man from Spitz. “In New Zealand I learned what a ‘family estate’ is: a farm covering 1,000 hectares and as big as the whole Wachau!” says Christoph, now 31. Though he prefers the scale of his family estate. The 4 hectares let him devote himself fully to bringing out quality. “I wouldn’t mind expanding a bit, but by one step at a time.”
At the moment, the harvest takes priority – a real challenge in 2022. Every single grape is selected and hand-picked. For the three members of the Donabaum family, this can mean up to an hour and a half for one row or Schwön (pronounced shven). Besides patience, this requires an equal portion of experience: only perfectly matured grapes must find their way into the harvesting baskets.
Christoph Donabaum knows he can rely on his family. “Together we will manage it,” they agree. The Donabaums have after all done a splendid job every year. “Once you have your cellar stocked with wines showing true character and depth, you forget how much you had to work to get there,” Christoph Donabaum testifies. Of one thing we are certain: the 2022 vintage will equally be a success.