For Roland Muksch, an Austrian banker living in Hong Kong, Domäne Roland Chan is a dream come true.
He and wife, Sharon Chan, had been looking in vain to purchase a winery in Austria for around 10 years because of the highly regulated agricultural sector. In 2013, they bought a house in a tiny village with only 300 residents in the wine region of Wachau along the River Danube.
The family, including Muksch’s two children and his in-laws, mingled with neighbours and soon became part of the community. With the help of these neighbours, the family eventually acquired two tiny plots of vineyard in the nearby villages of Höll and Bach and was lucky to engage talented winemaker Christoph Donabaum to make their wine. I was even luckier to have tasted the first DRC vintage, 2018, at a dinner with members of The Hong Kong Wine Society.
One of the eight sub-regions of Niederösterreich (Lower Austria), Wachau is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with 1,350 hectares in 124 vineyard sites shared amongst 600 winegrowers, most of whom sell their grapes to the Wachau co-operative. The main grape variety is Austrian flagship white grape Grüner Veltliner (57%), followed by Riesling (17%).
In comparison, the total area of Muksch’s two vineyard plots is only 0.5 hectares. The Bach vineyard is planted with Riesling (65% of total planting), while the Höll site is a field blend of Grüner Veltliner (15%), Muskateller (10%) and black grape variety Zweigelt (10%). The vines are around 30 years old, planted on steep terraces with dry stone walls. While the co-operative makes some three million bottles of wine, Domäne Roland Chan’s first vintage was just 1,130 bottles and 325 magnums, made up of three wines.
My favourite wine is the refreshing Riesling Bach with its pleasant citrus and green apple aromas. The Grüner Veltliner Höll is full-bodied with ripe yellow fruits and an oily palate. The wine’s 14.7% alcohol content, resulting from the hot 2018 vintage, is noticeable, but the wine went well with our dish of ricotta and spinach ravioli with black truffle and caviar.
The third wine is an intriguing blend of Zweigelt, Muskateller, Grüner Veltliner and a touch of Riesling, hence the name To Hell and Back (Höll is “hell” and Bach is “back” in English). The wine has an attractive salmon hue thanks to the black grape Zweigelt and exotic aromas that remind me of the flavours of Thai and Vietnamese cuisines.
Austrian wine has good ageing potential, and Muksch knows this well. He only released 100 mixed cases of this vintage (1x Grüner Veltliner, 2x To Hell and Back, 3x Riesling) and keeps the rest as library stock. He is planning to increase his vineyard holding, so hopefully there will be more released next year.
The logo of Domäne Roland Chan is well thought out, with a strong family tie. It consists of five zodiac animals surrounding the family name “Chan” in Chinese. The three tigers are Muksch, his son, Oliver, and his father-in-law. The horse is his wife, Sharon, and the dragon is his daughter, Isabella. His father-in-law actually spends the most time in Wachau, works as hard as Muksch does to mend the dry stone walls and tends the vineyards.
I admire this family’s courage and commitment and wish them all the best!
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