Giant Steps, Sexton Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 Yarra Valley


From AU$32.99, £20.95, HK$205, SG$45, $39.99 

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'High-class Chardonnay with high-class winemaking' is the conclusion to my tasting note on this lovely, single-vineyard wine. For good measure, I might have added 'top-notch vineyard'. Sexton Vineyard (pictured right and below) is on a steep, north-facing slope in the Warramate Ranges of Victoria's Yarra Valley, with thin gravelly loam topsoil over tough rocky clay so that yields are naturally low and ripeness achieved without overly high alcohol. This shows in the light-touch concentration, excellent balance of just-ripe citrus flavours, perhaps even a touch of clementine and the merest hint of jasmine, infused with fresh natural acidity. The vineyard is currently in conversion to biodynamic farming methods, with the aim of further highlighting the characteristics derived from this very special site.

When it comes to the winemaking, Steve Flamsteed and his team seem to have exercised experienced restraint. Hand-picked fruit is lightly pressed to oak puncheons (450 or 500 litres), the lees stirred only twice during the nine months the wine spends in barrel, and only 20% of the puncheons were new oak. The wine does not go through malolactic conversion (more commonly known as malolactic fermentation), retaining all that fine freshness. The winemaking style has preserved and extended the range of complex flavours but added nothing in excess, the perfect antidote for anyone tired of either overoaked or, more recently, seriously austere Australian Chardonnay: a whisper of smoky oak that combines effortlessly with a creamy texture. It also manages to do all this with barely more than 13% alcohol and a mouthwatering finish.

For more on the Yarra Valley, the quality of the 2015 harvest there and the threat of phylloxera, see Max Allen's Phylloxera creeps through Yarra, in which Flamsteed discusses the threat to some of the Giant Steps' and neighbouring vineyards – not to Sexton, fortunately, since the vines there are grafted onto rootstocks that protect them from this louse.

UK importers Liberty Wines list the following retailers and an RRP of £22.99: Noel Young Wines, Richard Granger Fine Wine Merchants, Taylors Fine Wines, Oz Wines, Hay Wines, Henderson Wines, Hailsham Cellars and Gwin Llyn Wines. In the US the wine is imported by Old Bridge Cellars in Napa, and is available from Betony, Post 390, Blanchards Liquors, Curtis Liquor Store, Cannatas Super Market, Mastro Group, Accidental Wine Co, Southern Hemisphere Wines, Best Wine Online, Southern Latitude Wines, Raley's Supermarket and Bourbon and Beef. It is widely available in Australia (Vintage Cellars, Dan Murphy's, Prince Wine Store) and can also be found in Hong Kong (Fine Wine Experience, Burgundy etc) and Singapore (Bottles and Bottles).


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