Shiraz thrives at Long Rail Gully

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When BRL Hardy closed its Canberra winery in 2006 and began dismissing its grape growers, the Parker family had to re-think its future in the wine business. Barrister Gary Parker, his wife Barbara and son Richard had committed themselves to growing grapes, with a meticulous 24-hectare vineyard established to supply Hardys. Planted in 1998, with 150 olive trees for good measure, the development included a massive bore-fed dam, big enough for boating and fishing. It’s proved a wise investment in the light of the recent succession of dry seasons.

The property goes by the slightly odd name Long Rail Gully (tastings) – probably a reference to the days when farms were bordered by post-and-rail fences. This became the brand-name for the Parker family’s wines. They built a capacious winery. Richard studied winemaking at Charles Sturt University. They got serious about the wine game.

The Long Rail Gully wines were among my discoveries on a recent tour of the Canberra region. The district isn’t noted for pinot noir, but the 2015 Long Rail Gully Pinot Noir ($35 – tasting) is a stylish wine, spicy, complex and gamy with lots of charm.

Gary Parker, an ebullient, larger than life chap who would obviously be right at home in the courtroom, is pained by the crop-thinning Richard and his team have to perform in the vineyard, in order to achieve the quality of grapes they desire. Says Richard:

“If we did nothing, the vines would hang 12 tonnes per hectare. The pinot noir vines were thinned to 4 tonnes per hectare, which means eight tonnes per hectare went on the ground.”

That probably feels like building a bonfire with $100 notes. Until you taste the wine.

It’s the shirazes which excited most, however. The 2014 ($25 – tasting) is one of the bargains of the district: loaded with spicy, smoked-charcuterie and plum aromas, it has a marvellously fleshy texture, density and softness.

The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($24 – tasting), while good, is shaded by the ’13 shiraz cabernet ($22 – tasting), which benefits from the addition of the softer, more textural shiraz. The big daddy, the $60 flagship wine called Four Barrels (tasting), is also a shiraz cabernet – a barrel selection of the most powerful, concentrated and lush batches. Utterly sublime.

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