Rick's Newsletter


Jeremy Oliver's Wine of the Year - 2010 Estate Vineyard Chardonnay!

Australian Wine Annual 2015 - Giaconda Estate Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 (98 points)

From time to time you meet a wine before its bottled that you simply want to drink then and there.  This happened earlier this year at Giaconda, when having explored the extensive cave that Rick Kinzbrunner has blasted straight into the rock beneath his vineyard, I emerged blinking into the sunlight to observe a gleaming jacketed stainless steel tank, from whose tap emerged a splash of an incredible young wine.

This should come as no surprise to those who know the Giaconda story.  Of how Rick Kinzbrunner, a former electrician from the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland chose a south-facing slope near Beechworth in northeast Victoria to plant what I admit I did predict in 1989 would become one of the most influential sites in Australian viticulture.  Kinzbrunner took a gradual, experiential approach to the accumulation of knowledge concerning his Chardonnay, in the process realising that his site had the potential to fulfil some increasingly high-flying ambitions.

The early Giaconda chardonnays were comparatively simple, with pure, bright young vine fruit that was cluttered neither by oak nor artefact.  By 1992 the wine was acquiring richness and texture, by 1995 it was mineral and savoury and by 1996 it was headline-catching - profoundly rich, nougat-like and with the struck match oakiness that Kinzbrunner has since perfected on full display.  The heat of the 'noughties meant that releases were rather ephermeral (there was no 2003, 2007, or 2009), but spectacular wines from 2002 and 2006 were highlights indeed.  But neither of those vintages was a patch on the 2010 season - and besides, the vines are now that much older again.

Enter then, the best chardonnay yet made in Australia.  Profoundly complex, mineral and textured, with layers of depth and flavour, the 2010 Giaconda is perfectly balanced and should age superbly.  For the Burgundy-focused, it's evocative of Coche-Dury - at its best.  While minerality is perhaps the most striking feature about its bouquet, its palate is all about the marriage of simply remarkable fruit with qualities deftly marshalled into place by Rick Kinzbrunner that derive either from the uniqueness of his site or the techniques with which he has learned to treat his wine.  Kinzbrunner once told me that the outcome of his Chardonnay was due to 60% terroir, 40% to himself.  He's also told me that as a winemaker, he tries always to do the things that might ultimately count towards 0.1% of wine quality, because they do add up.

His great new wine will be hard to find.  The trouble you take to do so will be worth it.

'Funky' town is set to rock

''BEECHWORTH terroir'' was the subject of a recent look-see into the small wine region that sits right in the middle of north-east Victoria.

The star of the show, terroir - the special relationship between climate and soil that can make wine so interesting - made itself known when the thermometer hit 35-plus degrees on day one.

Refuge was found in the 15-degree cool of Rick Kinzbrunner's Giaconda wine cave, detonated out of diamond-hard granite rock, outside town. Beechworth, it was noted, experiences a high degree of continentality. ''Summers are hot and dry,'' the vignerons' seminar brief explained, and ''only deep-rooted plants keep green during the warmest months''. Here was said heat in spades and, yes, plenty of green vines, too.
A Beechworth dozen.

The next day, more than 25 millimetres of rain fell. The town's gutters overflowed. Flash flooding occurred. Temperatures dropped.

Beechworth's vineyards lie in the Great Dividing Range's western foothills, which receive more rain than neighbouring areas. The hills are between 300 metres and 800 metres high, which leads to cooler temperatures. The south-facing slopes (cool) are where chardonnay and increasingly, nebbiolo, are grown, while the warmer north-facing slopes are suitable for shiraz and sangiovese.

But what separates Beechworth from so many other regions, and the thing that really gets wine geeks going, is minerality. It's there, you can see it, with minerals glistening in the sun - slate and shale and great boulders of granite. There are parts that cannot be planted to vines because boulders are in the way.

While some disagree, you can taste minerality and it's there in the wines. Winemakers argue it brings not only structure but also longevity to wines. Minerality is one of the many things I enjoy about Beechworth as a wine region. That, and chardonnay and shiraz.

