News

Savaterre's new-release wines

By J'aime Cardillo

23 Apr, 2024

Beechworth's Savaterre has just released two chardonnay wines and a reserve pinot noir from the 2022 vintage. We spoke to owner and winemaker Keppell Smith about the wines, and about his plans for a Savaterre cellar door.

Savaterre Wines

Saveterre has just released its wines from the 2022 vintage. The Beechworth wines include the 2022 Savaterre Chardonnay, the Savaterre Chardonnay Frère Cadet, and the Savaterre Reserve Pinot Noir.

Owner and winemaker Keppell 'Kep' Smith says that the difference between the 2022 Chardonnay and the Frère Cadet (which means 'little brother' in French) is weight and intensity. 

"They're both made identically, I mean, literally identically. Same élevage, same everything. [Frère Cadet] is more approachable in its youth. It's less powerful. It's like the little brother, it's not ready. It hasn't got the power. My vineyard is like the close planted French model, which produces incredibly intense wines. So it’s really just a study in two separate vineyards. That's all. It's the difference between grand cru and premier cru."

The grapes for the Frère Cadet Chardonnay come from a vineyard next to Giaconda. Kep says the owners and vignerons of that vineyard were good enough to sell him some of the grapes back in 2011, when he lost his crop after non-stop rain. He used to make wine for them, and still helps them out, so the trade was on. "I thought it was going to cannibalise the other chardonnay, but it's been more of an introduction."

There has been some pinot noir come out under the Frère Cadet name, but Kep says his pinot vines are all grown up. "I've got some more coming on, so I might resurrect that one in a couple of years." But, in the meantime, the vision is to produce Frère Cadet for as long as he can access grapes of that quality. "There's a line a mile long in Beechworth to get these grapes. And because I help the girls out, they give me first dibs on the grapes, which is incredibly lucky for me."

Keppell SmithOwner and winemaker Keppell 'Kep' Smith.

Kep's journey to wine started when he was working in foreign exchange as a broker. "I had what I found out to be a limitless expense account. I was ordering all these wines at these great restaurants. And when you go to restaurants a lot of time you get to know the staff, and the sommelier basically said to me, 'Kep, why are you ordering all this awful wine? You've got all this money and you're ordering rubbish.'

"And I said, 'I just don’t know any better is basically the answer.' They said to me, 'Well, do you want some help?' So I said, 'that'd be great.' And that was the start of a beautiful thing."

Kep says he'd ring up at 10 in the morning and the team would open a bottle, decant it, and let it breathe. Then he'd arrive at one. "Back in those days you could order anything for not much money; Grange was $100 in a restaurant, so with $150 you could get whatever you wanted. And the deal was, if I couldn't make it to lunch, because the foreign exchange market was going to be crazy, they could drink it and, in those days, fax me the bill. So they made some really nice choices."

From there, Kep realised the foreign exchange market was a road to burnout. So he started studying at Charles Sturt by distance and began his vineyard search. He worked with Phillip Jones at Bass Phillip in '98, before doing some work in France (and talking to winemakers about philosophies). All while still searching for that perfect vineyard. "I looked all around the world, literally all around the world."

Savaterre viewSavaterre's 'rockstar' view of Beechworth.

“Beechworth wasn't a viticultural area in that stage. I was tasting wines from people like Barry Morey at Sorrenberg, and tasting wines from Rick Kinzbrunner at Giaconda, and thinking, 'these are great wines, why don't we know about this area?'"

Kep was ready to head to Leongatha, but he never made it that far. "I managed to trespass onto some land, convince the farmer to sell it to me, and the rest is history."

And so Savaterre was born. Now, Kep lives by the French model: "We live here, we make the wine here, and I get accused of not leaving the farm." And in perhaps the best news, Kep and his wife, Nobue, are toying with the idea of a Savaterre cellar door (along with the exceptional wines, if you've seen that 'rockstar' view you'll understand our excitement). 

Nobue isn't trained as a chef, but she may as well be. Completely self-taught, she turns out some of the best Japanese food you've seen. Kep says before they moved in together, Nobue didn't cook at all. Not only is the Savaterre tasting room on the cards, so is a tiny restaurant, and maybe even once-a-month Japanese cooking lessons with Nobue.

It's all still in the early stages, but Kep says it would be a full Savaterre experience – only open a few days a week and probably not walk-ins. "We're going to give you an experience. If we have too many people, we can't do that."

Jeni Port's Savaterre tasting notes

Savaterre chardonnay

2022 Savaterre Chardonnay Beechworth

Exceptional style and class through and through. Winemaker Keppel Smith refers to '22 as 'quite a lovely cool but wet vintage.' A thrilling ride awaits with a deep dive into arresting aromas filled with white flowers, stone fruits, Meyer lemon, nougat, almond meal and spice. Floats dreamily on the palate, fine in texture, resonating in fruit and well-judged oak, creamy in texture, bright in energy and acidity. – Jeni Port, Halliday Wine Companion, 96 points

RRP $120 | Drink to 2034


2022 Savaterre Chardonnay Frère Cadet Beechworth

2022 Savaterre Chardonnay Frère Cadet Beechworth

Carries a lot of mighty good flavour that stays on the tongue and won't let go. Sunny and bright, yet deep and concentrated. Pure yellow peach, pear, Meyer lemon, spice and woodsmoke. Offers up a ripe citrus tang, stone fruits and light Asian fruit tropicals against a well-spiced cedarwood background – creamy soft across the mid-palate – that simply doesn't stop as it works its way to a long finish. Juicy acidity aids the journey. Impressive. – Jeni Port, Halliday Wine Companion, 95 points

RRP $65 | Drink to 2027


Savaterre pinot noir

2022 Savaterre Reserve Pinot Noir Beechworth

Ready for its close-up, this 2022 reserve pinot carries itself most elegantly. The scent seduces in spices, forest and red fruits, red licorice, fennel and dried herbs. Gently fleshy and compact, 18 months maturation in French oak has brought added concentration and resolve. However, still a pup, still in building mode and ready for extra time in bottle, if you have the time. – Jeni Port, Halliday Wine Companion, 96 points

RRP $160 | Drink to 2033

View all Savaterre tasting notes.

For more information and to shop these wines visit savaterre.com.