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Swiss Wine-growing Culture in Bündner Herrschaft and Heidiland

Articles written by, Gian Carlo Casparis, Wine Tours Switzerland –

with the kind support of Heidiland Tourism AG –

The holiday region of Heidiland is still one of the wine industry’s best kept secrets, home to the Pinot Noir World Champion Martin Donatsch from Malans, and the oldest still operating winery in Europe, Schloss Salenegg from Maienfeld. Also the homeland of the fairytale story about the little girl Heidi. Heidiland offers many small, innovative and friendly businesses that are repeatedly awarded on both a national and international level.

The holiday region of Heidiland and Bündner Herrschaft is one hour east of Zurich and offers ideal conditions for growing grapes due to the favorable climate and terroir. The largest contiguous vineyard area in the region is located in the Grisons. But even in the neighboring areas of the Rhine valley and Walensee you can find big wines produced with passion.

The Bündner Herrschaft: Boutique vineries with a long history

Still fairly unknown internationally, the Grisons is the best-known wine region for great Pinot Noir in Switzerland.  At only 349 hectares, more then 70 winemakers produce their wine. Most of them produce wine from 4.5 hectares in their own Torkel (wine cellar).

The premium wines grow at the southern slopes of the region along the river Rhine surrounded by the Alps – a must see for wine lovers.

Pinot Noir grows particularly well here on the calcareous soils. This territory is favored due to the southern wind called “Föhn,” which helps the maturing process. In fall 2010 and 2011 the region came to exceptional fame by young winemaker Martin Donatsch. Donatsch, from the winery Donatsch in Malans, was awarded as Pinot Noir World Champion for his Pinot Noir called “Passion.”  Donatsch is not the only winemaker who produces excellent wine in the Grisons.  National and international gold medals have been given to many of the regions enthusiastic producers. Each year more and more wine fans learn about the area.  Wine travellers have already spotted the Bündner Herrschaft to catch some of the rare bottles of grand wines. Most of the wines are not sold in stores, but only at the winery itself.

The Grisons’ Rhine Valley has a long tradition of winemaking. The Salenegg Castle in Maienfeld is the oldest operating wine estate in Europe. As early as 1068 “Herrschäftler” wines were grown and pressed in balance with nature in the Grisons’ Rhine Valley. Unlike today, where the red wines have enthusiasts’ attention, it all started with white wine. The so-called “Completer” was served after the monastic evening prayer. Red wine has only been in Bündner Herrschaft since Pinot Noir from France found its way here. Today, more than 40 varieties are grown here in exceptional quality. Other popular varieties to this area include: Riesling – Silvaner, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Merlot and Shiraz. In the past, even the medieval and very demanding “Completer” has been found grown on a few vineyards here.

You can meet many of the winemakers in one of the many Torkels or during a walk through the hand-maintained vineyards. You can explore the wine cellars during fun and professional specialized tours with Wine Tours Switzerland.

Our winemakers: unique as their wines

As varied and diverse as the individual grape varieties such are the winemakers who day after day are devoted to the welfare of their plants, their grapes and the valuable grape juice. Many authentic stories are written here.  While exploring the local wineries you can find out how a former flight attendant put their suitcases in the corner and became a winemaker or how the silent star is actually not their great wine, but more than 20 different delicate vinegars.  Old family traditions are combined with the innovation of the younger generation who are taking risks to achieve high-quality iconic wines. You’ll see century-old store cellars filled with French oak barrels designed of star architects and find other great personalities in photography, racing cars, calligraphy and literature.

Some of the winemakers to discover:

The winemaker with a passion for architecture

At the winery Hansruedi Adank you’ll find both fine wines and architectural beauty. The Weingut family has owned and operated Adank since 1984. Adank is a modern vineyard located in the tranquil village of Fläsch, which received the Wakker Award 2010 for innovative village planning. Designed by architect Kurt Hauenstein, the modern parts of the building perfectuly blend with the thick century old walls of the main building. The building has had the attention of various architecture connoisseurs (for example Andreas Gottlieb Hempel in his book “Architecture & Wine”). Hans Ruedi Adank seems to have success with the wine production and the architecture of his cellar. He and his family are proud to make a wine that is stamped by its location, unlike any other, due to its independence and character.