This is not a place for sparklings but is most definitely the spot for structured chardonnay and, increasingly, shiraz. Julian Castagna at Castagna believes sangiovese has a big future, too, while Barry Morey at Sorrenberg would probably suggest gamay. Savaterre's Keppell Smith might say pinot noir, while Stephen Morris at Pennyweight - the only producer pursuing fortifieds - would champion his palomino-based apera.

Yes, there is a lot happening down among the terroir of Beechworth but let's not forget the work performed in the winery.

''I'm not exactly non-interventionist,'' Rick Kinzbrunner says of his philosophy. ''I do a lot of things in the winemaking. I don't leave the vineyard to do it.''

Beechworth winemakers tend to have come from somewhere else and to have had other jobs before finding their new home. A fair few were once employed at that fertile breeding ground just down the road at Milawa, Brown Brothers. Their styles are their own. Some, such as Marc Scalzo at Piano Piano (a charming Italian name that means ''slowly slowly''), just want to explore what Beechworth fruit can do. ''I want to see the site in the wine,'' he says.

Kinzbrunner, Castagna and Smith are confident about what the fruit can do. They take risks and are happy to explore everything that might provide their wines with complexity and depth: natural yeasts, wild ferments, a second malolactic fermentation (to soften acidity), no fining, little filtration. Basket presses get a big look-in up this way. Some winemaking styles are deliberately ''dirty'' or ''funky''. There is a sense of adventure. Everything seems possible and it is - sometimes we forget this is a young winemaking region.

In a year such as 2010, after a run of drought and fires, winemakers encountered an excellent vintage, one worth celebrating with some of that edgy winemaking. There are few Beechworth wines vintaged 2010 that don't sing with strong fruit, moderate alcohols and good natural acidity and structure.

As for the ageing potential of Beechworth and that small, albeit controversial, question of minerality?

Let's just say the questions were answered most convincingly by two wines: Giaconda 1993 chardonnay (in magnum) and Sorrenberg 1996 sauvignon blanc-semillon.

And, yes, you read that last wine correctly.

Jeni Port, The Age

Dynamite in a bottle

There are tunnels everywhere under the main streets of Beechworth. At the height of the gold rush in the 1890s, the town – deep in Ned Kelly country – was home to a diverse and colourful population of 60,000. It was north-east Victoria’s answer to television’s acclaimed Deadwood western drama.

The community’s less law-abiding characters would use these tunnels – dozens have been blasted into the granite – to evade the local constabulary. The tunnel that leads from the historic Tanswell’s Commercial Hotel under Ford Street was apparently often used for this purpose.

Beechworth’s population has diminished since those days but not its golden lustre. Tens of thousands of visitors walk the town’s flagstoned streets for a glimpse of its pioneering past, which is easy to imagine, given the array of perfectly preserved municipal and private buildings and public spaces.

Some visitors are there for wine, of course. For such a small wine region Beechworth packs a big punch. It is home to several wineries with a cult following, including Sorrenberg, Savaterre, Castagna, and Giaconda, whose chardonnay is admired and cellared all over the world.

It was Giaconda that got locals talking a few years ago – but not for the shimmering excellence of a particular vintage. Rather it was for the thunderous broadsides of shattering granite below the Giaconda winery, which could be heard throughout the district – the first tunnel to be so constructed in Beechworth in a generation.

But this was no escape tunnel; it was a cave for interring barrels of wine for maturation in a natural environment of low, cool, consistent temperature and high ambient humidity.

“It was hell on earth down there when it was going on,” says Giaconda owner-winemaker Rick Kinzbrunner.

“And it was a lot harder than we all thought. We bought a tonne of explosive to begin but then found we needed a lot more.”

In the end, it took three workers 100 days over the course of a year to create the 2.4 metre high, 3.6 metre wide and 60 metre long Giaconda cave.

The first chardonnay to benefit from fermentation and maturation in the cave was the 2010, Kinzbrunner’s favourite, partly because the high humidity has resulted in a slightly lower alcohol wine (alcohol evaporating more readily in this environment).

