Walpole brings a bit of Côte Rôtie to Beechworth
North-east Victorian viticulturist Mark Walpole is planting shiraz vines on the site of a 19th Century Beechworth vineyard, with each vine individually staked in the manner of Côte Rôtie vineyards. The site is on rocky granitic soil in a gorge, just outside the Beechworth township. Walpole elected to import the hardwood stakes especially from France’s northern Rhône Valley, where vines in the Côte Rôtie and Condrieu regions are still individually staked in the traditional manner of the ancient Roman pioneers because it was cheaper than getting someone local to supply them.
Walpole, who won Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine’s 2017 viticulturist of the year award, produces Beechworth wines under the Fighting Gully Road label. He said the original 1860s vineyard had been planted by a Frenchman, Ambrose Granjoux (or Grandjoux). The new vineyard has been designed much the same way Granjoux planted his. The 2.2 acres of vines are closely spaced, about five feet by three feet. It is surrounded by a stone wall, in the French clos style.
Nearby are the stone ruins of Granjoux’s cellars (pictured), which were gutted by fire during his day.
Walpole has a clipping from a local newspaper dated 1872 in which Granjoux’s Vineyard is listed for sale, as the owner was returning to France. An 1865 advertisement lists seven different varieties of wine for sale, including brown and white muscats, chasselas, riesling, malbec, carignan and tokay, as well as ‘Colonial Claret’. He also grew scyras (shiraz).
Walpole is already producing some superb Fighting Gully Road Beechworth wines. Previously, he was a co-founder of Heathcote venture Greenstone, and before that, chief viticulturist for Brown Brothers. He already has vineyards at Beechworth, and at Whorouly in the King Valley.
The new project is sure to fascinate wine lovers. The queue for the first vintage starts behind me.
How about a name? Clos Walpole? Or Clos Granjoux Scyras?