Galloping to success

The Palladian style house at Fraser Gallop Estate. (Photo: Fraser Gallop Estate. Photographer: Tim Campbell)

Fraser Gallop Estate is a relatively recent arrival in Margaret River but already one of the region’s shining star wineries.

The wines – made by former Vasse Felix winemaker Clive Otto – are excellent and well-priced, but the most striking feature of the property is the house. Well, mansion might be a more apt word.

It’s a large home in the Palladian style, which fronts a lake, and across the lake, a substantial vineyard. The top-level range is named Palladian in recognition of Palladio the architect, and it makes sense when you know that owner Nigel Gallop has a passion for architecture and at one time studied it. Gallop was a software engineer who made his money by developing a business in Silicon Valley which he sold during the dot.com boom. His love of wine began in California’s Napa Valley.

The Fraser of Fraser Gallop was his late wife Heather Fraser’s name. And yes, Gallop has an affection for the neddies: one of his racehorses won a Perth Cup.

The first Fraser Gallop Estate wine was a 2002 cabernet sauvignon; Otto’s first vintage was 2006, coincidentally or not, the first year chardonnay was made, a variety with which Otto had distinguished himself.

Back to the Palladian wines. There is a chardonnay and a cabernet sauvignon, both in small volumes (120 dozen of the chardonnay; 160 of the cabernet). The third release of each were released last weekend at the Margaret River Gourmet Escape.

Both are striking wines, made from specially selected grapes grown on low-yielding parts of the vineyard. (All Fraser Gallop wines are grown on their own estate.)

The Vinification Puncheons at Fraser Gallop Estate. (Photo: Fraser Gallop Estate)

The 2015 cabernet was made in a way that is highly unusual in Australia. The fruit was special to begin with: cropped at half the yield of the rest of the vineyard, the vines shoot-thinned and leaf-plucked. The whole (uncrushed) berries were tipped into new puncheons and left to have a cold soak. Fermentation was by naturally occurring yeasts and the must was plunged daily, and kept on skins for a biblical 40 days and 40 nights.

The barrels are a French invention, now being widely used in Bordeaux. Made by Sylvain cooperage, they are called Vinification Puncheons. They have a stainless-steel lid where the bung-hole is normally, to facilitate filling and emptying of the skins.

Otto says they allow better integration of the fruit and oak flavours. It’s the same principle as barrel-fermenting chardonnay. “In the future, more people will do this,” says Otto, although I suspect cost will be a limiting factor, meaning the technique will be confined to high-end wines.

Fraser Gallop Estate’s 2017 Palladian Chardonnay and 2015 Palladian Cabernet Sauvignon are both AUD $110, and available from the cellar door and via the website.

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