Fighting Gully Road Smiths Vineyard Chardonnay 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

Three points to make first.

Fighting Gully Road, the estate run by one of Australia’s most respected wine people, Mark Walpole.
Smiths Vineyard in Beechworth was planted in 1978 and I regard it as one of the best sites for Chardonnay (along with one or two others) in the region.
Adrian Rodda (who makes Chardonnay I think most of our customers are familiar with), effectively makes the wines for Fighting Gully Road under the guidance of Mark while he tends to the aspects of both estates viticultural concerns.

That is a pretty serious triple threat and one I know we have been talking about for a long time, both with Fighting Gully and A. Rodda wines. Another point that may be worth mentioning, and some of you may remember, that Adrian won the James Halliday Chardonnay Challenge for his 2017 Willow Lake, Australia’s most important Chardonnay award. It is a vintage that was ideally suited to Chardonnay, as James Halliday commented “chardonnay is an absolute standout (watch for its release)” regarding the season in Beechworth.

As to the wine, it ticks all the boxes, especially if you are a fan of “classic” Chardonnay from Beechworth. Densely packed with flavour, it’s a powerfully built example where the acidity draws everything in and keeps it focused and centred. Smoky, incense like wood underpins that tremendously intense fruit. It has a real sense of barely contained power. It’s fantastic, as you would expect given all the relative factors.

I think Mark kind of treats this like a reserve bottling and holds it back a little as this is the recent release of the Smith Vineyard and that little extra time in bottle has helped show just a touch more of that upside potential. I remember tasting this in barrel and thinking it would need a good few years. It’s great Chardonnay and very Beechworth in character. Another absolute bombshell of a wine from Mark. He is on fire at the moment.