It is gratifying indeed to have wonderful words written about something you are passionate about. Below are a few of the comments from the press and also some from our customers.

Andrew Caillard MW in the Vintage Journal on Castagna

Julian Castagna is a unusual Australian vigneron combining artistic flair, quixotic dreams and singularity in his quest to make “wines of terroir”. After a career as a film director in London and running a production house in Sydney, he (and his wife Carolann) bought land and planted a vineyard in 1997 near Beechworth in the foothills of the Victorian Alps.

Undaunted by his lack of technical training, he paved his own pathway. Counterintuitively Castagna stepped into the world of biodynamic viticulture before sustainability and circularity became fashionable and necessary. His enthusiastic ambition for growing and making “old world wines with new world fruit”, were probably naïve, but he soon became a leading proponent of biodynamic viticulture in Australia. His alternative views, quirky personality and distinctive wines led to a loyal following and interest. It takes a great amount of personal belief and hard work to create momentum in the world of fine wine. A science degree or course in agriculture, viticulture or winemaking helps. But experience making films is probably a good start too. Having seen film directors at work, there are many similarities to making wine. Ultimately it is organizing chaos and creating a story-arc that captures the imagination. It takes some chutzpah to build something unique, especially when everything is connected to the authenticity and voice of vineyard site.

The romance of 19th Century vinestock and Italian heritage are integral to the Castagna story. It is a theme that many other small wineries use or should use, because vinestock transmission, breeding and selection have played a crucial part in Australia’s fine wine agenda. Of particular interest is Julian Castagna’s block of sangiovese vines. Although the variety was brought into Australia during the 19th Century (notably by Dr Fiaschi of Tizzana Winery in the late 1880s), it did not take off in any meaningful way.

At this time Australian Burgundy and Claret styles dominated the market. After 1924 the fortified market also gathered steam. But an interest in Italian grape varieties began to return during the 1980s. With an Italian heritage of his own, Julian Castagna was keen to dabble with Italian varieties. By chance he discovered an old vine growing in the backyard of family friends at Myrtleford in Victoria. During the 1920s many Italian migrants arrived in the area to grow tobacco or work on farms. Some of them brought vine cuttings, perhaps with the idea of making their own wine. According to Castagna this particular vine was brought from Montalcino, Tuscany in 1922. He said “The grapes had a very high level of pips and not very good for eating. They were very happy to let me take cuttings.” If the provenance is correct, Castagna’s small block of sangiovese vines are directly related to the prized Brunello di Montalcino; hence the sangiovese-grosso reference. Having researched many stories in recent years, this particular snippet of fascination is probably true. For instance, this story parallels the discovery of Semillon in a Pyrmont garden by Thomas Shepherd over 100 years earlier.

The elevated 50-acre Castagna vineyard (on decomposed granitic loam over clay) is small by Australian standards and produces about 2600 cases a year. The winery’s reputation is hinged on red wines and this is probably to do with the cult wine scene that was emerging during Castagna’s first decade of production. I know he dabbled with exporting his wines through Grateful Palate to the US, but the wines were never really suited to the American cult persuasion for syrupy alcoholic wines. Over the last twenty years Castagna settled into the pace of life at Beechworth and has built-up a solid following for his wines. For instance, the Castagna Genesis Shiraz is included in Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine. This is an endorsement of its collectability, cellaring endurance and reliability.

There is a distinct garrigue-like scent in Castagna’s wines and the textures have a lovely refined bitterness, the type found in Campari or chinotto. These characters seem to give lift and torque. The white wines, especially the chardonnay, are exemplary. The chenin blanc was of particular interest because of its potential and connection with the Loire. Castagna “worked closely” with biodynamic pioneer Nicholas Joly in his quest to farm sustainably and to make wines from living soils. A waxy complexity is just beginning to emerge. With a few years of bottle age this could become something quite special. Castagna Genesis Syrah is captivating and delicious but the stand-out is the 2017 La Chiave Sangiovese. It is a reference example and even with a good four years of bottle-age it shows great potential. There is a very attractive authenticity about these wines which has no doubt played a part in Julian Castagna playing an important role in building up the fine wine credentials of the Beechworth wine region.