Winery Davaz from Fläsch (

The visionary winemaker

12 hectares of vines have been well kept since being planted in 1972 at the Davaz Winery on the sloped hills of Fläsch facing the magnificent mountain scenery. Magnificent wines have been bottled at the winery since 1974. In the middle of the vineyard you can find by Andrea Davaz’s lush property in a modern Burgundy style. While his brother John leads a winery in Tuscany, the vineyards in the Grisons are a heritage of their family. After a delay from a fire at the construction site at the beginning of June 2012, the vineyard’s new tasting and event room, herbal tasting garden, baroque cellar and various other projects are open and ready to experience. Fortunately, Davaz’s prized red and white wines were spared in the fire. Last year’s poor weather during the bloom season in the region reduced their harvest to 1/2 of normal, but the quality of the wine produced was excellent.



The Pinot Noir World Champion 2010 and 2011

With its Pinot Noir “Passion” the five-generation Donatsch winery won the title of the “Champion du monde des producteurs de Pinot Noir” two years in a row for their Pinot Noir “Passion”. Furthermore, he is an ambassador for the rare, autochthonous white variety Completer which has been grown for 700 years in the Bündner Herrschaft. The fair wine Completer was formerly served in the Diocese of Chur after the evening prayers (end of the meal = lat. completarium ), but due to its high acidity it was nearly eliminated from most homes.  Donatsch helped to awaken the ancient variety from its slumber. With a late harvest between the end of October to the beginning of November this mineralic wine, gets some residual sugar which gives the high acidity an elegant and enormously complex finish. There is no surprise that in 2013 the Gault Millau chose Donatsch’s winery as one of the top 100 wineries in Switzerland. Nevertheless, the young winemaker Martin Donatsch stands firm and works hard in the vineyard. He vinifies his own wines and personally shows guests his impressive wine cellar. The variety of his duties and tasks give him the passion for this amazing profession.



The pioneer in the oldest wine estate in Europe

The Salenegg Castle in Maienfeld is one of the largest wineries in the Bündner Herrschaft and Heidiland with 11.5 hectares. Weingut Schloss Salenegg is the oldest still existing winery in Europe. Since 1068 wines have been grown and vinified here. The site was founded by the Prior of the Monastery of Pfäfers in 950. For more then 500 years the castle is now run by the family von Gugelberg von Moos. Helene von Gugelberg now manages this amazing castle and its vineyard. She brings innovation into these medieval walls. Since 1652 there has been no changes made to the architecture, until 2011 when Helene invested several million dollars and extended the cellar and brought the production technology to the 21st century. With the production of more then 20 different delicate vinegars – considered more than unusual for wine makers – she showed more of her spirit for innovation. One fact is clear: there are as many stories to tell as these walls have withstood years.


The successful winemaking couple

Christian and Francisa Obrecht, operators of the Obrecht winery, met during their studies in oenology and biotechnology. Since 2006 the couple has run the Obrecht winery. They follow their passion with lots of success, as it turns out: the Gault Millau jury selected Francisca and Christian Obrecht into the select circle of the 100 best wineries of Switzerland in 2013. The Obrecht winery is full of southern charm.  The couple embraces the heritage and history of the winery, as it was one of the first wineries to make, bottle and sell wine in Graubünden. The winery is known for its Pinot Noirs with 35 to 50 year old Pinot Noir vines. Also in 2013 their Pinot Noir Sparkling Wine won a gold award at the International Wine Awards Mondial des Pinots in Sierre. While Francisca is Vice President of the wine industry association of Graubünden, Christian spends his free time as a passionate photographer.


