Giaconda is one of the biggest names in boutique Australian wineries, especially for their Chardonnay. While they were not the first wine producer in Beechworth in Victoria, winemaker Rick Kinzbrunner has certainly put it on the wine lovers map as an area with massive potential.

With this in mind, some friends and I set out to try four vintages of each of the four top wines produced by Giaconda to see if the wines live up to the hype (leaving out the two “lesser” wines Nantua Les Deux and Aeolia Roussanne and second label McClay Road wines, some of which I talked about here). From the cellar door, new releases of the Chardonnay are $98 AUD, Shiraz $80, Pinot Noir $67 and Cabernet Sauvignon $55.

At the end of the evening, we also tried a few assorted other wines that were not related to Giaconda at all.

A Champagne to begin –

NV Gosset Grande Reserve Champagne – (from magnum)

Some toasty notes to the nose, with a hint of apricot and hazelnut. There is alright intensity of flavour on the palate but it is broad, lacking focus. There is some harshness on the finish disrupting the line and length of the wine.


Chardonnay –

1997 Giaconda Chardonnay

A rich nose, with complexity that draws you into the wine – intense aromas of honey, slightly floral honeysuckle, roasted nuts, lanolin and mellow butterscotch in the background. A luscious, delicious palate that has good texture and very good length, as well as a vein of acid bringing the richness into balance. Drinking brilliantly and at its peak. My favourite wine of this flight.


1999 Giaconda Chardonnay

This was darker in colour than the 1997. Initially the nose was fairly muted with some honey, after some time in the glass this fell over, descending into oxidised, spirity aromas. The palate was similar, starting off with a lack of character and the heading downhill. A bottle that was not a good example would be my presumption, although Oliver rates this as already past its drinking window – so maybe not.


2001 Giaconda Chardonnay

Initially asparagus and onion skins on the nose that blew off to reveal an ungenerous, reclusive nose. The palate is soft and lacks depth, finishing alcoholic and sharp. Not very pleasant.


2004 Giaconda Chardonnay

A light straw-yellow in colour. Has a tight but interesting nose that exhibits restrained peach, minerals, citrus and honeysuckle. The palate has scintillating focus with brilliant balance as well as lingering flavours and length that cannot be faulted. Excellent now, and could well be breathtaking in a couple of years with some additional complexity.


Pinot Noir –

1998 Giaconda Pinot Noir

A murky red colour with bricking around the edges. Nose showed signs from the beginning of being over the hill and descended into vinegary territory with time in the glass. The palate is dry, tannic and dead.


2000 Giaconda Pinot Noir

Capsicum dominates the nose initially, with stalks, briar, vegetables, pepper and floral notes coming through after letting the wine breath. The palate is clean, but lacks the depth and texture of good Pinot Noir. Almost to be expected, it finishes short and watery – completing the disappointment.


2002 Giaconda Pinot Noir

The nose opens with interesting smoked meaty and gamey aromas, with background scents of cherry and raspberry. Unfortunately the palate doesn’t deliver on what I thought was a promising nose. The length is alright and it seems balanced, but looking past that, it is devoid of character or interest. Drinkable, but it needs to be much more than that for the price level.


2004 Giaconda Pinot Noir

The least murky in colour of the four Pinots. The nose expresses dark cherry, violets, briar and spices with some earth and gamey notes also being hinted at. The palate is again elegant but too simple, without texture or depth. The best wine of the Pinot Noir flight, but still a letdown.


Cabernet Sauvignon –

1999 Giaconda Cabernet Sauvignon

A nose of restrained blackcurrant, smoky notes along with a slightly funky undergrowth element to it. The palate is elegant and at the same time complex, with tingling, teasing flavours across the length of the wine. Classy texture with well integrated tannins providing backing and structure. Very enjoyable and my favourite Cabernet from this tasting.


2000 Giaconda Cabernet Sauvignon

Tobacco, blackcurrant/cassis, with some hints at floral notes as well as some more funkiness. The palate is elegant, but in this case it lacks complexity, texture and the overall impressive structure of the ’99. Will drink nicely over the next couple of years, but I don’t think it’ll get a whole lot better.


2001 Giaconda Cabernet Sauvignon

Corked. Slightly dusty nose, with a palate that has been stripped of fruit.


2003 Giaconda Cabernet Sauvignon

The nose is quite reticent, revealing only some smoky, dusty and tobacco styled aromas. The palate is classy, restrained and with good structure. At odds with some critics, I found this to be enjoyable and well worth taking a look at.


Shiraz –

1999 Giaconda Warner Vineyard Shiraz

Lots of spice to the nose, pepper, cinnamon, briar and Chinese five spice powder. There is also some crushed pepper flavours on the palate. Finishing just a touch short, the palate is otherwise balanced and flows along a focused line.


