Giant Steps Chardonnay 'Sexton Vineyard' Yarra Valley, Australia 2021

Giant Steps Chardonnay 'Sexton Vineyard' Yarra Valley, Australia 2021

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2021 Giant Steps Sexton Vineyard Chardonnay

The Wine Advocate RP 96

Reviewed by:
Erin Larkin
Release Price:
Drink Date:
2022 - 2032

This is made with fruit from the Sexton Vineyard, at 200 meters in altitude (80 meters higher than Tarraford). Within the vineyard, the clones are dominated by Gingin (brought over to Victoria by Phil Sexton), followed by Dijon clones, planted in the 1990s. The 2021 Sexton Vineyard Chardonnay is composed of 60% Gingin. Twenty percent of the parcels went through malolactic fermentation—clone 277 and some of the 96. This is salty as anything—a very good thing in my book—and the sheer intensity of flavor in the mouth is mouthwatering. Preserved lemon and grapefruit pith lace the edges of the mid-palate. Very smart—it has the Yarra precision of acid and streamlined phenolics, but it brings concentration of flavor and thrilling phenolics. Super smart wine.

Chief winemaker Steve Flamsteed (a.k.a. Flamo, to most) has been at Giant Steps for 19 years and counts the 2012, 2015 and 2017 vintages as particular highlights, however he notes that "2021 might be better than any of them." This likely speaks to a combination of increased vine age (all vineyards are now between 25 and 40 years old) and the "dream" vintage conditions. Flamo commented, "2021 had lovely flowering, a coolish Indian summer with perfectly timed rain events, 10 to 12 days apart. They gave the vines a dose of nitrogen and some irrigation, but there were no fungal issues. It was a dream year. Haven’t seen one quite like it. 2017 was slow and low, there was time to think—we had protracted ripening. 2021 was not quite as drawn out, but the headspace was there. The picking decisions were not compromised by weather, disease or sunburn—we picked when the fruit was ready."

So, to the wines. This was a very impressive release. The cooler year played slightly more into the hands of the Chardonnays than the Pinot Noirs, in my opinion, however the purity, delicacy and finesse of these wines as a group was never in doubt. The whites have achieved kaleidoscopic complexity and spice, all of it underpinned by gloriously tight acidity and very fine phenolic texture. The reds are spicy, fine-boned and driven by structure and form rather than overflowing fruit, yet the fruit is abundant (and restrained) in each of the cuvées. My favorite wines were the Sexton Vineyard Chardonnay, for its mouthwatering intensity and caper-brine quality, and a very tough split between the Applejack and Primavera Vineyard Pinot Noirs. This is a brilliant collection overall, which most importantly shows the distinct vineyard DNA of each site in harmony with the Giant Steps house style.