2018 Fighting Gully Road La Longa Sangiovese
We are thrilled to introduce you to one of our most exciting wines, the Fighting Gully Road 2018 La Longa Sangiovese. This wine is a true gem, coming to you from the northeast of Victoria’s gold-rush township of Beechworth. A uniquely high-altitude alpine, cool-climate terroir, you may know Beechworth as having some of Australia’s best chardonnay. But, this cooler climate region is also a honey pot for elegant, delicately rich, ripe, and complex red grape varieties. None more so than that of sangiovese.
Mark Walpole, the vigneron (aka winemaker, viticulturist, the everything!) at Fighting Gully Road, is a tad obsessed with sangiovese – and it’s been like this for a little while now…If his car number plate doesn’t give it away, we’d actually say, he’s supremely passionate about making the best damn Sange’ in the country. And we’re here for it!
The 2018 vintage of Mark’s premium, black label sangiovese, the La Longa, has been named after the patient 36-month process of making this beautiful wine. Inspired by the Italian word for a long note (musically): “A longa is a musical note that could be either twice of three times as long…” the wine spends two-to-three times longer in oak than most Aussie-made red wines…36-months (well, 24 in oak + 12 in bottle) – and then some!
A true testament of passion and patience, we bring this special wine to you, as she’s ready to sing. Put on some Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, paired with a bowl of spaghetti Bolognese, and settle into a glass, or three.
Beechworth, the honey-pot of gold
It’s not too surprising we have come to Beechworth before…also for a red wine! Most would know of good ol’ Beechie for its award-winning chardonnay, but as we mentioned, it’s bloody good for red wine. The dark horse of the hill, Beechworth reds thrive on the mineral rich hills around the alpine township. Home to only a few handful wineries, where most are only open by appointment. Make sure to call ahead, as you can then be treated to a behind-the-scenes look at the amazing fruit quality, passion, and vintage stories behind the wines you’ll taste.
Mark’s winery, and newly built cellar door, is perched up on the historic Mayday Hills. First founded in May 1839, Mayday Hills was discovered by a former naval officer Lieutenant David Reid, whilst exploring neighbouring Eldorado township. So impressed by the beauty of the landscape, he immediately called it ‘May Day Hills.’ The larger town of Beechworth, as we know today, came about from the discovery of gold on the banks of Newtown Hill in 1852, some 12 years after Reid put May Day Hills on the map. Mayday Hills has a strong sense of place for many people connected to its history.
Fighting Gully Road vineyards are just some 3-4 kms out of town, where he is inspired by the geographic and climatic diversity of the region. This allows him to grow and cultivate many different grape varieties, and styles of wine. The region’s diverse topography produces full-bodied, rich, and firmly structured wines (at the lower elevations), through to the finer, elegant and delicate wines at the higher elevations.
Not only a hub for exceptional wines, but the region is also a foragers delight: With a multitude of unique and rare fungi, white and black truffle, premium chestnut varieties, seasonal berries, and stone fruit – making the Beechworth region not only a honey-pot for all the wine lovers out there, but a foodie mecca.
OK, let’s give you a quick history of sangiovese in Australia. While sangiovese is primarily associated with the Tuscany region in Italy, it has also been successfully grown in other parts of the world, including Australia. The Beechworth region, in northeast Victoria, is some 300km north-east of Melbourne, and four hours south-east of Canberra, and it’s been particularly good at producing high-quality sangiovese wines for some time now.
First planted in 1990’s, with several wineries now producing sangiovese. The cool climate and granitic soils of the Beechworth region are well suited to growing sangiovese. The climate allows for a longer ripening period and more complexity in the resulting wines.
Over the years, Beechworth sangiovese has gained a reputation for being some of the best in Australia, with those wineries producing award-winning examples rivalling those from its homeland, in Italy.
Beechworth sange’s are known for their bright acidity, ripe red-fruit flavours, and elegant tannins. Making them very food-friendly and enjoyable to drink with a plethora of dishes and circumstance.
There are many families and clones of the sangiovese grape, with the two most common being Sangiovese Piccolo and Sangiovese Grosso (Prugnolo Gentile). The Piccolo is considered the most commonly used while the Sangiovese Grosso (used in Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines), is Mark’s clone-of-choice – also known simply as the 'Brunello' clone. "New clones have changed the face of sangiovese in Australia. They’re lower yielding (naturally), loose clusters, and smaller berries, and so it’s much, much easier to make good wine than before,” says Mark.
Sangiovese is typically bottled using 100% being that of the sangiovese grape, however vignerons around Australia, and Internationally, have made great blends of the wine, using small additions of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, merlot and other lesser-known Italian varieties. Sangiovese is also becoming a popular grape for making a Rosé wine. Producing a typically leaner, savoury rosé, with a dried rose perfume and a lighter Provence-esque colour. This rosé style is building great popularity and appeal amongst rosé wine drinkers nationally.
La Longa is a test of patience
The fruit was all hand-harvested; the grapes crushed and de-stemmed into an oak fermenter. After fermentation the wine remained on skins for another 14 days, then pressed off the skins. This wine then starting it’s ‘Longa’ 36-month journey through a specialised oak program. 12 months in new and second-use fine grained, Italian coopered French oak barriques. This was then followed by 12 months in seasoned 1600L oak cask, and finally bottled, where the wine is kept for a further 12 months (+) prior to release.
This is the second release of this wine, as a ‘Reserve’ or the ’Black Label’ range within the Fighting Gully Road portfolio. What sets it apart is the overall restraint, especially in ripeness and the wine's underlying tension. 2018 bought exceptional fruit quality, and a savouriness, and well-defined wine.
Using parcels of the Brunello-clone fruit, helps to create earthy, almost new-leather, oak spice, and black cherry notes. Complemented with Italian bitter herbs, fine, and very precise tannins, the time taken in the maturation is overwhelmingly obvious. A delicate wine, ready for deployment. For those with patience themselves, this wine will shine with further time in the bottle before drinking.
“According to the maker, La Longa is a test of patience, with extended time in new and seasoned barriques, followed by more time in large 1600L wooden cask and, finally, bottle ageing before release. Strikes a wild pose, with baked earth, wild thyme, dried herbs, glazed cherries and Szechuan pepper. Supple tannins meld with warm, ripe fruit, but underlying it all is firm, toasty oak.” 95 points
Sangiovese is considered stunningly good for several reasons. Firstly, sangiovese is a highly versatile grape variety that can be grown in a wide range of climates and soil types which allows for a great variety of expressions of the wine. Additionally, sangiovese wines tend to have a great balance of acidity, tannins, and fruit flavours which makes them very food-friendly and enjoyable to drink. Finally, sangiovese has a long history and tradition in Italy, particularly Tuscany which has helped to build its reputation and popularity among wine and food lovers.
This 2018 La Longa Sangiovese is a medium-bodied wine with bright acidity and red fruit-flavours. Black cherry, cranberry and Italian herbs are presented upon the initial inspection. It also shares a pink peppercorn, and delicate floral notes, quickly followed with a subtle earthiness.
When it comes to pairing this wine with food, sangiovese is a very food-friendly wine that can pair well with a range of dishes. Some classic pairings include pizza, tomato-based pasta dishes, as well as grilled meats such as steak or lamb chops, or the go-to when in Florence, a Bistecca Fiorentina.
The bright acidity of the wine can also complement dishes with vinegar-based dressings such as salad or roasted vegetables. Overall, this 2018 la Longa would be a great choice to pair with a hearty Italian meal or grilled meat dish. Very good, thank you.
It's officially Italian pizza party weather.