It was also a stellar vintage for chardonnay in the district.

“In a lot of vintages we couldn’t have made it,” he says. “But it is also the hand of man at work.

“Every year we change what we do, with less work, and solids in the juice, wood selection...”

There’s a distinct struck-match burgundian flintiness about the 2010, which Kinzbrunner seeks. But he admits: “I don’t always know what brings that complex matchstick character in our wines. But I’m pleased it’s there.”

You won’t find this character in any other Beechworth 2010, but you will find wines of stunning quality. The two reviewed with the Giaconda are from the Smiths vineyard, planted in 1978 and the oldest extant vines in the district.

They share an almost granitic, sparkly, mouth-watering juicy core. And like the Giaconda, they will reward some time in the bottle somewhere cool and dark.

Tim White, Australian Financial Review



  • Beechworth Provender
    18 Camp Street
    Beechworth VIC 3747
    (03) 5728 2650
  • Cellar Door Wine Store
    62 Ford Street
    Beechworth VIC 3747
    (03) 5728 2882
  • Provenance Restaurant
    86 Ford Street
    Beechworth VIC 3747
    (03) 5728 1786
  • Armadale Cellars
    813-817 High Street
    Armadale VIC 3143
    03 9509 3055
  • Auscellardoor
    12/345 Plummer Street
    Port Melbourne VIC 3207
    03 9646 4099
  • Banks Fine Wine
    134 Mollison Street
    Kyneton VIC 3444
    03 5422 6682
  • Blackhearts and Sparrows
    88 Punt Road
    Windsor VIC 3181
    03 9510 6385
  • Boccaccio Cellars
    1030 Burke Road
    Balwyn VIC 3103
    03 9817 2257
  • Bottega Tasca
    321 Lygon Street
    Carlton VIC 3053
    03 9347 7379
  • Como Wine and Spirits
    Cnr Toorak Rd And River Street
    South Yarra VIC 3141
    03 9827 0934
  • Decanters By The Bay
    174 Nott Street
    Port Melbourne VIC 3207
    03 9676 9440
  • Fine Wine Merchant
    Shop 9, 87 Mount Eliza Way
    Mount Eliza VIC 3930
    03 9787 3646
  • MW Wines Pty Ltd
    1 Marine Parade
    Abbotsford VIC 3067
    03 9419 6990
  • Nicks Wine Merchants
    10-12 Jackson Court
    East Doncaster VIC 3109
    03 9822 9100
  • Parkhill Cellars
    45 Errol Street
    North Melbourne VIC 3051
    03 9328 1132
  • Prince Wine Store
    177 Bank Street
    South Melbourne VIC 3205
    03 9686 3033
  • Randall The Wine Merchant
    324-326 Pakington Street
    Newtown VIC 3220
    03 5223 1141
  • Rathdowne Cellars
    348 Rathdowne Street
    Carlton North VIC 3054
    03 9349 3366
  • The European
    161 Spring Street
    Melbourne VIC 3000
    03 9654 0811
  • The Winestar Centre
    13 Mcgregors Drive
    Keilor Park VIC 3042
    03 9261 4444
  • Vintage Cellars Ashburton
    261 High Street
    Ashburton VIC 3147
    03 9885 8199
  • Wine House - Old and Rare Wines
    133 Queensbridge Street
    Southbank VIC 3006
    03 9698 8000
  • Winestyle
    1/177 Salmon Street
    Port Melbourne VIC 3207
    03 8644 4040
  • Annandale Cellars
    119 Johnston Street
    Annandale NSW 2038
    02 9660 1947
  • Best Cellars
    91 Crown Street
    Sydney East NSW 2000
    02 9361 3733
  • Camperdown Cellars
    233 Victoria Street
    Darlinghurst NSW 2010
    02 9380 6133
  • Corkscrew Cellars Rose Bay