Castagna Wines, Beechworth – Northeast Victoria:

2019 Castagna Allegro Rosé, Beechworth – Northeast Victoria

Pale salmon. Fragrant red cherry, raspberry, onion skin and hint of marzipan aromas. Generous red cherry, raspberry, flinty, tonic water flavours, fine bitter/ al dente textures, attractive mid-palate viscosity and fresh crisp acidity. Lovely fruit complexity and mineral length. Based primarily on syrah and a touch of viognier. Ready to drink. 13.5% alc **93 points**

2018 Castagna Grower’s Selection Chardonnay, Beechworth – Northeast Victoria

Medium pale colour. Fresh apricot, peach, grapefruit aromas with tonic water, flinty notes. Generous and supple with ripe stone fruits, cashew nut flavours, some crème brulée/ butterscotch notes, vanilla al-dente textures and integrated fresh acidity. Creamy and complex wine with lovely freshness and torque. Idiosyncratic and classical at the same time. 20% Estate grown; 30% new French oak. Ready to drink. 13.5% **93 points**

2019 Castagna Grower’s Selection Chardonnay, Beechworth – Northeast Victoria

Medium pale colour. Intense lime, grapefruit, lemon curd aromas with flinty, cashew nut notes. Lovely grapefruit, stone fruit, lime flavours, underlying grilled nut notes, fine loose knit chalky, hint graphite textures, attractive mid-palate viscosity and fresh mineral acidity. Very classical in style with sotto voce alcohol allowing the mineral characters to persist. 12.5% alc **94 points**

2019 Castagna Chenin Blanc, Beechworth – Northeast Victoria

Pale gold. Fresh fragrant, honeysuckle, herb garden, lemon curd aromas with waxy notes. Pure lemon curd, honey flavours, with underlying grilled nut complexity, fine bitter textures and fresh long acidity. The waxy complexity is just coming through. This is a very impressive Australian Chenin Blanc. Cellar for a few years and this will be something special. 14% alc **94 points+**

2019 Castagna Ingenue Viognier, Beechworth – Northeast Victoria

Pale yellow. Fresh apricot, lemon curd, verbena, herb garden aromas. Richly flavoured palate with attractive apricot, white peach, pearskin flavours, fine looseknit chalky/chewy textures and underlying herb notes. A pure, minerally, bittersweet finish. A very complete and controlled wine with beautiful aromatics and texture. Excellent wine. 14.5% alc **95 points**

2017 Castagna Segreto, Beechworth – Northeast Victoria

Medium deep crimson. Attractive red cherry, redcurrant, blackberry, sweet paneforte aromas with vanilla notes/ herb garden notes. Generous and chocolaty textured with plentiful red and black cherry, blackberry, satsuma plum fruits, brambly textures and underlying chinotto notes. Finishes firm with sustained and evolved sweet fruits. Lovely to drink now. Sangiovese, Syrah, Viognier blend. 14.2 % alc **94 points**

2017 Castagna La Chiave, Beechworth – Northeast Victoria

Medium deep crimson. Beautiful dark cherry, dark plum, amaro, Campari aromas with lifted graphite notes. Richly flavoured and voluminous palate with deep set dark cherry, musky plum, praline flavours, integrated savoury oak, fine bittersweet tannins and some leafy notes. Finishes claret firm. Lovely concentration, character and vinosity. Roughly 20% new French oak. 100% Sangiovese 14% alc **96 points**

2004 Castagna La Chiave (sangiovese), Beechworth – Northeast Victoria

Rather gorgeous wine with intense, complex black and redcurrant, polished leather, roasted chestnut, meaty aromas with aniseed, black liquorice notes. Voluminous and animated palate with deep set dark chocolate, dark berry fruits, roasted chestnut notes, plentiful fine chocolaty textures. Still vigorous with chalky firm finish. Lovely extract and density. Tasted from magnum. 100% Sangiovese. 14% alc? **96 points**

2017 Castagna Genesis (syrah/viognier), Beechworth – Northeast Victoria

Deep colour. Classic dark chocolate, dark berry, wood varnish stone fruit aromas. Generous decadent wine with ample black cherry, dark chocolate flavours, brambly textures, fine cedar notes, underlying savoury notes and fresh long acidity. Finishes firm with a chalky tannin plume. Syrah Viognier. 14% alc **95 points**

The Beechworth Wine Region is leading the way

As you all know, because I go on about it all the time, I think Beechworth is one of these very special places in Australia to grow fine wine, but it’s not very widely known and really, only recognised by the ‘Wine Cognoscente’. So, it was with a great deal of pleasure that I recently read a some of reviews coming out of America which recognises that specialness. I think the reports are worth a read.


