Johann Donabaum works a relatively small five-hectare family-estate in the Spitzer Graben.
The Austrian press dubbed him a “Shooting Star” (that’s Austrian for Wunderkind) a couple years ago, and this recognition has recently been confirmed by top ratings from the Wine Spectator—both for his Riesling and for Grüner Veltliner.
Donabaum’s vineyards are spread out in steeply raked sites as well as among terraced vineyards—the cool character of this corner of the Wachau allows him to produce wines that show a pronounced softness and rounded expression, always balanced by fresh acidity.
The Smaragd-level wines are voluptuous as one might expect, but Johann displays a deft hand with Federspiel as well. The delicacy of his wines emphasizes the difference in the mineral character of his individual vineyard sites—he says that he wants for each of them to paint the picture of the place where it comes from.
Johann Donabaum’s Rieslings
The south-facing Setzberg is so stony and meager of soil that many growers are tempted not to look beyond Neuburger, a variety that needs so little moisture that, according to Josef Högl, “Sometimes the dew is enough.”
The terroir is composed of Kalksilikatgneiß, which is indeed as complex as it sounds—limestone with silicates and metamorphic rock, and the resulting wines are mineral-toned and very finely textured.
In contrast, the Offenberg is planted in silex, and the wines bring forth a lovely stone-fruit component and a gorgeous spicy vivacity.
The Johann GV
2005 marked the debut of Johann Donabaum’s eponymous Grüner Veltliner. Assembled from a cuvée of his single-vineyard Federspiel GVs, the Johann stands for all that we admire in the man’s wines: the perfect typicity of the grape variety exquisitely complemented with terroir.
The pricing is as striking as the modern look of the bottle: a first-class Federspiel wearing a Steinfeder pricetag.
A fine relationship of quality to price is back in fashion this year with the superb balance and expressive fruit of the 2007 vintage, coupled with a little breathing-room in the currency exchange.
The Spitzer Point Vineyard
In the Wachau, when a vineyard-name ends with the syllable “point”, it means that it lies at the bottom of a hill. From this we know that centuries of precipitation have washed rock and soil from uphill on to downhill, improving the soil and its minerality with fibers of the mountain’s primal stone.
Spitzer Point is situated where the Offenberg meets the Setzberg. Old vines up to 60 years of age produce a Grüner Veltliner that perfectly marries this deep minerality and elegance with power and complexity—this makes it, year after year, Johann Donabaum’s flagship Grüner Veltliner.