“Possibly Australia’s greatest modern wine”… “Australia’s finest chardonnay” … “One of the very best chardonnays in the world outside Burgundy.”

Wow!  And that’s just a few examples of the excitement the Giaconda Estate Vineyard Chardonnay has generated since the release of the first 1986 vintage in 1987!

Giaconda is a small winery in the foothills and within sight of the Victorian Alps, just outside the town of Beechworth in northern Victoria. It is run by Rick Kinzbrunner, who was named Qantas/Australian Gourmet Traveller Winemaker of the Year in 2003, and is considered one of the most talented, experienced, thoughtful and inspiring winemakers in Australia. As wine critic Huon Hooke remarked, “He knows what great wine is, he knows what he wants to achieve and how to get there.” (Get serious: One of our finest winemakers does things his own way by Huon Hooke, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 May 2003)

The chardonnay vines were originally planted in 1982 on a cool, south facing slope, which protects the vines from the direct impact of the sun’s rays. Here the soil is granitic loam over decomposed gravel and clay. The nutrient poor gravel keeps yields low, while the clay allows sustained water-release to the vine roots, usually making irrigation unnecessary.

Barrel fermented with wild yeasts in French oak (50 per cent new, 100% Sirugue barrels) the wine is bottled unfiltered after 18 months of barrel maturation. The barrels are now stored in a cool, damp cellar 20 metres beneath the granite hill that was dug out by miners a few years ago. Kinzbrunner told wine critic Max Allen “There’s something very special about turning the fruit from the soil above into wine and then taking it deep into the rock below to mature it.” He believes that the humidity (about 95%) causes the alcohol rather than the water to evaporate a little, creating wines with more elegant, finer flavours. (Max Allen, The Future Makers: Australian Wines for the 21st Century, 2010: Hardie Grant Books)

Typically, less than 500 cases of the Estate Vineyard Chardonnay are made each year, and Kinzbrunner has taken the unusual step of not releasing the wine if he feels the vintage does not meet his exacting standards. This was the case in 2003 when the weather was too hot.

American wine critic Robert Parker described the Giaconda Chardonnay Estate Vineyard 2004 as tasting like a grand cru from Puligny-Montrachet: “Steely lemon oil, popcorn, buttered hazelnut, and subtle smoke scents emerge from the glass of this intense, full-bodied Chardonnay that is bursting with character and soul. This amazing effort must be tasted to be believed.” (Robert Parker, Wine Advocate # 168, Dec 2006).

The Giaconda Estate Vineyard Chardonnay is also admired for its longevity. A retrospective tasting in 2005 of vintages dating back to 1986 demonstrated that even the oldest wines were still drinking well. (Giaconda Retrospective Tasting 1985 – 2002, February 2005. Notes compiled by Doug Neal, Giaconda website)

Back vintages of the Giaconda Estate Vineyard Chardonnay are available on the Cellarit Wine Market. The 2010 vintage will be released on 1 November 2011. Click here to join the Giaconda mailing list.

Merrill Witt, Editor