Australia’s Cool-Climate Regions Are Redefining – Wine Down Under

By Christina Pickard


Tucked into the foothills of the Australian Alps in northeast Victoria, Beechworth is a beautifully preserved historic town that, like many in Victoria, tells a story of mid-19th-century colonial occupation, a Gold Rush and a booming wine industry that went bust by the early 20th century. After nearly 80 years, Beechworth’s wine scene was revived in 1982 and 1985 respectively by two pint-sized but now-iconic wineries: Giaconda, known for its opulent, cellar-worthy Chardonnays, and Sorrenberg, famed for elegant, silky Chardonnay, Gamay and Cabernet blends.

A third producer, Julian Castagna, arrived in Beechworth a decade later, but both his farming and his wines have been equally game changing.

In 1996, Castagna decided to leave his career as a Sydney-based filmmaker behind. “If I was going to change my life, I needed to have a chance at making a world-class wine,” he says.

Beechworth was a still-unknown (and therefore affordable) territory. So, Castagna moved his wife and two young boys into a trailer 1,640 feet above sea level in the Beechworth foothills. The whole family chipped in planting Shiraz and Viognier vines, building a winery and their future home. Never one to follow the grain, Castagna became the first in Australia to commercially plant Sangiovese—a tribute to his Italian heritage. He also became one of the first Aussies to farm biodynamically in the early 2000s, as a way to build up the topsoil in his rocky granite, quartz-filled vineyard.

They thought I was this crazy hippie from Sydney,” he laughs.

But Castagna persisted, encouraging many others Down Under to farm biodynamically, too. Meanwhile, the wines went from good to great: The “Genesis” Syrah-Viognier is floral, textural, ethereal—more Côte Rôtiethan Barossa Shiraz; the “La Chiave” Sangiovese is reminiscent of Brunello di Montalcino while treading its own path. The evergrowing range now includes Nebbiolo, Roussanne, Chardonnay, a serious rosé and one of the best Chenin Blancs in Australia. There’s a second, equally lovely, label made from younger vines called Adam’s Rib, which is made by Castagna’s eldest son, Adam, a winemaker himself now.

Two and a half decades in, Castagna’s caravan days are over. But his passion for Beechworth, and the distinctive wines that can be coaxed from it, hasn’t waned.


Australian Shiraz: The Chameleon Grape With a French Pedigree

By Christina Pickard

In Victoria’s northeast, at the foothills of the Victorian Alps, a small region called Beechworth is proving to be one of Australia’s most exciting Shiraz regions. Here, finessed bottlings are crafted by small, quality-focused producers like Giaconda from volcanic, mineral-rich soils composed of granite or old sandstone and gravel over clay.

[Beechworth’s] warm days and cool nights make Syrah sing,” says Julian Castagna, a biodynamic winegrower who makes varietal Syrah, as well as a blend with Sangiovese, a sparkler and a rosé. All are ethereally elegant, beautiful examples of this variety, “if what you like is Syrah with the soul of Pinot Noir,” he says.


Beechworth Is the Best Wine Region You’ve Never Heard Of

Thomas Smith, Australia Buyer –

In Victoria’s northeast, at the foothills of the Victorian Alps, a small region called Beechworth is proving to be one of Australia’s most exciting Shiraz regions. Here, finessed bottlings are crafted by small, quality-focused producers like Giaconda from volcanic, mineral-rich soils composed of granite or old sandstone and gravel over clay.

[Beechworth’s] warm days and cool nights make Syrah sing,” says Julian Castagna, a biodynamic winegrower who makes varietal Syrah, as well as a blend with Sangiovese, a sparkler and a rosé. All are ethereally elegant, beautiful examples of this variety, “if what you like is Syrah with the soul of Pinot Noir,” he says.

Yes, I knew about Giaconda (a producer whose Chardonnay has a global cult following), but that was literally my only reference point. The day I spent here was absolutely eye-opening. I was jaw-on-the-floor astounded by the wines, their unique styles, and the incredible producers that are tirelessly working to put this footnote of a wine region on the global map. I am utterly convinced this is the world’s best wine region that you’ve never heard of.

