30 Years On – a reflection on what defines Giaconda
Who says you cannot teach an old dog new tricks? 30 years on I am still learning in the vineyard and winery; the last six being the most prolific, more so than the previous twenty-four.
From the outset I determined to follow my intuition: to craft wines that reflect this tiny and unique site near Beechworth and show my passion for wine styles that are cutting edge in an international context. Giaconda was never going to be a trend follower nor an imitation of others who have come before. Giaconda is the style. It has not always been a comfortable ride. My perseverance and determination to stay true to my vision, and not become seduced by the glamour and noise of “wine entertainment” has ensured Giaconda remains innovative, at the cutting edge of premium wine production, and above all, relevant to our ultimate critics, the consumers. I have always preferred to let my wines do the talking!
Embracing change is essential to any business if it wishes to grow and flourish. This is also true for premium wine production. Here the challenges come in the form of: climate issues, shifts in consumer preference, economic issues aboard and at home and the rise of new, equally determined producers with a vision and a story to tell.
Giaconda is its own style; it has relevance because it resonates with people who understand and appreciate a commitment to maintaining a style that is consistent. The integrity of Giaconda is based on a steadfast determination to fine tune, to improve but never to jump ship and follow the latest fashion thought bubble that has for example beleaguered Chardonnay of late.
My guiding principle has been to question everything we do: vineyard practices, replanting and removing vines (saying farewell to the Estate Cabernet), updating wine production and processing equipment and of course, where and how we mature the wines. Our cave has been central to our wine ethos that maturing wine slowly and gracefully in an all year round cool environment will only enhance quality.
It has taken me 30 years to arrive at a point where I can confidently say we are now well placed to handle the vagaries that nature throws at us. There is no denying that climatic conditions have been extremely challenging since 2000 with many earlier vintages. The change and innovation I have referred to has enabled me to cope with these climate hurdles and in many cases turn them to an advantage.
Let me explain. We seem to experience of late much warmer springs but little, or no more, intensity of heat during mid-summer. Warmer springs advance the growing season but the actual length of growing time remains much the same. Not picking the fruit too ripe, or too late, has ensured the grapes are in beautiful condition with perfect acidity. This has enabled me to produce an unheralded run of powerful, complex Chardonnays from 2010 all at slightly reduced baumes.
This dog might be older, but I am still barking and there are more tricks to earn.
So to the wines. There is no 2014 Pinot Noir nor 2014 Warner Shiraz this release. Both fell victim to the spring frosts. Subsequently the fruit we picked did not reach a standard that befits Giaconda single vineyard wines. Smaller amounts were made of both these wines and will be released under our Nantua Les Deux label at a later stage. Watch this space for details!
On the point above, our Chardonnay quantity (but not quality) was also reduced due to frost on the lower parts of the vineyard. However this wine has been the real surprise of the 2014 vintage – at the pinnacle in terms of quality – amongst our very best with stunning power and complexity. This wine will sell out very quickly due to the reduced yields so don't miss out.
The 2014 Estate Shiraz avoided the frosts, perched near the top of the slope. It was an ideal season for the Shiraz and resulted in a wine of startling quality, possibly the best to date. Here the tweaking of vinification methods with a slight adjustment in the origin of the forests that we use from our Sirugue barrels has added further stature to this wine. What I am finding now is the inherent beauty that can be achieved with Shiraz. No longer is it just the domain of Pinot Noir to be ethereal.
The first vintage of our Red Hill Nebbiolo vineyard is in barrel. This wine from the 2015 vintage shows extraordinary varietal character – good colour, a perfume of spice, rose petal, emerging notes of tar and beautiful interplay between tannin, fruit and acid. There was not enough to fill our 1600 litre Italian Botti, so it rests in older 228 litre barrels in the cave. Nebbiolo is renowned for being shy and reserved in its youth. Patience is essential. My feeling is that Red Hill will be a natural home for the production of quintessential Nebbiolo. It will be fascinating to follow its development.
Finally, I would like to thank you all for your encouragement and support for Giaconda over the past 30 years. I am truly grateful to all of you who have deemed my wines worthy of your patronage.