Viticultures Rosi and Peter Hermann (

Two sympathetic globetrotters

For years, Peter Hermann traveled through the world and developed the peace for his current profession as a winemaker. Some time after his return he found his wife Rosi in the region – she fell in love with the widely traveled man and the couple settled in Graubünden for good. The friendly family still enjoys traveling often. They followed her son Roman, who worked as a winemaker all over the world. Step-by-step he is now taking over the leadership of the winery. Wine was first pressed in their Torkel in 1982.

Since then, production has increased incredibly and the original old barn has been replaced with a modern processing construction.  A walk through the 6.5 hectares comprised mostly of Pinot Noir vines and a visit of their hide-away Fläscherbad (which was used in medieval times as a bathhouse) is highly recommended.


Winery and Distillery Kunz Maienfeld

The poet

Carina Lipp-Kunz and her husband Reto run the winery and distillery in Maienfeld. The young mother is devoted to viticulture. Reto leads the distillery, with varieties of distillates produced ranging from carrot liquor to noble Grappina. Carina complements their wines with a very special note: she marks each bottle with a personal aphorism. The sayings usually come to her while she is working in the vineyard. Each wine label is printed in Carina’s handwriting. The very special “Intuiva – line“ is actually labeled by hand by the young winemaker. The cellar and distillery are a place of peace and pure inspiration for the couple and for all visitors.



Scadenagut Malans (

A tasteful symbiosis of old and new

Here you have a mix of new and old: Tradition and modernity – tasteful in every way.

On the ground floor of the castle Bothmar, one of the most impressive and historic buildings in the idyllic wine-growing village Malans, the winemaker Peter Wegelin used to create his wines until 2003.  At the well-preserved “Schlosstorkel” visitors still can admire the ancient wooden wine press during guided tours.

Today Peter Wegelin and his team vinify their wine directly in the vineyard in the pavilion-like modern building. The grapes are processed in the bright basement; the wine matures in the elegant barrique cellar and is tasted in the bright tasting room with an amazing view over the Rhine valley and the surrounding Alps. A small detail: Even Wegelin’s small dog fits exactly to the colors of tasteful interiors of the modern tasting room. Whether intended or not: whatever we found here is just right.



Winery in the Polish Fläsch (

All in one place

At the Marugg family winery in Polish you can find everything in one place. Step into one of their various vineyards located on the edge of the historical village of Fläsch. The Marugg Winery is home to the oldest Fläscher Torkel, dating back to 1691 and offers a glimpse into the work of their ancestors who operated in viticulture and agriculture. The room is no longer used for pressing grapes; rather now it is used for hosting events, wine tastings and meals. In the new wine cellar you can watch owner Christian Marugg and his son Jürg produce wine with the most modern technology and old proven processes. Among other wine awards, the Marugg Pinot Noir Barrique 2010 has received several acclamations at two different tastings including second best Swiss Pinot Noir and the Marugg’s Vintage 2006 received a silver medal.


Weinbaugenossenschaft Mels (

55 wine producers – 1 winemaker

Established in 1938, the Weinbaugenossenschaft Mels consists of 55 passionate freelance winemakers. With 10 farming hectares of vineyards, the plots are most often for generations in the family. Eight of those hectares are planted with Pinot Noir grapes, and the rest a mix of specialties including Riesling-Sylvaner, Chardonnay, Regent and Gamaret. The vineyards are located on the slopey hills between Holy Cross and the foot of Sargans Gonzen and are protected by the slopes of Nidbergs. One winemaker – Anton Bardellini – ensures that from these individual products a great wine is produced. Bardellini knows how to adapt to the rhythm of nature. The wines made here are excellent. Bardellini received a gold award for his Pinot Noir Barrique in 2013 at the Grand Prix du Vin Suisse. No surprise that the wines served at wedding receptions taking place in the same building are mostly his.


Articles written by, Gian Carlo Casparis, Wine Tours Switzerland –

with the kind support of Heidiland Tourism AG –


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