By Fergal Gleeson
Surfing and winemaking are not obvious bedfellows. But you could say that winemaker Clive Otto’s love of surfing led him to his career. Clive was born in Tanzania and grew up in New Zealand.
His first steps towards winemaking were when the young horticultural student moved to Gisborne in New Zealand because of the great surf. Clive picked up a job on in a winery working under a Swiss winemaker, “who was very precise and particular” and with whom he got to try some great European wines.
After studying Oenology, Clive went on a surf safari to Margaret River. He loved the place and secured a winemaking job at Vasse Felix where he worked for a number of years, before coming to Fraser Gallop in 2006.
Nigel Gallop’s vision was to find a site that could produce great Cabernet. It was important to him to select a site that would sustain a traditional, dry grown vineyard (ie. requires no irrigation).
After extensive site testing he settled on the current site in the Wilyabrup sub region of Margaret River in 1999. He had the right vineyard and in 2006 he had a highly awarded winemaker. Clive and Nigel then set about designing the perfect winery.
Sean Blocksidge, owner of The Margaret River Discovery Co., picks up the story. “Ten years ago they were an unknown brand but you could see the investment that they were putting into the people and the winery.
It was hard to get people to understand back then but you could see they were going to be the next big thing. And that’s exciting for people to be in at the start of something.”
They didn’t have to wait long. The Fraser Gallop 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon won the Decanter World Wine Awards International Trophy for Best Bordeaux Blend and a stellar award winning sequence had begun.
The challenges from Vasse Felix were immediately different as Clive explains. “Vasse Felix build complexity in their wines from blending wines from different sites around Margaret River. At Fraser Gallop I was working with a single vineyard.”
The Parterre Range
Clive builds complexity in the legendary Fraser Gallop Parterre Cabernet by blending grapes using three different winemaking techniques. Some are destemmed, cold soaked and left in whole berries in a style normally used in the making of Pinot Noir. Some are open fermented and hand plunged.
The final portion is left on skins for 40 days. Then the three portions are blended with small quantities of classic Bordeaux varietals such as Petit Verdot and Merlot.
One of Nigel Gallop’s founding principles was for Fraser Gallop to over deliver on quality for the price. If you’ve had the pleasure of drinking Fraser Gallop Parterre Cabernet 2013, you’ll see this point made emphatically.
It is complex, detailed and of outstanding quality. It sits on a par with Cabernets two or three times the price from Margaret River and elsewhere.
It’s not all about Cabernet. Fraser Gallop Parterre Chardonnay 2016 has won lots of accolades and points from the critics. Sean said he considers it one of the best Chardonnays in the region. Parterre Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2016 is also an exceptional wine.
The Cellar Door
The newly opened cellar door is now open 7 days a week from 11-4pm. It sits in the cottage that the Gallops lived in before the mansion was built. The cellar door features some unique wines not available elsewhere such as the Ice Pressed Chardonnay.
Clive explains “The Ice Pressed Chardonnay expresses the true potential of the fruit. Other desert wines in the region use the cane cut method which provides raisined fruit. By pressing the frozen grapes you get concentrated flavour. Though it is time consuming and costly it gives a great result.” It is also the only one in the region.
Then there’s Miseo, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot. At cellar door you’ll also find other limited release bottle such as Palladian 2014, Fraser Gallops flagship Cabernet and magnum sized bottles of the Parterre range.
Photos courtesy of Sean Blocksidge, The Margaret River Discovery Co.
This is an excerpt from a feature in the summer issue of Your Margaret River Region Magazine