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Giaconda Auction 2022 - Interview with Rick Kinzbrunner

Our Giaconda Auction is a rare opportunity to access back vintage wines from one of Australian most in demand and collectible boutique wineries. Rick Kinzbrunner named his winery well and his wines continue to captivate with their alluring, elusive beauty. For Giaconda collectors, this is the auction of the decade with 450 lots from 20 vintages starting from 2000 and covering Shiraz, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Nebbiolo.

Browse and Bid the Giaconda Auction now.

 

To celebrate this very special auction, Langtons caught up with Giaconda founder and inspirational winemaker Rick Kinzbrunner on a well earned break in Europe.

 

 

What is your first memory of wine?
My first real wine memory was a bottle of Seppelts Moyston (the real thing in those days) about 1968 vintage, drunk in 1973. This was soon followed by my greatest early inspiration, my first Chardonnay, a Louis Latour Chablis which absolutely stunned me and started a Chardonnay journey. Some other memories from this era are Rouge Homme, Angoves Claret, and Kaiser Stuhl early Rieslings.
Giaconda founder and winemaker Rick Kinzbrunner

Giaconda founder and winemaker Rick Kinzbrunner

 

As a former engineer, what made you want to become a winemaker?
My first proper job in a winery was at Stags Leap Wine Cellars in the Napa Valley. When I understood the passion of Warren Winiarski and saw how he transformed from a history professor to a vigneron I realised I could transform from being an engineer to making wine. Even though I didn't have any specific plans at that stage, once I got into the wine industry there was no going back! Working four vintages with Warren reinforced this, he was certainly my greatest mentor in the industry. After three more vintages with other winemakers in California and two with the Moueix group in France, my engineering days were certainly behind me.
Cave of Wonders - the deep cellars of Giaconda.

Cave of Wonders - the deep cellars of Giaconda.

 

You have consumed wines from around the globe - are there any that stand out in the memory as truly life affirming bottles?
If so, what were they and why?
A stand out life affirming bottle was 1978 DC Montrachet—this is a lesson on how a wine can carry so much power, complexity and concentration. I know that such a wine would be out of fashion and heavily criticised by some in the modern Australian wine sector, too big, too ripe, too woody, but to me this is what real wine is all about. In general, some other standouts are Conterno Montfortino, Petrus (of course), 1974 Stags Leap Wine Cellars Cask 23, Coche Dury (in some vintages), Palacio Hermita. There are many others, but I think it's obvious I like wines that make an extreme statement rather than those which we can call "refined and precise" but lacking real power and density.
It was 20 years ago that The Age said, ‘Kinzbrunner wanted to produce a different style of Australian chardonnay in 1986.
He did and in doing so helped change the way we regard Chardonnay.’ How do you think Australia regards Chardonnay today?
I don't want to get into a wine politics argument here! Certain parts of Australian wine journalism now seem to push lighter, tighter, more acid wines. While there was certainly a need to change some of the older style heavy and over wooded styles, it seems to me that this has gone way too far.

I have not significantly changed the Giaconda Chardonnay style but is generally a bit more refined as I do recognise that tastes can change. The market must agree with this path as the wine seems to sell out quicker each year. I think we are seeing some different perceptions here, a part of the market loves the traditional original White Burgundy style and is willing to pay for it, while another part likes a modern trendy style, not as expensive and is ‘subject to change.’
The cellar door at Giaconda

The cellar door at Giaconda

 

Beechworth has a history of growing grapes at least as far back as 1856. Production dwindled to almost nothing until you breathed new life into the region in 1980. It was an inspired move.
So what was the inspiration behind your move to Beechworth?
I'm often asked this question and my standard answer is; good luck and good instinct. I had seen a mention of Beechworth as possibly a good site for vines in an article by Richard Smart and the first time I saw Beechworth I was very impressed even though in that era it was seen as not much of a town as largely having only a jail and a mental hospital. If I had had a million dollars I could have probably bought much of the main street! I saw a property for sale and somehow knew by instinct that this was the right place. From that point on it was a matter of try it and find out, I did virtually no research on soil, climate, etc, etc.
What’s your most memorable vintage and why?

 

1986, the first Chardonnay and the vintage I realised I could make great Chardonnay. One wine writer was not so complimentary when tasting it (not blind though), but when I served it to him blind later on he said it was a good Mersault. That's when I knew. After that, it was 1996, a vintage that many people mistook for a Grand Cru White Burgundy. This pleased me immensely, it's not that I have ever tried to make a White Burgundy copy, but if it's somewhat similar I'm happy. For me, this is the ultimate white wine. Most vintages are memorable, for good and for bad, so on that basis 2020 is especially so, being the first vintage ever we didn't make any wine at all!
You have made wine in other countries - what techniques have you brought home and employed at Giaconda?
And what techniques did you employ overseas?
My formative years were certainly in California. I was lucky to work with established great winemakers Warren Winiarski and Zelma Long and beside young, upcoming winemakers such as David Ramey, John Kongsgaard, and John Williams.

From the former I learnt some established but still artisanal techniques such as well managed barrel fermentation for whites and some special extraction methods for the reds. Then add some things such as natural yeast fermentation, always full and natural malolactic and unfiltered wines and you begin to see some of the techniques that I still use. Giaconda wines were for example made with natural yeast and were unfiltered long before this was much used in Australia. However, I can't give all my secrets away.
I guess the burning question is, why have you decided to open your cellars to the public and offer them this unprecedented access to your finest wines?
As I'm sure you know we didn't make any wine in 2020. This was a good opportunity to take stock of some back vintages in the warehouse and offer them to the market in lieu of the normal release. However the small quantities and many diverse wines and vintages made this much too difficult to offer on our website as a normal release so we decided to release them via Langtons.
Access back vintage Giaconda from 20 vintages

Access back vintage Giaconda from 20 vintages

 

Of all the wines in the auction, what are the real stars that bidders should keep an eye out for?
Naturally one of the real stars will be the Chardonnay magnums, I drank a 2010 recently and it was magnificent. What can I say, there should be lots of others e.g. Warner Shiraz 2005, always a favourite of mine, 2012 Cabernet, the last one, and other older Cabernets. The Pinot Noirs are holding up much better than I would have thought and all the Shiraz both Warner and Estate will live a long time.
Without question your Chardonnay sits at the very pinnacle of Australia’s wine scene, but what wines in the rest of the brilliant range do you love to drink and why?
A difficult question, but I love to drink them all or I wouldn't be making them! I prefer different wines in each vintage of course. Nebbiolo from our new site in Beechworth is becoming a real standout.
What makes Beechworth so special? Is it the region’s remarkable ability to ripen such a plethora of grapes?
It seems that is the case. There are different microclimates, soil types, elevations and lots of vignerons with different goals and ideas. It can be quite warm in summer but the nights are generally very cool and this makes a real difference in my opinion. Because it is such a special town Beechworth attracts special people who want to make interesting wines. Giaconda is a unique terroir in the region, a small sheltered valley and a soil that is different and only exists in a very small area with a cool southerly aspect on most of the property.
What does the future look like for Giaconda?
I hope it will remain a family winery well into the future. The accent will always be on Chardonnay, but we have some plans to make a few other changes, e.g. the return of Roussanne and the rise of Nebbiolo, among other things. More on all this at a later date. I feel I have a good succession plan with my son Nathan now knowing the business well, my younger son Charles works with us part time and with our very competent vineyard manager Casey White.

 

Giaconda and Rick Kinzbrunner is the quintessential romantic wine story of man taking a chance, getting lucky, discovering a unique terroir and his own brilliance along the way.

Explore the Giaconda Auction now.

 

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