Reviewed: 17 September 2012
Giants Steps have been taking, well, giant steps in their pursuit of making wines that reflect the place in which the grapes are grown. With access to several excellent vineyards in the Yarra Valley, Steve Flamsteed has produced a superb range of wines that speak of the place where they were grown.
The current release of chardonnays and pinot noirs are from the 2011 vintage. This was a very cold and wet vintage that presented numerous challenges in the vineyard and winery. Properly managed, it is clear that the vintage has produced some excellent wines, albeit in a finer, more elegant style to the 2010s. I expect that in the longer term, the 2011’s from Giant Steps will be fantastic.
The Chardonnays saw 20% new oak, plenty of lees stirring and, in 2011, had only partial malo-lactic fermentation.They are lean and elegant. The pinots are feminine, subtle and supple. They are light bodied now, but experience has shown that with 5 – 10 years in the bottle, these will flesh out and build depth. Quantities of all wines are very limited, so I suggest trying your favourite bottle shop soon.
N.B. This was not a blind tasting, so as usual, my points are for indication purposes only.
Giant Steps – Viognier – Mule – 2011 (17). Apricot and citrus aromas with hints of honey. The palate balances gentle viscosity and texture with fresh acidity that imbues the finish with real drive. Good length of flavour in a leaner style that works really well. Picked earlier to retain crispness, this is a good alternative to sauvignon blanc.
Giant Steps – Chardonnay – Sexton Vineyard – 2011 (17.8). Really creamy and fine, with cashew nut complexity and a lovely mineral core. Hints of lanolin over elegant melon fruit. Stone-fruit on the finish combines with texturing oak and fine acidity to confer excellent length. An elegant wine that will take a few years in the cellar.
Giant Steps – Chardonnay – Tarraford Vineyard – 2011 (18.2). Perhaps the most complete of the three 2011 chardonnays. On the nose there is nutty minerality, whilst the fruit on the palate has real thrust and drive. The balance and length are highlights. The fine minerality is a key component to the finish while the oak and lees characters are a mere whisper on the finish. An excellent wine of real class, this will be even better in 3 – 5 years.
Giant Steps – Chardonnay – Arthurs Creek Vineyard – 2011 (17.5). Slightly richer fruit on the nose. Again, there is lovely creamy notes over delicate fruit aromas. The palate is more forward with strong minerality over subtle fruit. The winemaking influences are less obvious, making this better drinking today. The length is a standout. This should age well also.
Giant Steps – Sangiovese – Mule – 2010 (17). Fresh and vibrant fruit. Has authentic characters, but a degree of fleshiness courtesy its new world origins. Good length and juicy fruit make this a good drink now.
Giant Steps – Pinot Noir – Sexton Vineyard – 2011 (17.8+). Light strawberry hue reflecting the vintage conditions. With cherry and subtle strawberry and spice aromas, this is quite perfumed and evolves in the glass. The palate is firm and austere right now, but the fruit and tannins have an attractive degree of ripeness. An elegant, feminine wine that finishes with tarry complexity. The structure, mouth-feel and length are excellent and the finish is slightly chewy. This really needs a year or two to settle down and open up.
Giant Steps – Pinot Noir – Gladysdale Vineyard – 2011 (18). If anything, even lighter than the Sexton. Complex, pepper and spice, with precise textural components. Elegant fruit on the palate leads on to a textured finish. This really is very long and fine. Subtle and supple, this is very feminine, but still has a degree of power to the fruit. Needs a few years to flesh out, but patience will be rewarded. Burgundian in style.
Giant Steps – Pinot Noir – Applejack – 2011 (18.5). Delicate colour here. More intensity to the fruit on the nose, with more overt cherry aromas on display. This is a lovely wine in the mouth! The texture and mouth-feel are superb. The fruit is remarkably intense on the finish for such a delicate wine and the length is notable. Evolves and builds with air, developing a chewy texture from ripe, though firm tannins and supple oak. Good now, but even better in 5 years.
Giant Steps – Pinot Noir – Applejack – 2010 (18). Wow, the increased fruit intensity and density comes as a shock after the refined and elegant 2011. Spice and smoky notes on the nose over dense red fruits. Much richer in the mouth than the 2010, with firmer tannins on the chewy, textured finish. Good length, but lacks the ultimate balance of the 2011.
Giant Steps – Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot – Harry’s Monster – 2010 (18-18.5). With all the hype about pinot, it is easy to forget just how good Yarra Valley cabernet can be. The wine is closed, but hints at its potential. The fruit is ripe, taut, dense, very finely structured and superbly long. Textured, this has fine tannins and the quality oak has been expertly managed. Ripe tannins are a highlight. Will live for a long time.