Like many of the small towns dotting North East Victoria, Beechworth is an old gold rush town that dates back to the 1850s. A quick glance across Main Street, and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in California gold rush towns like Placerville or Mariposa in the Sierra Foothills. The vineyards themselves are tucked into slopes and escarpments of the area’s rugged hillsides at the base of the Victorian Alps. Over the years, winemakers have been drawn to this site for its continental climate as well as a diverse mix of soil types like old sandstone, gravel, and granite. The footprint is miniscule—there are only 30 producers here, with just over 300 total acres planted (about the same size as Hermitage). Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Shiraz make up the top plantings, but the real shocker was the Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, which were easily the best examples of the variety I’ve ever seen grown outside of Italy. I’ll say that again: the best Sangiovese and Nebbiolo made outside of Italy are from Beechworth, Australia.

An incredible visit was on the outskirts of town at the home and winery of Julian Castagna. I had met Julian a few days before at a Wine Victoria showcase in Melbourne where we happened to sit next to one another over dinner. Julian’s passion is wine. He spent a career producing film in Melbourne before retiring to his idyllic hilltop home and vineyards in Beechworth, where he now focuses on Nebbiolo, Syrah, Riesling and really, whatever he feels like playing with year to year.

But don’t take his playful attitude for lack of seriousness. Julian is incredibly dedicated to producing the best wines possible. Here’s an example. All Australian Sangiovese comes from a single UC Davis clone that was brought to the country by the Lloyd Family in the ‘70s. But Julian, unhappy with the quality of the fruit, found a neighbor with a grape vine that looked suspiciously like Sangiovese Grosso, a Brunello clone, and after consulting an ampelographer, propagated his vineyard with it. Yet, a few days later on my trip, another winemaker remarked, “Yeah, that’s total bullsh*t. He flew out to Montalcino and was sneaking around in the night stealing cuttings from Mastrojanni.” Regardless of the validity of either story, it is clear that what’s good enough for everyone else in Australia, isn’t good enough for Julian.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that Beechworth has almost no recognition in the U.S. so far, there are only a handful of wines from Castagna that make it here. But luckily, the two wines that I loved the most from that tasting were both available. The 2015 Castagna “Genesis” Syrah Beechworth $99.99 is light in color for a Syrah, and supremely focused on savory, umami undertones above a ferocious tannin profile and piercing acidity. In terms of cool-climate Australian Syrah, this is one of the best out there. My other favorite from the lineup is the 2013 Castagna “Segreto” Syrah/Sangiovese Beechworth $99.99. Made from suspicious clonal material that was planted in 1996, the Segreto shows off beautiful blue-fruit character, pointed acidity that shoots down the center of the palate, and abundance of meaty, charcuterie with rigid, vertical tannin. An absolutely amazing wine.

Beechworth was an utterly eye-opening experience. The small group of dedicated winemakers are crafting stunning wines that have been completely overlooked by the rest of the world. I encourage you to try these wines and see for yourself why the wines of Beechworth can be described as nothing short of incredible.

Ned Goodwin MW looks at current release

Ned Goodwin MW came to visit recently and we looked across our portfolio together, I think his thoughts are worth a look, even though some of the wines are sold out here so no longer available from us, but of course may still be available in restaurants, retail and in your own cellar.

Grower’s Selection Quasibianco 2018: Resolved and courageous. By this I mean that Julian Castagna has found his mojo with this style: a rich, powerful and intense Riesling that belies its lowish alcohol and balletic precision. 30 days on skins. Orange blossom, apricot pith, rooibos tea and spiced ginger crystals. The acidity, juicy and saline. The finish, pithy, nicely chewy and beautifully detailed, unravelling like an intricate quilt of patterns as flavours and the weave as textures, light and dense all at once. This is a superb Riesling of immense character 96

Adam’s Rib 2017: A Chardonnay and Viognier meld. Leesy and bright, with the exuberance of Viognier’s Orange verbena and apricot compote riding shotgun. Camomile, too. Mid-weighted, fresh and imminently gulpable. An immaculate wine of flavour, intensity and an easygoing drinkability belying substantial depth 93

Grower’s Selection Chardonnay 2018: A powerful, rich, creamy and palate-staining experience. Superb value, here. A melody of stone fruits, vanilla pod oak, brûlée and citrus blossom, lifting the mid-palate and zinging across the long, plush finish. A whiff of match strike pungency, too. A great deal of wine stuffed into the glass 94

