The career-best form continues for Frankland Estate. The Smith Cullam clan – led these days by Hunter and Lizzie Smith, plus Lizzie’s winemaker husband Brian Kent – followed up their Trevor Mast Trophy-winning 2017 Syrah with a benchmark-setting pair of ’18s: Isolation Ridge and SmithCullam (the latter a large-format barrel selection of the former). 2019 was the best of these past vintages for Syrah, and here comes another raising of the bar.
The Riesling release, meanwhile, comes after the 2019 Isolation Ridge took out last year’s WA Good Wine Guide top award as Wine of the Year. Unquestionable quality issued forth from 2020, too, but sadly the same can’t be said for quantity; this was the lowest yield on record for the single-vineyard wines.
Rounding out this release is Olmo’s Reward, another unmistakable signature from the estate. “Different. Expressive. And very lovely,” was Gary Walsh‘s conclusion.
They’re apt words for Frankland Estate all round, which is why we’re delighted to present these wines to you.
2020 RIESLING VINTAGE
“Intensity of flavour” is what springs to mind from the 2020 harvest; a dry year that resulted in very low crop levels. Some crop losses occurred during the vulnerable flowering period in spring, but the 30% reduction in yields overall was largely due to the dry conditions of the year, resulting in smaller berries and bunches. Vineyard expression was paramount as always, and this was achieved through delicate handling of the fruit in the winery.
Coincidentally, our 10-year cellar release this year – the 2011 – comes from a similarly dry year, which had prompted us to make some minor adjustments in the cellar at that time. This experienced helped us manage things appropriately in 2020.
We did not need further convincing that we are on the right track with regards to organic viticulture; however, the resilience of the vines and resulting quality of the wines from the 2020 season highlights to me how far we have come with our vineyard health over the past 15 years of producing under organic standards.
2020, as it turned out, was the lowest volume year on record for Rieslings from both the Isolation Ridge and Poison Hill vineyards. Through critical selection of the many small-barrel and tank ferments we found the very finest parcels for these wines. The selection of these parcels reflects the ongoing evolution of style and our dedication to allowing site to be reflected as faithfully as we know how. We actively sought a riper fruit and acid profile which, when combined with the longer time on lees (until December – much needed this season) have allowed the wines to come together beautifully and show a lovely completeness.
Sadly, volume and season meant there was no SmithCullam Riesling in 2020, continuing its legacy as a wine produced in only the appropriate years. – Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate
2020 Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling RRP $45
This wine is 100% Riesling from the Isolation Ridge vineyard at Frankland Estate. Riesling vines from two different clones were planted in 1988 on undulating north- and east-facing slopes with duplex soils of ironstone gravel over a clay subsoil. A number of trellis systems are used throughout the vineyard, which is situated 256m above sea level. The cool nights and long, slow ripening periods typical of the Frankland River region allow maximum flavour development while maintaining distinctive vibrant acidity The vineyard is farmed according to certified organic principles and this is reflected in the clarity and complexity of the pristine fruit.
Grapes are pressed immediately on arrival at the winery, with the juice left to settle in tank overnight before being racked to fermentation vessel. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks at low temperatures (less than 15°C) over 8 weeks with minimal intervention. The wine is then left on its lees for eight to nine months. A small parcel was fermented and aged in (neutral) oak foudre for the same time. These parcels obtain complex textural components and greater opulence. – Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate
Superb, energetic, taut and very complex white wine. Scents of ozone and green apple, fennel and talc. Beautiful perfume that reflects perfectly into flavours in the palate, a shimmering, glassy and tense feel drawn long and to a powdery, lightly puckering and, again, talc-like lingering finish. Epic. 96 points. Mike Bennie, The Wine Front April 2021
2020 Frankland Estate Poison Hill Riesling RRP $45
Poison Hill Vineyard lies on the northern edge of the Frankland River township. Its distinctive name comes from its location on a hill where the Heart-leaf poison bush is found, which is poisonous to all but indigenous animals. This tiny 3ha Riesling vineyard is planted on a unique white clay and weathered quartz soil, which is reflected in a complex, alluringly perfumed and silk-textured wine. Like all vineyards in the Frankland river region it benefits from the cool nights and long, slow ripening period that promote maximum flavour development while maintaining the distinctive vibrant acidity.
