The trajectory of the not-so-new generation at Frankland Estate is as sure, true and thrilling as the finish on the Isolation Ridge Riesling.
“An issue facing family wineries in Australia, now and always, is the question of generational change,” wrote Peter Forrestal for Gourmet Traveller WINE last year in extolling Judi Cullam, newly-crowned recipient of the Len Evans Award for Leadership. “Judi and Barrie Smith have tackled handing over to their children, Hunter and Elizabeth (and her winemaking husband, Brian Kent) in an exemplary manner,” Forrestal continued. “They handed over control of the winery and vineyard when their children had the maturity, energy and drive to make it their life’s work, despite being happy to continue. Mutual respect and timing were key.”
Those virtues of respect and timing are again in play as Hunter, Lizzie and Brian reveal their latest work. That is, respect for the vineyard – be it organic-certified Poison Hill or the family’s famous coffee-rock strewn base of Isolation Ridge. And timing, in that the 2018 single-vineyard Rieslings are beautifully integrated and ready to flaunt their myriad charms, as is the 2016 Isolation Ridge Shiraz.
This family’s integrity, taste and sense of generosity flows through all these wines. They are, as always, an elegant, pleasure-giving invitation to explore this pristine pocket of the Great Southern.
THE 2018 Vintage
A wet and cold winter in 2017 prolonged budburst and further cold weather restricted vine vigour for the first month from budburst which resulted in flowering being two weeks behind average. Cool and dry conditions continued from November right through to harvest. The cooler summer meant harvest was delayed by up to two weeks later than average. The season resulted in an outstanding Riesling harvest. These grapes were harvested from 20th March until 18th April.
2018 Frankland Estate Poison Hill Riesling RRP $43
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 3-hectare 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 prior to harvest that promotes maximum flavour development while maintaining the distinctive vibrant acidity for which Rieslings from this region are renowned.
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 eight weeks with minimal intervention in order to obtain the purest expression of the pristine, organically-grown fruit from the Poison Hill vineyard.
The nose shows lovely lifted aromatics of white stone fruits, fresh lime and delicate citrus blossom accompanied by spice. There is real intensity to the flavours, classic signatures of the Poison Hill vineyard. Seamless texture with beautifully integrated acidity gives the wine some lovely mouth-watering minerality. The flavours are focused and persistent, with beautiful fruit generosity and a lovely pithy textural component. The wine has lovely balance that builds richness along the palate. – Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate
2018 Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling RRP $43
This wine was made from 100% Riesling grown in 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 sub-soil. A number of trellis systems are used throughout the vineyard, which is situated 256 metres above sea level. The cool nights and long, slow ripening periods typical of the Frankland River region allow maximum flavour development while maintaining the distinctive vibrant acidity for which Rieslings from this region are renowned. The vineyard is farmed according to certified organic principles and this is reflected in the clarity and complexity of the pristine fruit from the vineyard.
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 tanks at low temperatures (less than 15°C) over eight weeks with minimal intervention in order to obtain the purest expression of the pristine, organically grown fruit from the Isolation Ridge vineyard. The wine is then left on its lees for six months. A small parcel of Riesling was fermented and aged in (neutral) oak for 10 months where it attains lovely complex textural components and enhances the opulence of the wine.
The nose features intense mineral slate-stone notes, shy white citrus florals, spice and young fennel. It has grace and poise on the palate, with a clear and resolved acidity that carries the fruit all the way into a long saline, mineral finish. Elegant yet powerful, tight and delicate, it has tension that builds wonderful mouthfeel, highlighted by a seamless texture. This wine possesses the hallmark traits of great dry Riesling with delicacy, purity and a pristine fruit profile. It’s a true testament to its unique site. – Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate
2016 Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Shiraz RRP $43
Dry mild conditions provided another ideal vintage in the Frankland River region. This provided balance, elegance and complexity. Fruit for this wine was sourced from three different locations in the Isolation Ridge vineyard at Frankland Estate. The Shiraz canopy is trained on a combination of vertical shoot and Geneva Double Curtin (GDC). This wine was fermented as long and slowly as possible, at temperatures not exceeding 20ºC in open fermentation tanks that allowed the cap to be worked by plunging and gently pumping over. An extended maceration period followed completion of the ferment to allow optimal flavour and tannin extraction. It was aged for 18 months in 500-litre French oak puncheons.
