It’s a warm Thursday in February, 2024, the vines are heavy (well most), and several of our neighbours have already commenced picking their fruit.

We wanted to share some insights, lessons, and other work we’ve been tackling these past few months, before our harvest duties ensure we have zero spare time to write such things! We sat down with Vigneron Mark Walpole and asked him about the state-of-play for Fighting Gully Road vineyard and #V24:


How the vineyards are looking?

“After regular rain throughout the season (except September), all the vines are looking in excellent health. Plenty of soil moisture has ensured shoots have filled the trellis, and some requiring trimming – which is an unusual need at the Fighting Gully Road vineyard. Despite all the wet weather we have managed to keep the two main diseases (powdery and downy mildew) out of the vineyards. In the past couple of weeks the weather has changed – with an absence of rain, and some warm days which has allowed us to begin harvest without delay.”

What fruit is looking the best?

“Given the cool season Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are looking particularly good, with the other varieties shaping up pretty well. We have our best crop of Sangiovese in many years, and bunch numbers are good in varieties such as Syrah and Tempranillo.”

What vines are needing some extra work?

“Despite being unirrigated, the Aglianico vines have required ongoing work to keep the canopies open and fruit exposed to light and shoots trimmed. All red varieties have been hand leaf plucked on the morning sun side to improve air circulation, and to allow fruit to warm up quickly in the morning – which is critical to development of colour and flavour compounds.”

It’s tough controlling weeds, what work is done in order to set yourself up for a great harvest?

“In the vineyards we take a minimalist approach to weed control trying to keep our herbicide use to an absolute minimum. During winter we removed grass weeds leaving a dense sward of subterranean clover undervine, which died off naturally in late spring to provide a matted mulch. This suppressed summer weed growth, which is normally pretty extreme with wet conditions.”

Leading up to today, just how has the weather been?

“The seasonal conditions have almost been a repeat of the last couple of years. Above average sea surface temperatures in the Coral sea and the Pacific ocean off the east coast have resulted in almost ‘sub-tropical’ conditions including high humidity; with north-easterly winds dragging down moisture from the north. There has been an absence of very hot (dry) days – the top temperature for the summer being only 32⁰C. The result is almost luxuriant conditions for the vine to grow in with no ‘stress’.”

Which parcel of fruit is looking its best?

“In normal years the Pinot Noir block suffers from high winds (shoots grow semi-horizontally, not vertically), particularly on the ridge lines where there are shallower soils. The regular rains this year coupled with more moderate humid north-easterlies mean very uniform growth and crop across the entire block.”

Which blocks have made the greatest improvement from last year?

“In spring of 2022 we planted two new blocks of Sangiovese – one dedicated to our La Longa wine; and the other for our white-label, ‘Chianti’ style wine. The very cool conditions resulted in particularly slow growth, so the vines were pruned back to one single, two-bud spur, and re-trained this year. The result has been spectacular, with many of the young vines filling their allocated space, which will mean our first crop from these blocks from the 2025 harvest. The only disappointment has been the appearance of hares for the first time which took a particular liking for tender young vine shoots!!”

Plus, we have an additional update from Mark (March 18, 2024):

“We have picked all of our Chardonnay – which looks to be as good as we’ve ever produced. We now have five Tempranillo ferments on the go – with a couple of new techniques being trialed to lift aromatics and add more powdery tannins. The Grenache and Verdicchio are ripening slowly – which is exactly as I had hoped with these late ripening ‘climate-resilient’ varieties. They will be picked in the next few weeks, with the Brunello-clones of Sangiovese destined for the La Longa Sangiovese. And the Aglianico is likely to be the last – as usual.”

Thanks to Mark for taking the time to share what has been happening in the vineyard. Please stay tuned, as we keep posting throughout harvest (on Instagram), and will have a full wrap up of #V24 after all the fruit has been picked, and processed! – Cheers!