The fruit was lightly pressed and allowed to settle overnight before being racked to fermentation vessel. The wine was then fermented at low temperatures (less than 15°C) over 8 weeks with minimal intervention in order to obtain the purest expression of the pristine, organically grown fruit from the Poison Hill vineyard. – Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate
Strong lime and citrus blossom aromas, very pure, quite foggy but perfumed approach. Succulent and delicious, straight up. Lime juice, green apple, a lick of barely there grapefruit pithy here. Tangerine to finish. And minerally. Strong minerally finish, indeed. Tickles with its detail, filigree and stippled texture at once. Magic wine. 95 points. Mike Bennie, The Wine Front April 2021
The wine is a glittering pale-yellow colour, and the nose is pungently varietal with scents of lemon sherbet, lime zest, white flowers and a light yeasty overtone. It’s appetising in the mouth, but at the same time very concentrated. Juicy, intense citrus flavours flow zesty through a long, tingling, steely finish. 95 points. Ralph Kyte-Powell, The Real Review April 2021
2019 Frankland Estate SmithCullam Riesling RRP $63
100% Riesling grown on the Isolation Ridge Vineyard at Frankland Estate. Only made in the most suitable vintages, fruit for this wine was sourced from Geisenheim clone Riesling vines planted in 1988. This clone is renowned for retaining high levels of acidity throughout the growing season.
Handpicked when ripe in the early morning and whole bunch-pressed for fermentation in a 1000-litre French oak ‘foudre’ over four weeks. Towards the end of fermentation, when the ideal balance of sugar, fruit weight and acidity had been achieved, the wine was chilled to arrest fermentation. The wine remained on lees in barrel for nine months to gain additional complexity and texture.
A complex, beautifully balanced combination of fruit intensity, complexity of flavour and alluring finish. A wine of exceptional elegance and poise where texture is enhanced and massaged throughout by the combination of fruit integrity, natural acidity and a well-crafted retention of residual sugar. This “off-dry” (16g/L residual sugar) style results in enhanced fragrance and aromatics. It has tension and energy at the same time as presence and a salivating “moreishness”. – Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate
With striking clarity and purity, this is the sort of Riesling you can get lost in, merely by breathing in the aromas of fresh sliced limes, white peaches and grapefruit, as well as nuances of white flowers, gun flint and spice. The palate has a similarly complete and composed style, leading you along with pristine lime, apple, white-peach and fresh-pear flavours. Long and effortless, this is all so pleasurable. From organically grown grapes. Drink or hold. Screw cap. 96 points. Nick Stock, JamesSuckling.com April 2020
Very light-yellow hue, with a powerful aroma of lemon-pith, dried flowers and spices, including star anise, very complex and beautiful. The taste is delicate and refined, restrained and youthfully reserved, but searingly intense, with a faintly off-dry balance lending a certain juiciness to the palate. The sweetness is balanced by a touch of tannin grip. A glorious wine. 96 points. Huon Hooke, The Real Review May 2020
Named after the founders, Barrie Smith and Judi Cullam. Off-dry and crafted from a plot-by-plot-by-row selection across the most propitious sites. Lemon squash, candied citrus zest, mountain herb and tonic. This serves as a transparent stream of uncluttered Riesling scents, neither too dry and sour; nor excessively fruity and dainty. Make no mistake, despite its ethereal flow, this mid-weighted Riesling packs punch across a long finish of sap and crunch, the dollop of sugar mitigating the grape’s soprano acidity. 94 points. Ned Goodwin MW, Halliday Wine Companion 2021
We have been very fortunate to enjoy some great vintages of late, with our Syrah receiving positive feedback from many angles – not the least of which, winning the Trevor Mast Award at the Melbourne Wine Awards in 2019 with the 2017 Isolation Ridge Vineyard Syrah.