Initially brooding and dark, opening up to a bright fresh wine. Hints of black olive and an iodine saltiness combine with fresh toasty oak, spice and black pepper. A sweet core of redcurrant and plum flavoured fruit leads into the subtle use of French oak which sits comfortably with the fine-grained tannins giving the wine a presence and length. Savoury, briary fruits lead into an enticing ironstone flinty note and mineral complexity. The small addition of Viognier and Malbec add to the wine’s complexity. A fine example of an outstanding vintage in Frankland River, it is approachable now but has the structure and finesse to reward long term cellaring. To truly experience it, decant this wine while young. – Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate
2018 Frankland Estate Riesling RRP $29
100% Riesling grown from the family’s estate vineyards. A selection of small ferments was made from parcels of fruit harvested in some younger vines planted in 2006 on a high ironstone rocky ridge in the ironstone “coffee rock” – the classic soil from the Frankland Estate property. This is combined with some of Frankland Estate’s original parcels of Riesling planted in 1988. Grapes are pressed immediately, with the juice left to settle in tank overnight before being racked. The wine is then fermented in stainless steel tanks at relatively low temperatures (less than 14°C) over 4-6 weeks with minimal intervention in order to obtain the purest expression of the pristine, organically grown fruit. The wine was then left on its fermentation lees prior to bottling.
2018 Frankland Estate Alter Weg Riesling RRP $34
Frankland Estate does barrel fermentation and maturation here. A wine that has snapped my neck more than once for its interest and quality. Powerful, graceful, sleek and exceptionally long, it’s a thoroughbred riesling of concentrated apple, citrus and grape-y fruit character splashed over almond and clove spice characters. The wine courses over the palate, a concentrated flow of delicious, detailed flavour, refreshed with fine shards of acidity. The finish is nutty and awesomely savoury. A phenomenal wine. 96 points. Mike Bennie, The Wine Front March 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
2017 Frankland Estate Chardonnay RRP $29
Fruit for this wine was sourced from three different locations in the organic-certified Isolation Ridge vineyard at Frankland Estate. The vines are all from the low yielding (Mendoza) clone renowned for its “hen and chicken’ combination of large and small berries in the same bunch. This results in highly concentrated fruit flavours. The vine canopy is trained on a combination of vertical shoot and Scott Henry trellis to allow increased air circulation.
The fruit is lightly pressed into stainless steel tanks and allowed to settle for 24 hours. The juice is then racked off its heavy lees to 500-litre French puncheons for wild yeast fermentation. Some barrel stirring through fermentation and afterwards took place resulting in a wine with complexity and individuality. The wine was transferred out of barrel after 10 months on lees before being bottled. Minimal sulphur additions made prior to bottling. – Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate
2016 Frankland Estate Shiraz RRP $29
This wine was made from Shiraz (90%), Malbec (5%) and a splash of Marsanne (3%) and Viognier (2%) grown on the family’s estate vineyard. A selection of fruit was harvested from the younger vines planted 2006 on a high ironstone rocky ridge. The Isolation Ridge vineyard has been certified organic since 2010. This wine was fermented as long and slowly as possible, at temperatures not exceeding 30°C in open fermentation tanks that allowed the cap to be worked by plunging and gently pumping over. An extended maceration period followed completion of the ferment to allow optimal colour, flavour and tannin extraction. It was aged for 18 months in 500-litre French oak puncheons. – Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate
2017 Frankland Estate Cabernet Sauvignon RRP $29
Organically-grown 100% Cabernet Sauvignon fruit was sourced from mature vines in the Isolation Ridge vineyard at Frankland Estate. This wine was fermented as long and slowly as possible, at temperatures not exceeding 26°C in open-pot fermentation tanks that allowed the cap to be worked by plunging and an extended maceration period allowed optimal colour, flavour and tannin extraction. It was aged in 500-litre French oak puncheons. – Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate
2015 Frankland Estate Olmo’s Reward RRP $89
An elegantly structured and poised wine showing an increased amount of Cabernet Franc. It is a strongly Right Bank-influenced wine, showing a taut, controlled palate. Lifted notes of red berry and savoury earthy notes, with a little rich mocha character. Characteristic gravelly tannins support an extended finish. Has some ageing potential. 95 points. Ray Jordan, The West Australian June 2018