The Donati estate is a family estate started in 1930 which is now run by the third generation of Donati – Camillo Donati, his wife and their children. They cultivate 11 ha of vines (7 of which they own as Tenuta S. Andrea and 4 which are leased at Tenuta Bottazza) using organic and biodynamic practices. They are about 20 km away from Parma in the hillside at an altitude of around 250m with an eastern exposition. There are a number of diverse strains of the Lambrusco grape family, but the main Lambrusco grape of the Parma zone is Lambrusco Maestri and it is planted on flat plains because of its characteristic resistance to humidity and mildew, and also for its relative abundant fruit. For this reason, the Donati do a severe pruning to produce low yields of better quality. All the grapes, including the white, are fermented like red wines (with skin contact), without temperature control, and use no other controls or enhancers at fermentation, no fining, no acidification or de-acidification, no selected yeasts, etc. These are natural petillant (lightly sparkling) wines deriving from the traditional method of refermentation in bottle, a method that does not require preservatives and which makes this wine, unlike those produced in charmat method, age better. The wines are not filtered and are topped with a crown cap (a traditional closure for some decades in this region). There may be resulting sediment and the bottles should be poured somewhat carefully without a lot of intense movement.
The Donatis make real (biodynamic) red wine that happens to be Lambrusco except that this is a traditional, unfiltered, bottled fermented Lambrusco that is quite dry and only gently sparkling. Slow food pilgrims who take their hunger, scrip and staff to Bologna and environs know that it’s possible to find interesting, well-balanced Lambrusco from artisanal producers and go-ahead co-operatives. We are talking frothy and refreshing wines that one can sip on the piazza or enjoy with a pizza. Little of the quality Lambrusco escapes Emilia-Romagna; this is a happy little warbler from the land of Verdi. It has a deep, brilliant crimson colour. It has soft brown-sugar and strawberry pulp aromas, with a little hint of briar. On the palate, it is frizzante, with quite a robust, serious, earthy chewy-cherry fruit and a quite intense plum-skin grip. Mouthfilling and well-textured, there is plenty of racy raspberry acidity and lovely balance. It pairs wonderfully with cooked salumi such as Mortadella di Bologna and the typical deep fried with a splash of lard bread puffs of Modena/Reggio Emilia/Parma, known as gnocco fritto (or torta fritta in Parma). Often served along with gnocco fritto are the small baked bread discs known as tigelle, that have a texture similar to piadina, the signature flatbread of Romagna, which is the area stretching from Bologna to Fellini’s hometown of Rimini on the Adriatic. Another Modenese specialty that works beautifully is borlengo, a super thin flatbread rubbed with cured lard, rosemary, pancetta and parmigiana.