Congratulations to the Smith Cullam family of Frankland Estate. This organic pioneer – long celebrated as one of Australia’s finest Riesling producers –took out three trophies at the 2019 Royal Melbourne Wine Awards, including highly prestigious Trevor Mast Trophy for Best Shiraz.
The win, taking in trophies for Best Organic Wine and Best WA Shiraz, is the culmination of 30 years of devoted work here, first by Barrie Smith and Judi Cullam in planting the vineyard and setting a determined course towards elegance and depth in the wines. Their children Hunter and Elizabeth Smith – together with Lizzie’s winemaker husband Brian Kent – have built on this platform with tremendous dedication and clear-sightedness. They’ve weaved greater detail and texture into the reds, and this beautifully fragrant, flowing and seamless Shiraz is truly a new landmark for the variety in Australia.
“Shiraz in Western Australia has seen great advances and I’d say the heartbeat of this change is here in the Frankland River region,” says Hunter Smith. The evolution has taken place in both vineyard and cellar. Much of the former entails the implementation and implications of organic viticulture. Stronger, healthier vines have led to slower, more even ripening. Nuances of aroma, flavour and texture are multiplied. In tandem with the cooler aspect of the southern part of the Frankland River region, this leads to fresher, crunchier and brighter wines. Extra hang time also gives full lignification of stems, opening the door to the truly beneficial use of whole bunches.
In the winery, the old adage of less is more comes into full swing. Shallower ferments make for gentler vinification at lower temperatures, resulting in finer tannins and more delicate textures. In the mid-noughties the Smith Cullam clan moved to larger, 500-litre oak puncheons, another move that heightens the sense of purity and ironstone-gravel vineyard character.
“Enormous energy, over many years, has been poured into Isolation Ridge Vineyard Shiraz and we’re stoked for this recognition,” says winemaker Brian Kent.
They have every right to be pleased. This is a beautiful wine and testament to the greatness of this unique Great Southern site.
2017 Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Shiraz RRP $45
Fruit for this wine was sourced from three different locations in the Isolation Ridge vineyard at Frankland Estate. The vineyard is planted on undulating north- and east-facing slopes and has duplex soils of ironstone gravel and loam over a clay subsoil. The Isolation Ridge Vineyard is managed under organic certification (ACO certified organic since 2009), a sustainable practice that maximises the unique characteristics of the Isolation Ridge Vineyard to be expressed in this wine.
The very cold nights and mild daytime temperatures at the end of the 2017 growing season defined the vintage. Clarity of fruit flavours resulting from the dry and mild conditions provided another exciting vintage in the Frankland River region. Superb balance, elegance and complexity were achieved in 2017.
98.5% Shiraz and 1.5% Viognier. A combination of selective harvested and hand harvested fruit was fermented as whole berries in open-pot fermenters. A separate parcel (22% of the blend) was fermented as 100% whole bunches and blended post barrel maturation. Fermentation starts straight away and hand plunging takes place to keep the ferment even and as gentle as possible, minimising extraction. Temperatures typically do not exceed 26ºC through the 10- to 15-day ferment. Some additional maturation on skins occurs until tannins are fully integrated and the wine comes into balance. This wine was aged for 15 months in 500-litre French oak puncheons
Initially aromas of tight-knit iodine, ironstone and rose petal with hints of cedar and spice. As the wine opens more plum fruits and dried herbs of rosemary and aniseed come to the fore. On the palate, plush, bright, cool fruit of red plum and ripe mulberry give generosity, fullness and juiciness. An elegant wine with a sweet core of fruit combined with subtle savoury complexity of spice and herb that integrate into the subtle French oak which sits comfortably with the fine-grained tannins. Savoury, briary fruits lead into an enticing ironstone flinty note and mineral complexity. The small addition of Viognier adds to the wine’s complexity. A fine example of an outstanding mild vintage in Frankland River, it is approachable now but has the structure and finesse to reward long term cellaring.
Other organic-certified single-vineyard wines from Frankland Estate…
2018 Frankland Estate Poison Hill Riesling RRP $43
Hand-picked grapes were whole-bunch pressed immediately on arrival at the winery, cold-fermented, 8 weeks minimal intervention. Has class stamped all over it, but drink Isolation Ridge while this gets a few more (5+) years under its belt. 95 points. James Halliday, Halliday Wine Companion 2020
2018 Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling RRP $43
OMG. Incredible complexity on the nose with crushed-stone, slate and lemon character. Some nutmeg and white pepper, too. Full-bodied with a crunchy and creamy palate that highlights the bitter-lemon and mineral flavours. Very, very long. Organic wine. Drink now. Screw cap. 96 points. Nick Stock, jamessuckling.com July 2019
2017 Frankland Estate ‘Smith Cullam’ Riesling RRP $53
This is excitingly youthful. Yet, it has a very complex array of spices, white peaches, citrus and stony minerally accents. The palate is very powerful, and the fruit ripeness is right on. There is a strong and tart grapefruit-like thread that holds the long finish. Best from 2022. Screwcap. 96 points. Nick Stock, jamessuckling.com August 2018
2015 Frankland Estate Olmo’s Reward RRP $89
A blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. Deep smelling wine of earth, tobacco, dried flowers, red and black fruits, with a little gum leaf, aniseed, and cedar oak. Medium-bodied, savoury and thick with gravelly tannin, blackcurrant, raspberry, boysenberry and sweet herbs, oak in support, and a long dry sticky tannin finish. Love the freshness mixed with sweet loam and spice. Big personality. A rolling, regional wine that this estate does so well. 94+ points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front May 2019