    93 O'Sullivan Road
    Rose Bay NSW 2029
    02 9327 2354
  • Cremorne Cellars
    45A Spofforth Street
    Cremorne NSW 2090
    02 9953 1331
  • Crown West Cellars
    428 Crown Street
    Wollongong NSW 2500
    02 4228 9842
  • Darlinghurst Cellars
    140 Liverpool Street
    Darlinghurst NSW 2010
    02 9360 4695
  • Five Way Cellars
    4 Heeley Street
    Paddington NSW 2021
    02 9360 4242
  • Jd Cellars
    133 Alexander Street
    Crows Nest NSW 2065
    02 9965 7224
  • Kemeny's Food and Liquor
    137-147 Bondi Road
    Bondi NSW 2026
    02 9389 6422
  • Langton's Brokerage
    Level 1, 26 Waterloo Street
    Surry Hills NSW 2010
    02 8507 2662
  • North Sydney Cellars
    189 Miller Street(Cnr Berry St)
    North Sydney NSW 2060
    02 9954 0090
  • Northbridge Cellars
    153 Sailors Bay Road
    Northbridge NSW 2063
    02 8090 6793
  • Palm Beach Wine Co
    1109 Barrenjoey Road
    Palm Beach NSW 2108
    02 9974 4304
  • Pyrmont Cellars
    119 Harris Street
    Pyrmont NSW 2009
    02 9571 8555
  • Sixty Darling Street Fine Wines
    60 Darling Street
    Balmain East NSW 2041
    02 9818 3077
  • Summer Hill Wine Store
    7 Lackey Street
    Summer Hill NSW 2130
    02 9798 7282
  • The Australian Wine Centre
    Shop 3, 1 Alfred Street, Circular Quay
    Sydney NSW 2000
    02 9247 2755
  • The Grove Cellars
    81 Hillcrest Avenue
    Hurstville Grove NSW 2220
    02 9580 4464
  • The Oak Barrel
    152 Elizabeth Street
    Sydney NSW 2000
    02 9264 3022
  • United Cellars
    179-181 Palmer Street
    Darlinghurst NSW 2010
    02 8915 5300
  • Vaucluse Cellars
    58 South Head Road
    Vaucluse NSW 2030
    02 9337 1765
  • Vintage Blue Wines
    418 Kent Street
    Sydney NSW 2000
    02 9286 3344
  • Wine Culture
    23 Babbage Road
    Roseville Chase NSW 2069
    02 9882 1788
  • Prohibition the Bottle Shop
    148/39 Eastlake Parade
    Kingston ACT 2604
    02 6295 0864
  • Ferry Road Wine and Beer
    Shop 3, 107 Ferry Road
    Southport QLD 4215
    07 5526 3103
  • Grandview Hotel
    Heritage Precinct,49 North Street
    Cleveland Point QLD 4163
    07 3286 1002
  • Stewarts Wine Co
    The Barracks, Shop 10 61 Petrie Terrace
    Brisbane QLD 4000
    07 3018 9070
  • The Wine Emporium
    Tenancy E2, Gasworks 76B, Skyring Terrace
    Newstead QLD 4006
    07 3252 1117
  • Wineaway Pty Ltd
    Unit 3 - 276 Abbotsford Road
    Bowen Hills QLD 4006
    07 3852 1891
  • Australian Wine Centre
    4 Truro Avenue
    Kingswood SA 5062
    08 8272 7248
  • East End Cellars
    25 Vardon Avenue
    Adelaide SA 5000
    08 8232 5300
  • Edinburgh Cellars
    1-7 High Street
    Mitcham SA 5062
    08 8373 2753
  • Melbourne St Cellars
    93 Melbourne Street
    North Adelaide SA 5006
    08 8267 1533
  • Parade Cellars
    Shop 15, 161-175 The Parade
    Norwood SA 5067
    08 8332 0317
  • Print Hall
    Brookfield Place, 125 St Georges Terrace
    Perth WA 6000
    08 6282 0000
  • Raffles Hotel
    67-71 Canning Beach Road
    Applecross WA 6153
    08 9314 9010
  • Scarborough Cellars
    166A Scarborough Beach Rd
    Scarborough WA 6019
    08 9341 1437
  • Steves Fine Wine and Food
    30 The Avenue
    Nedlands WA 6009
    08 9386 3336