Yarra Valley makes it into our wine of the week pages after a seven-year absence, and it's Giant Steps again – but this time, it's their Pinot Noir.
From $24, HK$199, €24.90, CA$32.99, AU$38, 200 Croatian kuna, 26.95 Swiss francs, NZ$44.99, £24.99, 1,710 Philippine pesos, SG$58.95, 1,400 New Taiwan dollars
In 2020, the huge and hugely wealthy American wine dynasty, Jackson Family Wines, bought the family-owned Giant Steps winery in Yarra Valley 'for an undisclosed sum'. Owner/founder Phil Sexton and winemaker Steve Flamsteed (pictured above) stayed on. The 30 ha (75 acres) of vineyards were included in the deal. Just a drop in the ocean for a company that owns 20,000 ha of vineyard in the US alone and wineries in six countries. This was not their first foray into Australia – they also own Yangarra Estate Vineyard and Hickinbotham.
I met Katie Jackson of Jackson Family Wines, their vice president of sustainability, at the Bordeaux Act For Change Symposium, where she was on my panel discussing innovation in the face of climate change. It's easy to be cynical about large companies, especially when it comes to sustainability, but my encounter with Katie Jackson convinced me that JFW are genuinely invested in using their vast resources and influence to make powerfully positive change in the wine estates they own and on a global scale (they are one of the founding members of International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA)). I was genuinely impressed by the commitments they've made in their Rooted For Good roadmap and their masterclass webinar series on Fostering a Sustainable Future for the Wine Industry, which our US executive editor Elaine Chukan Brown moderated.
It always worries me when small- or medium-sized family wine estates are bought by big companies who seem to be set on collecting brands. Drinks companies are usually more focused on profit than personality, or quality. But I get the sense that JFW genuinely cares, and the future of Giant Steps should be in good hands.
While Steve Flamsteed has now stepped back from his role as head winemaker (although he will continue to consult), and has been replaced by the much-awarded Melanie Chester (ex Sutton Grange), the wine that I am writing about was made under Flamsteed, during his last vintage at Giant Steps. The wine estate is well-known for its very good Pinots and Chardonnays, particularly the single-vineyard wines (see Julia's wine of the week in 2015). This particular wine is their 'entry-level' Pinot, and the grapes come from six of their vineyards: Sexton, Applejack, Primavera, Swallowfield, Wombat Creek and Tarraford. The grapes are hand-picked, chilled overnight at 12 °C (54 °F), cold-soaked for three days and then put into small open-top fermenters, divided by parcel, some being 100% destemmed and some 100% whole bunch. The wine undergoes spontaneous fermentation and then is aged in French oak, 10% new, for eight months. It's bottled without fining or filtering. Alcohol is 13.5%.
The wine is a succulent, shiny-plump, strawberry-ripe mouthful of juicy charm. It lights up in the mouth and the fruit floods every corner, bringing a squeeze of ripe orange, floral flavours and mace. Barely-there tannins and lifted, lilted acidity give it gentle structure. You could probably keep this a few more years, but I really don't see the point. It's just enchanting right now.
The wine is relatively easy to find. In the UK, the 2020 is available from Wine Delivered and T Wright Wine for £24.99, and VINVM are selling the 2021 (which should be every bit as good) for £23. It's also available in the US (NJ, GA, FL, PA, IN, WA, NY, CA, VA), Australia, France, Austria, Canada, Croatia, Switzerland, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore and Taiwan.
See all of our tasting notes on Giant Steps wines.
Photographs kindly provided by Giant Steps.