2000 Giaconda Warner Vineyard Shiraz

Nice complexity on the nose of this wine with pepper, lavender, tobacco smoked meat and bacon fat. The palate is a little bit up and down across the slightly short length, lacking focus – but there is a vitality and intensity to the flavour that almost makes up for its shortcomings.


2001 Giaconda Warner Vineyard Shiraz

A reserved nose of Chinese five spice, violets and earth. The palate is elegant but seems to lack some backbone and structure as well as being generally unexciting.


2002 Giaconda Warner Vineyard Shiraz

Black olives, restrained black pepper, earth and spice with some nicely integrated cedary oak in the background. Structurally excellent on the palate with a superb length and a rich depth of flavour that really took this up a level. Intense and youthful but also showing balance and class. Delicious to drink and I think sure to get better with additional age, one of my favourite red wines of the night.


The others –

2000 Du Tertre (Bordeaux)

Ruined by heat damage (cooked) at some point in its life.


1990 Domaine Deletang Montlouis “Les Batisses” Moelleux (Loire Valley)

An enticing nose of light honey, honeycomb, citrus fruits and apricot. The palate is soft and rounded, lacking in focus as well as intensity. The intensity may build with time in the bottle, but I don’t know that this will reach greatness.


2002 Rockford Basket Press Shiraz (Barossa Valley)

A concentrated yet approachable nose of licorice, blueberry, some cherries as well as undertones of citrus zest with some chocolate oak influence neatly playing a supporting role. A velvety, plush and deeply fruited palate that demands drinking and not necessarily thinking. Still in its youth, but I think it is so balanced and smooth that it is drinking perfectly well at the moment with the potential to change with age, but perhaps not improve depending on how you like your wine.


NV R L Buller Calliope Rare Liqueur Muscat (Rutherglen)

Simply stunning. Coats the sides of the glass for some time after each swirl. Dark orange maple coloured with flicks of golden yellow throughout. An intoxicating, intense nose of raisins, burnt brown sugar, maple syrup, orange peel caramel and more. Viscous and unctuous palate with incredibly rich sweetness, depth and complexity and yet it is somehow fresh and balanced at the same time. A finish that seems endless. A brilliant experience.

I tried this again recently alongside the Buller Rare Tokay and while they were both superb, the Muscat was a level above the Tokay.


The conclusion –

The Chardonnay can be brilliant and from two of the wines that we tasted, it deserves its place among the very top Australian Chardonnay.

The Pinot Noir was lackluster and the vintages we tried were disappointing to say the least. The ’04 looks headed in the right direction, but it is expensive considering that not a single person at the table was wowed by any of them.

The Cabernet Sauvignon was good and the price seems reasonable for the better vintages.

Shiraz could well be the future star. I thought it consistently good and the ’02 was a special wine (I have also tried the ’04 which was brilliant).

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. I have always thought Rick’s pinot to be disappointing and agree with much of what you said about it. While his chardonnay can be brilliant, for me, the cabernet has always been the most consistent and best value.

  2. Regarding your relative ranking of the Giaconda chards and pinots, I believe that, for the new world, and assuming that burgundy was/is doing something right, the golden rule for new pinot plantings should be at places where chardonnay just fails to ripen. It sounds like he needs to grow his pinot grapes higher up the slopes of Mt Buffalo. I’ve tried the pinot, and agree with you – it is way over-priced.

    Also from that point of view (and, again, for those who don’t want their pinots to be wannabe Barrossa Shirazs) the only hope for Australia would seem to be Tasmania (and wait another 30 yrs there) as well as, possibly, higher up in the mountains at places like the Adelaide Hills and Macedon (Curly Flat?).

    And regarding your ‘cooked’ French bottle, are you aware of any Australian wine importers who have adopted the importing technique, now relatively common at the elite retail level in the States (and, I believe, pioneered by legendary bay-area importer Kermit Lynch) of refridgerated shipping? Visiting your country for only a year, I’m amazed at how little French wine is available here, so I’m assuming not. Given the long distances, opening any foreign wine here is rather a pot-shot.

    And finally, what’s with this habit in Australia (common, admittedly, in much of California also, but changing there amongst the better makers), even amongst the better growers like at Giaconda, of planting sundry varieties, cold climate and warm, french and italian (and even spanish and german), on the same block of land. For those vineyards which have opened up in the last, say, 10-15 yrs, we have to ask ourselves, were these sites chosen for a reason or not? Again, maybe Curly Flat is an honorable exception (perhaps you know more), but even there, following this country’s tradition, I expect to see Granacha and even Blaufrankisch eventually!

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