The Savaterre vineyard was established by Keppell Smith, who was heavily influenced by his time working under Phillip Jones at Bass Phillip. He followed Jones’ principles and promptly planted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at extremely dense planting of 7.500 vines/Ha, yielding merely 4.5 tons/Ha on skinny soils of buckshot granite over clay. The vineyard sees low input, biodynamic viticulture. Suffice it to say that the vineyard produces concentrated wines robustly expressive of terroir. Upon Tim Kirk’s encouragement, in 2003 Keppell planted Shiraz on a handkerchief of a sandy stretch near the hilltop. Planted at 8,000 vines /Ha and on its own rootstock, this Shiraz vineyard may well be one of the most exciting to follow in the country, particularly after this particularly dignified first release. The Shiraz vineyard is currently yielding about one bottle per vine.
The cellar is home to a continuation of the same minimal intervention philosophy: exclusively indigenous yeasts; natural malo; no fining/filtration. The wines are fermented in large outdoor concrete vats before elevage in new tight grained oak. In discussing the role of new oak in terroir driven wines, Keppell’s comment was a succinct, ‘There is no such thing as an over- oaked wine; only under-fruited.” A funny twist, however the powerful granitic mineral nature of such a marginal site, as with other iconic Beechworth vineyards, produces fruit of such robustness and power that young wood is commonplace amongst terroirists.
One of the great pleasures of following Keppell’s work at Savaterre is to see such vintage variation year upon year while always seeing the character of his site.
Keppell has recently begun to release a non-estate Beechworth Chardonnay blend under the Savaterre label but demarcated, ‘Frere Cadet’ (little brother). These wines show Beechworth’s crystalline minerality and the salty sulphites that so many love in the Savaterre wines but lack the sheer thrust imbued by the Savaterre site.