Winemaker Profile: Johann Donabaum, Weingut Johann Donabaum

A rising star of the Wachau

Johann’s background:

Despite his youth, Johann has been winemaker of the family estate for a number of years. He already commands a wealth of knowledge and feeling for wine and vine growing, and is not even close to his full potential. Donabaum graduated from the Krems School of Viticulture while still in his teens. Upon returning home, his father gave him the go ahead to take the helm and the young Johann decided to focus solely on producing quality. A seven-month apprenticeship with F X Pichler gained him a great deal of new ideas and insights into the practices of a great wine producer.

Wine before Johann:

During the 1960’s Johann’s father began focusing on the production of wine at the Donabaum estate, where previously Johann’s great-grandfather had split his time between agricultural farming and winemaking. At the same time as producing, bottling and marketing the wine, Johann’s father also opened the Donabaum Heurigen (wine tavern), which closed its doors in 1996 to allow the family to concentrate on the sales and marketing side of the business – although the Heruigen is still open seasonally.

Johann’s philosophy:

Johann believes wines should be mirrors, reflecting origin and terroir, and the meticulousness and signature of the vintner himself. Each vineyard gives birth to the quality of the wine, and only with careful cultivation is it possible to create wines of the highest standard.

For example, each of the three quality designations of the Wachau — “Steinfeder”, “Federspiel” and “Smaragd” — should reflect its own potential and unique characteristics. Despite the difference in price, Steinfeder and Federspiel are not inferior in quality to Smaragd, just different. Johann is particularly taken with Grüner Veltliner, because of its extraordinary versatility, and makes many different styles.

Johann’s vision:

Johann believes traditional knowledge, combined with a modern way of thinking, is the key to the highest quality wine. Some of his ideas for the near future include:

  • Return to vinification of Smaragd in big wooden barrels.
  • Use yeast stems originating from his own vineyards to increase the complexity and shelf life of the wines
  • Increase cultivation of the Neuburger grape, by diligence and selection, to showcase its amazing, inherent potential
  • Expand his base by further lease and purchase of vineyards
  • Increase exports from 15% to 30%
  • Make Donabaum’s Neuburger the ultimate representative of this powerful grape varietal 

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