"Phil Sexton has certainly put Yarra's Healesville on the map of hot-destinations in Victoria with his modern Giant Steps winery."
Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate (2010)
Winemaking without compromise perhaps best sums up the winemaking ethos of Giant Steps. The Sextons have no hesitation in defining their aims; to produce single vineyard wines that have personality reflective of their unique site; wines of structure, finesse, character and age worthiness. Below are the Sextons’ summaries of the Giant Steps winemaking philosophies and techniques as applied to the individual varieties.
Hand picked, sorted and crushed to small open squares where the must is cold soaked and then hand plunged through fermentation. After extended maceration they press to barrel and from there, gravity rack and settle prior to bottling 12 months later. Minimal handling, no pumps, sulfur or filtration are the guiding principles. Bottled with a screw cap. Medium aging potential. Cool, dry ripening seasons help to produce elegant fruit with good acid and pH balance.
Giant Steps Pinot Noir characteristics
Nose – floral, cherries, earthy spice, sap, preserved plums and berries. Palate – medium weight, very textural with blackberry, strawberry, char and cedar. Firm, balanced and layered over a scaffold of dusty “top of the mouth” tannin.
Hand picked, sorted and whole bunch pressed with minimal sulfur. Barrel fermented and aged on lees with minimal handling, gravity racking and a gentle filtration prior to bottling 12 months later. Minimal malolactic fermentation. Bottled with a screw cap. Very good aging potential. Cool, dry ripening seasons allows the Sextons to draw out the palate whilst tightening up the finish.
Giant Steps Chardonnay characteristics
Nose – characteristically complex nectarine, white peach and citrus with underlying secondary cashew and grain meal. Palate – firm, yet creamy textural wine overlain with minerally lemon zest and nectarine.
Hand picked and fermented with indigenous yeast in 4000L open oak vats and stainless steel fermenters. 100% malolactic fermentation and aged in French oak puncheons. Bottled by gravity. Very good aging potential, up to 10 years or more.
Giant Steps Syrah Characteristics
Nose – cool climate aromas of violets and peppercorns, with red and black fruit. Palate – medium bodied, juicy and rich with flavors of dark fruit, held together with savory tannins.
The 75 acre Giant Steps vineyard is on the north face of the Warramate Ranges in the central Yarra Valley, an hour east of Melbourne. Established across a series of ridges rising from the 300 to 1000 foot level, the vineyard is planted to rocky/gravelly clays and faces predominantly northwards. The Yarra’s mild summers enhance slow, even ripening. This translates into sugar that stays in balance with acid, flavor in balance with structure. Brutal winters ensure full dormancy and vine replenishment for the next growing season.
Here, vine vigor and yield management are critical. While the site is partly self-managing, the Sextons have intervened by grafting all varieties and clones to the devigorating and authortarian rootstock 10-14. Yield and vigor are further disciplined by close planting to encourage root zone overlaps. Trellising is high and shoots are vertically positioned undergoing 4 lifts per season to enhance ventilation and sunlight capture. All work is by hand. After many years in the wine and brewing industries, Phil chose the Giant Steps site to explore clonal and site specific differences between a range of varieties.
In warm years, cool sites prevail. In cool years, it’s the opposite. But it is the cooler parts of the Valley they believe to be Pinot country. And it is on the lower, cooler slopes that they have planted 7 clones of this most belligerent yet seductive grape. Sourced from Burgundy, New Zealand and Australia, the clones provide a rich tapestry of material to build our final wine.
The crisp, cool conditions and flinty, almost mean soils of the Valley slopes produce fruit in the nectarine, citrus, melon and white peach range, as opposed to the richer, more tropical honeyed styles that are more the norm in Australia. The result is a wine of structure and finesse. 7 clones of Chardonnay were sourced from California, Burgundy and Australia and planted on the coolest, lowest slopes of the vineyard.
This is cool climate Syrah at its finest. Syrah vines can be found in the Tarraford and Sexton vineyards. The RD67, or ‘Red Dog,’ clone produces the Tarraford Vineyard Syrah. All Giant Steps Syrah vines are grown with minimal intervention.