Grower’s Selection Savagnin 2018: A big wine. Picked late, to be sure. Rooibos, mandarin, cinnamon, star anise, oatmeal and poached pear, nuts and orange. A marzipan-doused finish, warm, unctuous and rich. This demands food, with a phenolic composure as-if not more-important than the trickle of acidity keeping it on the straight and narrow 93

Ingenue 18: The attack on the cooler side for the variety. Pickle, garden herb and mezcal, segueing to apricot pith and blossom. A fine interplay of herbal freshness and textural intrigue. Not as ripe and exuberant as in past years, but fresher. Arguably Australia’s greatest expression of this capricious variety. Long and luxe and the more I stick my nose into this, the more I intuitively want to accommodate it and explore its eddies in greater detail. I drank the 2010 soon afterwards and given how well that has aged, I expect no less from this 95

Grower’s Selection Roussanne 18: Rooibos, quince paste, pistachio and toasted almond. Expansive and full-weighted, but impeccably placed. Each component in synchronicity. Richly favoured, but a bow of tension defined as much by a pungent mineral undertow as by a granitic precision, serving as a pinion between weight, density and freshness; shades of light and dark. A strident wine across the palate, alluding to the suitability of the variety to the region 95

Adam’s Rib The Red 18: Nebbiolo with a smidgeon of Syrah. Delicious drinking now. The shins and knees of adolescence sitting pretty in an almost Cru Beaujolais-esque gulpable swagger. Sour cherry, sapid notes of clove, briar, anise, garden herb and sandalwood, bound by a squeegee of freshness. Delicious drinking. In the zone. At its very best 93

Barbarossa 2017-18: This is the first time I have enjoyed this cuvée. Perhaps, a project of experimentation and contemplation. Finally! Finally! Absolutely brilliant! Suave tannins of a spindly edginess and diaphanous transparency framing notes of petrichor, campfire, sour cherry, sandalwood and bergamot. Sumptuous Nebbiolo, twisting its way across a ravine of spindly tannin and a rivulet of juicy acidity drawing the flavours long 95

Un Segreto 16: 60%/40% Sangiovese/ Shiraz. Raspberry compote, anise, brush, sandalwood and menthol. Finely tuned alloyed-smooth tannins, curtailing the plush mid-palate. Full-bodied but medium of feel as is the wont at Castagna, as much due to the structural latticework as to the granitic soils and sub-alpine setting. Riper and softer than usual, but no less delicious 94

Un Segreto 17: A very different animal to the 16. Herbal. Sassafras. A carapace of firm twine soused tannins binds the more reclusive fruit to future possibility, rather than imminence. Sour cherry, orange zest, scoops of liquorice all-sorts and cardamon. Mid-weighted despite the higher alcoholic buffering. More savoury and bony over sumptuous in this nascent stage. The 17’s boast a saline core with ferrous edges. Mulch and forestry undertones meld with Sangiovese’s inherent friskiness, serving to mitigate the higher alcohol of the vintage. Ironically, this vintage feel more compact and mid-weight despite the higher alcohol 95

La Chiave 16: Jubey, dark and sour fruited of nature with a core of crème de cassis mitigating the brushstroke of spice and scrub. Highly savoury with a ferrous core of tannin, looser than usual perhaps. But quelle tannins! Attenuated and detailed, they sweep across the mouth in a plume of authority, while conferring an immense core of savoury umami. A thoroughly delicious wine 95

La Chiave 17: A brew of forestry scents of pine, autumnal mulch, mint, anise and porcini broth, warm and nourishing. The tannins, fine boned and long limbed. As yet unresolved. Yet this wine promises the most of the Italianate expressions here. The darker tones of fruit, a backdrop. The oak, an addendum. Long, edgy and fresh. An extremely convincing wine with pedigree and ageability written all over it 96

Genesis 16: Lilac, smoked sweet meats, boysenberry, darker cherry, kirsch, tapenade and iodine. A sweeter, riper year conferring a plush approachability. Peppery, to be sure, while doused with an Indian spice sachet of star anise, clove and cardamon, The tannins, exceptionally fine despite the richer fruit. A more forward expression than usual, backed by a skein of sub-Alpine acidity 94

