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 hope that you find it a worthy companion for good music.
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 ferment 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
In the 2018 vintage we have produced Known Pleasures Field White, with the predominant variety being Viognier, there are however pockets of rouge vines planted throughout block 4, also certified Biodynamic, whose variety is a little unclear … possibly Marsanne and Roussanne. The wine is an elegant, fresh dry white wine with a delicious savoury palate.
A science graduate of the University of Western Australia with a Master of Science Degree in Fermentation and Brewing Science from the University of Birmingham (England).
Phil’s career in brewing includes Brewmaster at the Swan Brewing Company in Perth, co-founder of the Matilda Bay Brewing Company, and co-founder of Little Creatures Brewing Company. Phil has also brewed in Belgium, Germany, and the USA.
Phil’s wine career includes studying Wine Science at Charles Sturt University (incomplete), founding Devil’s Lair winery in Margaret River and, more recently, Giant Steps in the Yarra Valley.
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
McLaren Vale winemakers unveil their ode to Joy Division
I once knew a bloke who built a career in the shadow of a weary cliche. He designed book covers, his professional worth reliant on people ignoring what they’ve been told a million times.
Despite the ubiquity of the advice, every trip to the bookshop is an invitation to judge the books by their covers, and trawling the shelves of a bottle shop requires a similar leap of faith.
There are wine labels I really like, not just for pure aesthetics, but for how the visual language cleverly reflects the nature of the wine inside. Conversely, some labels make me want to hurl myself eyeball first on to a rusty spiked fence.
My favourite labels adorn a pair of wines born in a bio-dynamic McLaren Vale vineyard, elevated by a pair of Yarra Valley visionaries and echoing the unmistakeable sound of a band I’ve loved since I was a teenager.
The label is Known Pleasures, a homage to legendary Manchester band Joy Division and their epochal 1979 album Unknown Pleasures. It’s pasted on white and a red, made by Phil Sexton and Steve Flamstead at Giant Steps in the Yarra Valley with fruit sourced from the Gateway vineyard in McLaren Vale.
They’re obsessed with music, but have divergent tastes. The gloomy glory of Joy Division is the one bit of common ground, a passion shared rather than enjoyed in isolation. For both, it infects heart and soul.
The label is a homage to designer Peter Saville’s haunting cover for Unknown Pleasures, an iconic image representing the intensity of radio pulses emitted by a pulsar registered as C19.
The vineyard, as the name clearly suggests, sits at the entrance to McLaren Vale, a verdant buffer keeping urban sprawl at bay, a sea breeze-cooled hilltop of red soil over limestone where light performs a shadowplay through foliage as a new dawn fades. (The previous paragraphs contain a few gratuitous Joy Division references. There’s a bottle of wine in it for the reader who can pick the others scattered throughout this column.)
That the team from Giant Steps are prepared to leap the logistical hurdles faced by a Yarra Valley winery wanting to make wine from McLaren Vale fruit speaks volumes for the vineyard’s quality and the way wine made from this place reflects a moment in time. A special moment in time.
The wines sit in a unique Interzone, their McLaren Vale DNA spliced and recoded by a winemaking team widely celebrated for their Yarra Valley chardonnay and pinot noir.
Sometimes changing your ways and taking different roads can really pay off.
It’s the only wine I’d buy for the label alone. Thankfully Sexton and Flamstead ensure such an impulsive decision pays off.
Known Pleasures Field White
Sourced from Block 4 in the Gateway vineyard, a patch the planting records say should be entirely viognier but where closer inspection reveals a handful of rogue vines that appear to be other white Rhone varieties. A bit of viticultural disorder has created a wine that’s a strong candidate for the best expression of this style in the country.
Where blends of these Rhone Valley varieties can tend to the oily and flabby, this is a wine that delivers richness with incredible restraint. Power without the padding.
It smells of apricots flirting with full ripeness without being ready to commit, some roast pineapple and that salted watermelon rind that trendy chefs tried to foist on us a year or so back. There’s jasmine and soursobs in there too.
Record producer Martin Hannett became a legend for his work with Joy Division and the way he stripped back their sound to its angular essence.
If Hannett made wines from white Rhone varieties, they would taste, smell and feel like this.
Known Pleasures Shiraz
To best understand this wine and how it is at once of McLaren Vale and at the same time something apart, you need to listen to the work of Joy Division bassist Peter Hook. On most tracks the bassline is a source of driving power, a sturdy foundation upon which can be built something of great magnitude.
But on a track like She’s Lost Control the muscle is replaced with tense sinew; the sound bounces rather than pounds.
It’s still instantly recognisable as Hook, yet somehow very different.
So, too, this wine. There’s liqueur cherries, forest berries and ripe plums, cocoa powder and powdery tannins. But it’s the bouncy energy in the wine that sets it apart, the long rippling lines that give it a different shape and feel from its peers.
It’s drinking beautifully now but has intriguing development ahead of it yet. It won’t push into the eternal, but if your timing’s not flawed, and it’s turned away on its side, it will last eight years, if not decades.
- Nick Ryan, The Australian, Feb 26 2019
Known Pleasures Shiraz is of course made by Giant Steps using grapes from the Gateway Vineyard in McLaren Vale. The mid-palate is pumped with ripe fruit but it finishes savoury, nutty and spicy. It’s an excellent shiraz. There’s a positive bitterness to the finish, floral notes, vanilla cream and woodsmoke contributions, though the ripe/juicy/silken fruit is the mainstay. It’s mid-weight and most impressive.
Wow. This is an extraordinary wine, handled with kid gloves from day 1. Biodynamically grown, hand picked, refrigerated van to Giant Steps' Healesville winery, destemmed or whole bunched, large format French oak, no fining or filtration. It's faintly turbid, the bouquet pretty red/purple fruits. Then comes the extraordinary power, pulse and drive of the palate, building intensity second-by-second, but equally building dazzling freshness. It tastes like 12.5% alc, not 14.5%. The tannins are imbedded within the fruit flavours, you sense them, but can't isolate them. The finish is endless, ditto aftertaste.
Dark red with medium colour density. Pure cherry and plum aromatics. The palate is snappy and bright with defined, intense cherry and raspberry flavours. The tannins are soft and the acidity bright. A flavoursome, modern style with excellent depth of flavour.
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.
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