When John Coltrane split with Miles Davis in the late 50s, he wasted little time releasing his visionary Giant Steps album. Winemaker (and equally successful brewmaster) Phil Sexton was inspired by the album and Coltrane's foresight. When Sexton sold his Devil's Lair vineyard in Margaret River to relocate and replant in the Yarra Valley, he named his wine in Coltrane's honor. Sexton chose Yarra Valley because of his admiration for the long aging and fine boned wines produced by the new generation of wine growers reestablishing this historic wine region. Giant Steps has forged a reputation for delivering some of Australia's most consistent, over-performing, varietal wines reflected by its ongoing, praise-worthy global acclaim including being a six-time Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries of the Year, 2013-2018. Giant Steps focuses primarily on the distinctive expression of single vineyard sites in the Yarra Valley. Grapes are drawn from estate and leased vineyards as well as fruit from long-term grower contracts, supported by strong relationships and meticulous supervision throughout the year.
"All of the 2017 Pinots from Giant Steps are seriously commendable... for drinking over the next few years, you won't find many better Australian options."
Joe Czerwinski, Robert Parker Wine Advocate (June 2018)
Creating wines of structure, finesse and longevity is no mean feat. Sexton is steadfast in his “winemaking without compromise” ethos. From the ground up, Phil has created an artisanal winery designed for hand-crafting small batches of wine. Built around gravity flow principles, the winery is an exercise in function over form. The building consists of a naturally insulated concrete shell offering a cool, stable temperature. Winemaking techniques are adapted to variety, clone and site – a cold soak may precede fermentation, whole bunches and stems are included where appropriate, yeasts are indigenous originating from each vineyard, additions are minimized and cap plunging and battonage, when required, are carried out by hand. Ultimately, the variety and the vagaries of vintage dictate the methodology, producing wines reflective of time and place rather than the maker.
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.
Sexton and Giant Steps’ grower partners are all committed to organic and biodynamic farming principles with the express purpose of further distinguishing each vineyard site while improving grape and wine quality. A particular objective is to enhance the natural microflora for the facilitation of indigenous fermentations in the winery.
Sexton’s 75-acre estate vineyard is on a beautiful north facing hillside site located in the foothills of the Warramate ranges, rising from 425 to nearly 700 feet above the valley floor. A relatively cool site, management of Sexton vineyard is intensive with all tasks carefully done by hand. All vines are grafted to devigorating rootstocks and planted closely on carefully selected sites, namely the high slopes of the Valley’s ranges away from the fertile soils of the valley floor. Shoots are vertically positioned to enhance ventilation and maximize sunlight capture on the coolest sites. The first vintage of Giant Steps was drawn from the Sexton Vineyard in 2001.
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.