Genesis 17: A great nose. Superlative before it hits the palate. Tight. Compact. Wonderful tension. The tannins, a benchmark of extraction for others to emulate. Clove, pepper, nori and blueberry. Mid-weighted and beautifully furled, unravelling screw by screw; joint by joint; joinery by joinery; detail by detail, strongly suggesting that this will be a wine of the ages 97

Genesis 06: One of the few older expressions that Julian held back for posterity’s sake. And now it is time. Indelibly Rhône-like, boasting whiffs of cardamon, pepper grind, salumi, iodine and violet, the youthful blue fruit allusions giving way to dried porcini, mace and umami with age. Still electric with life as it crackles through the mouth, this is going to sit pretty for a further five-years at least 97

Allegro 18: Syrah with a dollop of Viognier. Mandarin of hue with onion skin edges. A potpourri of clove, Seville Orange, pink grapefruit, sour cherry and cinnamon stick. A curl of firm tannins transcends the usual structural lattice of a rosé, making for a more sophisticated wine closer in aura to a light red 94

Chenin Blanc 18: Dry, tensile and gently lanolin. Rapier-like of intensity and thrust. Pear granita, nashi apple, lemon drop and honey dew melon. Spice, too. Mid-weighted and highly textural, yet this could use another degree of ripeness, more time on lees and a bit of envelope-pushing. The oak, impeccably nestled. A fine wine at is nascent point of development and ascendancy. After all, everything takes time 92

Sparkling Genesis 2009: A deep mottled garnet segues to scents of spiced liquorice, black cherry, dark berry allusions, sassafras and bracken, all smeared with a marinade of clove, tapenade and pepper grind. Intensely flavoured, yet light on its feet as the fizz imparts refreshment factor, the tannins detail and grit and the acidity an uncanny etherealness. With a mere 6 grams of dosage, this is a lesson to the rest of us on how to keep this most traditional of Australian styles current and meaningful 95

Pet-Nat Allegro 2017: Strawberries and cream-type aromas, with a whiff of fennel and lemon verbena for perk. The fizz-gentle, persistent and attractively frothy-sets a tone of lightness, vibrancy and most importantly, joyousness. This is surely the wine’s MO. The acidity, a juicy linger in the background, serves to tow the melee long. A ‘thrills with a chill’ type of proposition 93

Castagna Vibrates under a full moon!

By Philip White

As good as wine tasting gets. Genesis from then to now. And tasted on a root day! Away back on the other side of last vintage I sat down at the laden table of the Castagna family at Beechworth, on the northern foothills of the Victorian Alps. To me, this is as good as wineries get. While I think about thirty of Australia’s 2600 wineries make consistently brilliant wine, Castagna is as close to the top of that thirty as I would care to measure. Or could measure.

No need to remind my long-term readers how I feel about stuff like that. But for those who came in late, a tasting like this at Castagna is such a flash of stately brilliance that I wish I had to walk home from Rome across China to Shanghai or somewhere, just to fully digest these notes. Julian and Adam Castagna first gave me a tasting of barrels. 2012 Shiraz in a new Burgundy barrel? Creamy, creamy in the mouth; crème de cassis; sublime intensity and elegance. Finish? Pickle of granite in acid and mace.

Same wine in a Bordeaux barrel? Still creamy, but much more austere and precise: pencil shavings and more gradually tapered, like Bordeaux.

Same wine in old barrel? More like the most soulful of Castagna. And on we went. Same vineyard picked eight days later with one per cent more alcohol in a new Burgundy barrel? Another beast again. This was architecture more than cooking, the most precise shard of a wine, agro allspice, sandy smashed windscreen tannins. Gehry. “I’d never use Bordeaux oaks on stuff this strong,” Julian said. Same wine in a barrel from another Burgundy cooper? The wine’s much more pungent, sick and creamy on the one hand, yet as edgy as wet hessian or burlap or the wheatbags of hemp seed we could get at Charlicks in the seventies. It was called Racing Pigeon Food.

So there we went, on through the dancing mysteries of Castagna Sangiovese and Nebbiolo in different oaks – trippy – and right to the verge of one of the most exciting tastings this writer can remember in Australia or anywhere: a serious uncorking of a set of Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz, and a day to wallow in them.

