Steve Flamsteed of Giant Steps : Out of the kitchen and into the winery
Friday, May 24, 2019 in News
Steve Flamsteed of Giant Steps says a single-vineyard winemaker approaches the task like a chef: ‘It’s all about knowing your sources and the quality of your ingredients.'
Steve Flamsteed came to winemaking via the kitchen. After finishing high school at Toowoomba in Queensland he chose an apprenticeship as a chef in Brisbane rather than university and fell hard for French food and cooking.
He headed for Europe and caught the wine bug in 1989 at Château du Bluizard in Beaujolais, where he was taken under the wing of both proprietor Jean de St Charles and another visiting Australian winemaker, the young Dean Hewitson.
He was inspired to head home to study winemaking at the University of Adelaide, working weekends cooking with Maggie Beer at the Pheasant Farm restaurant in the Barossa Valley.
With winemaking qualifications under his belt Flamsteed returned to France to study cheesemaking. For the next few years his seasons alternated between wineries, dairies and kitchens in both France and Australia.
The generosity and camaraderie of the wine industry won him over. He worked at Leeuwin Estate in Margaret River and Yarra Burn in the Yarra Valley, joining Giant Steps in 2003.
In 2016 he was named Winemaker of the Year by Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine.
Chairman of Judges Peter Forrestal said: ‘Steve Flamsteed is a man of many talents with a finely tuned palate, an instinctive flair for winemaking and fastidious attention to detail. This shows particularly in the stunning single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinots of Giant Steps: distinctive wines that reflect their sites and glow with impeccable finesse.’
Flamsteed says a chef and a single-vineyard winemaker think the same way. ‘Almost every restaurant these days tells you the source of ingredients -- tomatoes from a particular grower, lamb from this or that farm -- the menu can look like a list of suppliers.’
Naming a vineyard is the same, he says. ‘It’s all about knowing your sources and the quality of your ingredients. A winemaker learns a vineyard’s pedigree.
‘I know Applejack is a Pinot site. Sexton is a Chardonnay vineyard and known as such. With Tarraford the south-facing slopes are great for Chardonnay while those that face north are great for Rhône varieties like Shiraz and Grenache’.
‘Chefs and winemakers ask the same sorts of questions and tell the same sorts of stories, about where and how ingredients are grown, about different sorts of viticultural practices.
‘It’s all about getting the best possible understanding of suppliers and sources so that you get the best possible ingredients that the vineyard supplies, and then you need to do as little as possible to them in the winery.’
Flamsteed makes his wines to be enjoyed. ‘I’ve never wanted to make wines that were showy’, he says. ‘I want drinkability -- again, just like a good chef makes food to be eaten and enjoyed, not to be put on display.’