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Top Australian winery Giant Steps gets new head winemaker

Melanie Chester has become head of winemaking and viticulture at Giant Steps, the Yarra Valley winery highly regarded for cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Australia’s Giant Steps said that Melanie Chester joined the winery as head of winemaking and viticulture on 25 November.

It marks a new chapter for one of the leading wineries in Yarra Valley, Victoria.

Steve Flamsteed, who joined Giant Steps as chief winemaker in 2003, will step back from the cellar – although he is expected to continue working closely with the team.

Working alongside winery founder Phil Sexton, Flamsteed has played a major role in developing Giant Steps’ reputation for excellent, single-vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines.

Giant Steps winemaker Melanie Chester

Melanie Chester, the new head of winemaking and viticulture at Giant Steps winery. Photo credit: Giant Steps.

Prior to her new role at Giant Steps, Chester was head winemaker at Sutton Grange Winery, also based in Victoria, for six-and-a-half years, and has been awarded several accolades since completing her studies in viticulture and oenology at the University of Adelaide.

She won the Wolf Blass prize for ‘excellence in winemaking’ in 2011 and, in 2014, she became the youngest ever scholar selected for the prestigious Len Evans Tutorial.

Flamsteed said, ‘I’ve known Mel for several years and her understanding of vineyards and wine is exceptional.

He added: ‘The detail and precision of the wines Mel produced at Sutton Grange tell her story. With such an incredible team in place in the winery and vineyards, the time for me to step away from the “tools” feels right.

‘Going forward, I’ll continue to work closely with Mel and the team as my focus shifts to seeking out new vineyard sites for our future.’

Chester, who has also worked at Seppelt Wines, as well as d’Arenberg in McLaren Vale, Charles Melton in Barossa and Quinta do Crasto in Portugal, said: ‘I’m thrilled to be joining the team at Giant Steps and have admired and enjoyed the wines for many years.’

She paid tribute to Sexton and Flamsteed’s achievements, adding: ‘Giant Steps has incredible viticultural resources, like its Sexton and Applejack vineyards, that grow some of the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the region.

‘I’m looking forward to immersing myself in the Yarra Valley to experience first-hand the great quality and potential of these vineyards.’

In 2020, California-based multinational wine company Jackson Family Wines bought Giant Steps for an undisclosed sum.

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