My first contact with the Castagna occurred when the 1999 Genesis poked its noble head from a row of hundreds of glasses of masked Shiraz and ended up winning the highest points out of the thousands of everything tasted for the 2001 Top 100 in The Advertiser, South Australia’s major daily. For consecutive years thereafter, Castagna repeated the conquest with one wine after another. Blind tastings; wines I’d never tasted before. They kept winning.

So here’s that wine again.

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 1999 (13.5% alcohol; 96++ points). “Not like any other Australian Shiraz,” I scratched out. “creamy, opulent, luxurious, harmonized essence of Shiraz, almost leaden in its incredible authority and weight. The fruit simply melts into a pot of red gold.” And then Julian butts in. “This is off two year old vines,” he says. “I took one bunch off every vine. That’s all. That’s all. I think you’ll see that these wines are of this vineyard,’ he says. “Of this vineyard.”

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2000 (13.5% alcohol; 95 points) shares the 1999s creamy wholesomeness, but it’s sharper in the herbals. If the oak contributed any precise aroma to the ’99, it was mace, made from the peel of the nutmeg. This is the nutmeg itself here in this 2000. While still smooth and harmonious, this wine has feints of soot, licorice and star anise. It’s more slender and sinewy, vivacious and bright than the ’99, and the better one to drink now, as it won’t last as long as that venerable.

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2001 (13.8% alcohol; 94+++ points) smells like a three-year old wine. It reminded me of Gago’s rad Bin 620 Penfolds, with all that brash confidence and luxurious intensity way beyond its short years. I’m not saying it’s aged prematurely, but that it has adult flesh of the finest athletic form far too early for its own good. And I’m begrudging in this praise. It seemed as slender and athletic as the 2000, but then with air made itself more so, with more sinuous, snaky acidity and finer tannins. A most refined and elegant wine on any table. And another one sure to swell with a decade of dungeon.

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2002 (13.5% alcohol; 96+++ points) had more of a pronounced dried herbs touch than its predecessors. It’s also minty, like peppermint, and impossibly youthful and bright. It’s fruit is still fluffy, like a whipped confection. Call me your little whipped confection if you like, as long as you tip this into me. As it settles its minions onto the prairie of the palate, it brings a hint of chocolate crème caramel from a great city restaurant many horses distant. There is no other Shiraz like this. Astonishing. Ravishing.

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2003 was not released. The vintage was not up to standard.

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2004 (14% alcohol; 93+ points) is where the crème de cassis, the jujube fruits, licorice and star anise well together in a sullen sort of a well, giving nuffink away until you get it onto the laughing gear, where all the above are liberated very slowly, like one hostage at a time, surrounded by and scribbled upon by the heavy lead of the 6B carbon pencil. The wine is slightly hot from its alcohol. Profound and confounding. Its heavy lack of primary humour reminds me of Dorris Lessing, but its fine silky tannins draw it out to a prime tension probly beyond Dorris.

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2005 (14% alcohol; 93+ points). Oooh dear. Musk, blackberry, blackcurrant, jujubes, jello, lipstick, tea tin, dried herbs, mace, bay, star anise, cedar, licorice, Marveer … and then, dammit, it smells like a clarinet!!!!!!!!! Not the most intense, but one of the most entertaining of the Genesis suite. The alcohol’s not particularly hot, but because the rest of the wine is more slender, with lower fruit levels, that 14% still seems overt here. Answer? Wait five years. Or pretend it’s an oboe. Whatever it is, and whatever I think, will be two very different things once you have a wine like this in your glass. It will take your heart away.

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2006 (14% alcohol; 96+++ points) is probably one of the great Shiraz wines of history. Anywhere. After many hours of air, it still begrudgingly begins to release shards of fruit of impenetrable depth and compression. It has the usual mace and anise and whatnot, but in a wine of this promise and provenance, who gives a damn? Everything else is here, so why not them? The only disconcerting thing is the tension of its compression: it’s like my buddy George Grainger Aldridge folding his vast frame into an economy seat. There’s a pallet of this put aside somewhere. I hope they keep it buried for another decade, at least. It reminds me of the Paul Jaboulet Ainée 1961 La Chappelle Hermitage.

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2007 was not released. The vintage was not up to standard.

