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Julian Castagna

Having purchased a few acres of grapes, and bought a little bit of fruit, Julian Castagna made his first vintage of wine in 1998 with the help of neighbour Rick Kinzbrunner, of Giaconda. Twelve years on, Castagna has more than arrived. He is thoughtful and thought-provoking, interesting and argumentative, a vigneron’s vigneron. With his son Adam working with him in his tiny winery behind the house, and the farm settled comfortably into its biodynamic routine, Julien Castagna seems focused on fine-tuning his wines while at the same time playing around with the raw materials he has on hand. The winemaking at Castagna is pretty much what you would expect from a tiny biodynamic outfit that produces 1800 cases of wine across two labels. Everything is done by hand, with very little electricity. Hand harvesting leads to gentle crushing of whole clusters and some destemmed grapes. Fermentations take place at their own speed with native yeasts, pressing is done by hand with a basket press, and the wines are never fined or filtered. New oak is generally kept to a minimum. The results of Castagna’s approach truly speak for themselves. The wines range from very good to tremendous, and clearly reflect both the soil and the season in which they are made as well as the vision of the person who has made them. Castagna is clearly making wines of philosophy and of place, and succeeding admirably, even as his wines defy the stereotypes of Australian wine as big, over-oaked, fruit bombs. The Castagna Vineyard is situated at an altitude of 500 metres five-and-a-half kilometres outside the beautiful town of Beechworth in Northeast Victoria, high in the foothills of the Australian Alps. The soil consists mainly of decomposed granitic-loam on a base of clay. The climate is distinctly Mediterranean with hot days and cool nights during the important part of the growing season. The land is farmed biodynamically, using Rudolf Steiner’s biodynamic principles, because Julian believes it is the best way to achieve optimum fruit quality that best expresses its terroir. The vineyard is hand-pruned and the fruit is hand-picked and cropped at a bit less than two tons per acre. The winemaking is very traditional using only the vineyard’s indigenous yeast with minimal interference. Elevage varies between 18-20 months using only the very best, tight grain French oak available, about half of which is new each year. The intention is to make, as simply as possible, wine which is an expression of the place where it is grown.