Giant Steps Pinot Noir 'Sexton Vineyard' Yarra Valley, Australia 2021

Giant Steps Pinot Noir 'Sexton Vineyard' Yarra Valley, Australia 2021

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2021 Giant Steps Sexton Vineyard Pinot Noir

The Wine Advocate RP 93+

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

Sexton Vineyard is planted on shallow gray dirt over mudstone. The elevation is 220 meters and shows the magic of a warmer part of the Yarra in a relatively cool year. Plum skin, chinotto, fig, blueberries and exotic spices form the backdrop to the bright strawberry/cherry fruit. The 2021 Sexton Vineyard Pinot Noir is structurally quite different from the other vineyards, in that the tannins are more grainy and gravelly and provide more framework from which the fruit can hang. It is perhaps more obvious in its display of fruit and tannin, but with that comes a sonorous baritone of tannin and flavor. Impressive.

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.