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2008 (14% alcohol; 94+++ points) is heavy metal. Death metal. I know of few wines so strangely, deliciously metallic. It is welder’s flux, with the phosphoric acid of Coca Cola gnawing away at the blood pudding away below. Not swearing it’s there, but you get my drift. Juniper berry tannin. Then there’s a range of fleshy flavours which kinda swoop in heroically like the Valkyrie or something off a Wagner single. Sabayon, fudge, chocolate crème caramel are suddenly there as cushioning agents. Come, sweet agents, cushion me! Which all should serve to warn you that this wine needs to be left snoring for a decade more. Very black magic.

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2009 (14% alcohol; 95+++ points) is a softer, more fleshy wine from the hellfire and brimstone of a vintage which saw many dead across the Alps of Victoria. While the flavours are much tighter and more sinuous than the bouquet would indicate, with blacksnake acid and blackdust tannins, there’s a wallow of softer, much more cuddlepot fruit over the top, making the wine remind me of Welcome To Woop Woop. This is the most approachable Genesis of the more recent years. Which is never to say it’s a pushover.

Castagna Genesis Beechworth Shiraz 2010 (13% alcohol; 96+++ points) The time for rewriting is past. “Impossible to understand,” my notes verbote, “at this its obscene zygotic mystification. Face cream. Blackberry leaf. Carbon and black granite. Tourmaline. Totally barren of sensuality and flesh. Gunbarrells. Not one skerrick of humour. NOT FUNNY AT ALL.”So let that be a lesson to you. My advice is NEVER miss a tasting of Castagna Genesis or anything else from that bonnie vineyard up on the rocky shoulder of Australia itself. Just buy the wine and put it away and hope you don’t die too fast. It is indeed about as good as we get from single vineyard Shiraz. On Earth. If you think I’m wrong, there’s only one reason I can think of. We did this tasting on a root day. Fair dinkum. A root day. We miscalculated. Too much Full Moon.


Phillip White

Journalist Philip White is undoubtedly Australia’s most literate and erudite wine writer. His blog which is always the must-read blog of wine and wine politics in Australia includes his take on Castagna and is worth a read:

A far-ranging visit with Castagna, Beechworth

By Sarah Ahmed

I cannot recall when I first tasted Castagna wines from Beechworth, Victoria.  But I do remember that they made quite an impression.  Though not short of body, they had a dryness about them – a relatively emphatic acid and tannin structure and savouriness.  It’s surely no coincidence that founder Julian Castagna was an early adopter of biodynamic cultivation and alternative (Italian) grape varieties. For his part, biodynamics brings out “the freshness and life that’s there.”  I was excited to visit the 4ha vineyard in March at long last.

I say vineyard, but it was so hot atop the exposed, north-facing 500m ridge that we made a bee-line, toute suite, for the cool confines of Castagna’s light and airy kitchen to taste.  Castagna’s customary head-to-toe black garb, the stylish, art-filled house and his sharp opinions betray the winemaker’s previous life as a globe-trotting documentary film director.  It’s as if he and his wife, Carolann, a film producer/writer, landed from outer space.  But they have been here, making wine in the foothills of the Australian Alps, for some 20 years.


Julian Castagna : Castagna Wines Beechworth

By Milton Wordley

Whenever we travel overseas, we always take along wine for our family and friends. We usually take Australian sparkling shiraz, as you don’t see it much in other countries. This year we took along Castagna Sparking Genesis Syrah, made by Julian Castagna. It’s one of our favourite sparklers.

Julian had been been involved in the media industry for over 40 years. His journey from filmmaking to the wine business is a fascinating story. And along the way he became increasingly involved in biodynamic viticulture.



By Paul Diamond

If you are an Australian wine lover and haven’t heard of Castagna, don’t be surprised. 

Julian Castagna and his family, located just outside the Victorian Alps town of Beechworth, produce a small range of high quality, biodynamic wines that fly well below the radar.

They aren’t in any of the chains and to find them you will have to visit one of the handful of independent wine shops scattered around the country or be sitting in a restaurant looking at one of the few special wine lists that carry them.

There is no cellar door that you can ‘just visit’, you have to make an appointment. And, if you are not on his mailing list or buy directly from his site that often has ‘sold out’ next to his products, you will struggle to find them.

It’s no accident that these wines are not easy to find. A filmmaker earlier on in his life, Julian understands the value of having to dig to search something out, get to understand and eventually cherish it.