Fighting Gully Road Sangiovese La Longa 2017

From Beechworth and an excellent viti-vini team. These are wines to firmly keep a handle on (and buy and drink!). MIKE BENNIE, The Wine Front

The wines of Fighting Gully Road have always been good but in recent times they’ve taken significant steps forward by my reckoning. CAMPBELL MATTINSON

This is the best example of this variety I have seen produced in Australia to date!

Ok, now we have that out of the way, and I assume there will be some people out their who are triggered by that statement, let’s get on with the spiel and I will endeavour to explain why I think this is the case.

Mark Walpole is one of our country’s most distinguished and will loved viticulturalists. He works along side Adrian Rodda (who makes wines under his eponymous label that will be very well known to many of our customers) in Beechworth where Mark runs the vineyard side of things and Adrian does all the lug work in the winery with clear direction from Mark when it comes to FGR.

Few people in Oz have the cumulative knowledge of growing these varieties as Mark has, having worked and consulted for just about everyone who even thought about planting Italian varieties in Victoria. The site he chose for these plantings is his Fighting Gully Road vineyard which sits somewhere between 530-580 meters above sea level and experiences, generally, long, dry, warm and even ripening periods making it ideal for Sangiovese.

Along with the site that Mark believes was ideally suited to growing these wines he also planted a few different clones to what was the norm around Oz at the time. One was the Isole e Olena “Cepparello” clone and two Brunello clones. It was the later that he found gave him the raw material he needed to craft this wine. Producing the density of flavour and those bold Sangiovese tannins that a style like this requires if it is to be successful.

In the winery (which is worth mentioning is in an abandoned lunatic asylum. Well worth a visit if you are ever up there) it gets the royal Brunello treatment. Aged in wood that Mark imports (he doesn’t do things by half measures), the first year is in barrique. The second year of its life it is transferred to large format botte (traditionally used in Brunello) where the wine is given time to integrate fully its muscular tannins and deeply pitched fruit. It was at this stage I first tasted the wine with Myles on a visit to see Mark and, I think I can speak for Myles here, we were both astounded by the striking quality and character that shone through in this wine. Lastly the wine is held for 12 months further in bottle before release.

When I first tasted this in barrel a few things were obvious. Firstly the potential quality of the juice here was better than any Sangiovese I had seen in Australia thus far. Secondly Mark was extremely happy, over the moon in fact, about the results. Anyone who knows the great man will understand that the degree of excitement that was obvious when tasting this was something he doesn’t openly show too often. He is a reserved gentleman. Lastly it was clear that this was the result Mark had been chasing, not just in terms of quality but style and delivery as well.

Tasting it again this week in bottle I can say that all the promise that was shown in the botte has more than come to fruition here. The wine has gained even more flesh, depth and focus since I last tasted it and delivers all that fruit with a truly pedigreed feel to it now. It is absolutely sensational and will set the tone for this noble variety in Australia going forward.

Fortunately it isn’t just me who thinks so. Myles obviously agrees, as do the crew at PWS HQ who tasted it recently and as does Jane Faulkner, who many would say was the expert on drinking these varieties in the Australian context, as her humongous review below in James Halliday’s Wine Companion shows. The culmination of decades of hard work, dedication and focus.

It’s a long spiel and I am sorry but I did make a big claim right out of the gate and needed to back that up. This is super and while I dislike comparisons between our wines and those of their original homes I think many Italophiles would adore this wine. As would anyone who just loves great red.

To, effectively, launch this wine to our customers we are offering it with our usual 15% off the regular retail price with more than 20% off in straight six packs or dozens. I urge everyone to give this a go. It’s a gorgeous drink now but I would bet this will look even better in 5-10 years. It is a modern Australian classic that I genuinely believe will be much sought after in years to come.