The 2019 is the finest of the three vintages with the cooler season giving us the ability to showcase the fine tannin and medium bodied style of Isolation Ridge Vineyard Syrah. Freshness and vitality have become key to the style of this wine, made possible with our focus on organic viticulture and shift to maturation in large-format foudre (3,500L). – Hunter Smith
2019 Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Syrah RRP $45
The core of this wine is “Winery Block” (original clone sourced from the Justin Vineyard). The wine contains 4.5% Viognier and 2% Mourvèdre. Some 20% of the ferment was whole clusters (half of that sourced from “Winery Block”, the other half from the GDC – Geneva Double Curtain – block). 15 months’ maturation on lees in 3,500-litre foudre, is a culmination of much experimentation and experience over the past 30 years. The resulting wine is one of style and real integrity. The wine’s intent is to demonstrate our viticultural consideration without forcing any point; rather, reflecting the hands-off nature in which its crafted. – Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate
Bright, deep purple colour, with a fresh and spicy aroma of cool-grown shiraz, the fruit doing all of the talking. White pepper, blue fruits, violets, dried herbs. The wine is elegant but full-bodied, the tannins tightly coiled and supple, a gloriously aromatic, elegant cool-grown Shiraz. 95 points. Huon Hooke, The Real Review April 2021
The Isolation Ridge is a perfumed and pretty riot on the nose, all violets, damsons, roses, thyme, blackberries, vanilla, baked quince and pencil shavings. The palate is elegant and refined and from that rollercoaster of prettiness comes a refined fresh-fruit acidity, supple tannins, black coffee, liquorice and that beguiling combination of floral notes in a well structured but not overly weighty Syrah. This is still a baby bundle of juicy and youthful mulberries, raspberries, damsons and plums, showing the beginning of what I expect to be a delicious and ever-changing life. Very smart. 94 points. Curly Haslam-Coates, The Wine Front April 2021
2019 Frankland Estate SmithCullam Syrah RRP $118
While the Isolation Ridge Vineyard wines are the benchmark of Frankland Estate, a new release of SmithCullam breaks new ground for the winery and is regarded as a culmination of our experience and confidence both viticulturally and in winemaking. A particularly exceptional portion of Syrah from among the best parcels of Isolation Ridge was identified and bottled under the SmithCullam label as a tribute to founders Barrie Smith and Judi Cullam.
For the most part (90%) this release is crafted from the original east-west facing “Winery Block” Syrah (92%) planted on Isolation Ridge in 1988. The row orientation gives shading throughout the day resulting in finesse to the fruit profile. This is enhanced by vine age, a small addition of Viognier (5%), and a drop of Mourvèdre (3%). There is an underlying power and authenticity that comes from this, certified-organic, 30-year-old site. A lightness of touch and juiciness of fruit is retained through the 15-month maturation in 3,500-litre foudre. Isolation Ridge Vineyard sits high in the landscape on rugged ironstone soil, providing a ferrous minerality that infiltrates the wines when handled tenderly. – Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate
Deep, bright purple/red colour, the bouquet shows violets, cranberry and blueberry, with meaty spicy overtones, and a note of bunchy ‘forest floor’ adding extra interest. The wine is very intense, full-bodied but elegantly styled, with tremendous length and balance. Wow, this is impressive cool-climate shiraz: spicy but ripe and powerful in its relatively understated way. 97 points. Huon Hooke, The Real Review April 2021
Soft, gentle, detailed red of spice, savouriness and very pure feeling and unadorned fruit character. Has some pretty sweetness balanced nicely by fresh acidity, a good deal of fruit concentration, and a general sense of elegance comes to mind. Bright finish, a little crunchy, says hold off drinking for a year or so. Excellent wine. 94 points. Mike Bennie, The Wine Front March 2021
2018 Frankland Estate Olmo’s Reward RRP $84
Olmo’s Reward 2018 reinforces that Frankland Estate is still doggedly setting its own path and style within the Frankland River region. Olmo’s Reward is the wine that has been historically – and still today – front and centre of this thoughtful and considered range of wines. The varietal makeup of this single-vineyard wine shifts with each season, but it’s a story that has been led by Cabernet Franc for the past decade or more. This remains the intention for this wine in the future, too. The 2018 comprises Cabernet Franc, Merlot (clone 181, Bordeaux) and Malbec.
The style is the champion here. Olmo’s Reward is defined by elegant fruit, complex spices and a fine tannin profile, all of which come together each year to create a wine of personality that is true to the vineyard in which it was grown.
Each variety was fermented separately, as slowly as possible at temperatures not exceeding 27°C. Open fermentation tanks facilitated working the cap with gentle plunging, taking care to minimise tannin extraction. After fermentation, an extended maceration period allowed desired flavour and tannin resolution. The component wines were blended on completion of the malolactic fermentation and then aged in 500-litre French oak puncheons for 15 months.
Pretty smelling wine with redcurrant jelly, blackcurrant, flowers, sweet tobacco, cedar and spice. Medium-bodied, succulent yet savoury too, with firm chocolaty tannin, fresh and lively, a little bit of mint in here, but also the perfume of dried roses. Finish is long with a slick of slate-like tannin. Different. Expressive. And very lovely. 94+ points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front April 2021