It was 1977 and the ferocious snarl of the Sex Pistols was barely receding when a precociously talented musician from the north of England turned modern music on its head with a series of raw and breathtaking concerts staged through England, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
Briefly Warsaw, the young Ian Curtis morphed his band into Joy Division.
Signed to the Manchester based Factory Records, home also to the formidable Vini Reilly and Durutti Column, for a brief while the north of England was ground zero as modern music emerged from its stalemate with punk.
In the spring of 1980, while a student at Birmingham University, I went to Ian Curtis’s last concert. Ian Curtis sadly passed away in that year.
With fellow music tragic and winemaker Steve Flamsteed, we crafted this beautiful biodynamic vineyard and its wine in personal tribute to music important to us, and in particular, Ian Curtis and Joy Division.
Known Pleasures is a wine 15 years in the making.
This is a beautiful and brooding wine and we submit our work in small token, to this legacy.
- Phil Sexton
We have been producing wine from the Gateway Vineyard in McLaren Vale for some time. It is a special site. There is one particular patch of the vineyard we have always seen as just a little more special than the rest and this became the source for the single fermenter of our Known Pleasures.
The site overlooks the ocean, at the northern entry to the McLaren Vale - it is planted on tertiary red soil and stone, perched on a thick layer of limestone. The aspect is north-easterly, but the moderating ocean breezes mean the site is slightly cooler than the rest of the Vale. The ocean wind also beats the vines around enough at flowering to set a very small concentrated crop.
The Shiraz patch at Gateway was planted and raised on Biodynamics - never known anything else. 2014 marked our 10th vintage and over the last few years we have seen this block settle into a beautiful balance. The fruit from these vines has a peculiar intensity and flavour and the tannins from the crunchy brown seeds are also quite unique.
Growing up in Margaret River during the rise of the wine industry, Phil Sexton was captivated by winemaking and the opportunity it offered to engage in agriculture, theater, art and science. But he was also fascinated with flying...
As a young adult Phil joined the military and trained as a pilot – cementing a life‐long romance with flying. But it was a military career cut short by a curiosity in winemaking and brewing.
In 1981, Phil was employed as Brewer by the Swan Brewery. In the same year Phil established (by hand and without money!) Devil’s Lair in Margaret River. Three years later he established The Matilda Bay Brewing Company in Perth.
By the early-90’s Phil was dividing his time between Margaret River and Perth - running Devil's Lair, a coffee roasting business, Dome and a number of restaurants and bars.
After trying to slow down in the mid 90’s, Phil moved to Portland Oregon for 2 years to help a friend with his brewing businesses. While overseas, he sold Devils Lair to Southcorp. However, it wasn’t long before he decided to return to Australia.
In 1997 Phil acquired land adjoining Yarra Yering in the Yarra Valley to commence establishment of Giant Steps ‐ which produced its first vintage in 2001. It was Phil’s passion for cool-climate chardonnay that drove his giant step east from Margaret River to the ideal growing conditions of the Yarra Valley.
During his transition East, Phil and two business partners (ex Matilda Bay colleagues) established Little Creatures Brewing in Fremantle Western Australia; "to attend to unfinished business” in the craft beer business.
But this story is about the wine.
2016 Gourmet Traveller WINE Winemaker of the Year.
Steve’s first qualification was in food, completing a four-year chef’s apprenticeship in Brisbane in the mid 1980s.
A keen skier, Steve travelled extensively in Europe, France in particular, paying his way chefing in small cafes, ski lodges and doing a 12-month stint at the St James Club in London.
Whilst travelling in France, Steve developed a number of culinary passions including cheese making, which would see him later return to France to study this trade. However, it was after working at Chateau du Bluizard in the Beaujolais region that Steve was inspired to become a qualified winemaker.
On returning to Australia, Steve enrolled in the winemaking course at Roseworthy Agricultural College, graduating with a Bachelor of Science (Wine Science) in 1993, whilst at the same time supporting his studies working as a Chef at Maggie Beer’s Pheasant Farm Restaurant in the Barossa Valley.
In 1994, having maintained his interest in and passion for cheese, Steve won a Queen’s Trust Scholarship to study farmhouse cheese making in France. On his return from France Steve spent a year working as a cheese maker at Milawa in North Eastern Victoria.
As a winemaker, Steve has worked for Leeuwin Estate, Margaret River, WA (1999 – 2002) and the Hardy Wine Company at their Yarra Burn Winery in Victoria’s Yarra Valley (2002 – 2003).
Overseas, he has worked as a Flying Winemaker for Bottle Green Wines in the South of France, two vintages with Domaine Paul Blanck in Alsace and five vintages in Brouilly at Chateau de Bluizard.
2016 Sydney Royal Wine Show
2015 Royal Adelaide Wine Show
The deep, vivid crimson colour heralds a no-holds-barred full-bodied shiraz in imperious regional style; its flavours, texture and structure all point in a single direction; the cellar for at least five years, with an unknowable life thereafter.
Something new from the guys at Giant Steps. The fruit is sourced from a biodynamically managed vineyard in McLaren Vale. The fermentation is interesting in that, as it approached 11 per cent alcohol, it was seeded with some Rhone yeasts to finish its journey. Wonderful gravelly fruit texture, with a dense concentration. Gets a little new French oak but the older oak has given it the fruit finesse.
Made by Giant Steps though you have to be eagle-eyed to spot their mention. It’s from the Gateway Vineyard; a biodynamically-farmed vineyard in McLaren Vale.
It’s been beautifully grown and made. It’s rich but not over the top; it’s smooth-skinned but not simple or syrupy. Blackberry, woodsmoke, cloves, campfire and dark earth. Firm-ish tannin, smothered in fruit. If you’re looking for a Big Red, this is a beauty.
- Campbell Mattinson
From the Giant Steps crew, from a biodynamic vineyard. This is an exciting release. It feels pure but powerful in style, offering spice, brooding earthiness, a sniff of smoky oak, coursing with dark fruit flavour. Fine wine.
- Mike Bennie
A wine of early softness and approachability. It's obviously been whole-bunch fermented and is very complex in the spice/vegetal spectrum, and highly appealing to the nose and palate. Violets, cherries, blackberries. It's medium-bodied at best, the tannins are soft and the texture is lovely. Great drinkability. (and not just because I'm a Joy Division fan).
- Huon Hooke