Frankland Estate: a catch up with latest Riesling and red releases
It has been a while since I visited Western Australia’s Frankland Estate in Great Southern, so it was great to catch up with Barrie Smith and his son Hunter (pictured) at Savour in Adelaide last autumn.
The producer’s renowned single vineyard Rieslings never disappoint and, it seems to me, the reds just get better and better. As nuanced and elegant as the Rieslings, they are among the region’s best. I reckon their range offers great value for this level of quality and finesse.
Here are my notes on the wines:
Frankland Estate Rocky Gully Riesling 2013 (Frankland River)
Made from grower fruit this naturally fermented entry level Riesling is very pretty, with great elderflower and talc lift to nose and palate and gently rolling, but subtly persistent acidity.
Lovely. Very complete already. 11.5%
Frankland Estate Rocky Netley Road Riesling 2012 (Frankland River)
Like me, the Netley Road vineyard was born in 1966. One of the region’s oldest, it used to belong to Houghton and was chosen for its ironstone ridge that runs north to south. This Riesling is selected from those vines facing to the east of this ridge, which allows them to capture the early morning sun. The soils are sandy grey loams. Fermented with a combination of wild and introduced yeasts and aged on its lies, this is a textural Riesling with richness and weight behind its crisp, bright apple and citrus fruit. A wonderful, complex aroma too, which draws you into the wine. The finish is long with an ironstone gravelly minerality.
Frankland Estate Poison Hill Riesling 2012 (Frankland River)
With clay and granite soils (no ironstone), Poison Hill has a much slatier minerality, together with round applely fruit (fresh and bruised) and a lively streak of grapefruity acidity. A lingering, honeyed finish is long and well focused.
Very good; bags of charm. 10.5%
Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling 2012 (Frankland River)
The vineyard is planted on undulating northern and eastern facing slopes on duplex soils (ironstone gravel over loam over a clay sub-soil). The vines are from two different clones, the Geisenheim, planted in 1988. Clearly good things come in twos. This is an ultra-taut, ultra-dry Riesling, its acid structure much tighter – bony even (even though it was fermented in a combination of tanks and neutral oak). With great line, length, purity and precision to its lime, grapefruit and minerals, it’s very classic in profile.
A baby. Full of Great Southern promise. 11.5%
Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Chardonnay 2012 (Frankland River)
For me, Western Australian Chardonnays are very distinctive on account of the predominant gin gin or Mendoza clone, which packs a concentrated punch of tightly-focused fruit. Still, the general trend in favour of earlier picking, larger format (500l) oak and wild ferments pays dividends here. So while its rock melon fruit is well concentrated, it’s leavened by a particularly tingly spine of acidity, a deft touch of smoky oak and creamier cashew.
A comely Chardonnay. 12%
Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Shiraz 2010 (Frankland River)
Winemaker Hunter Smith spent a month in the Rhone in 2004 where he observes “what stood out was people using restraint in their work – bigger format oak, so you could trace the terroir.” It influenced him to use 500 litre French oak puncheons, also to keep the wines on the lees for as long as he could. Though this Shiraz has well-concentrated, very pure and juicy plum and blood plum fruit, with its fine oak and tannin structure, the vineyard’s ironstone gravel soils really shine through in the mineral acidity of this wine.
Vinous and very drinkable. 14%
Frankland Estate Olmo’s Reward 2010 (Frankland River)
An unusual Cabernet Franc dominated Bordeaux blend with 62% Cabernet Franc, 17% Merlot, 16% Malbec and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. The aim is to attain an elegance of structure and, since it was first made, the amount of Cabernet Franc has gone up. Smith adds organic cultivation also seems to have been something of “a revolution” for Cabernet Franc, in terms of obtaining tannin and seed ripeness without the extended hang times which risk elevated (16%) alcohol levels. Big format (500l) oak barrels also enhance elegance. It’s a beautifully perfumed, fragrant and fresh wine with great delicacy and finesse to its floral and cedar scented fruit and fine oak tannins. The vibrancy of its red and black berry and currant fruit seems to extend beyond the juice to the skins, lending a sense of energy, of cooler fruit tannins.
Very accomplished. 14%
Smith Cullam Shiraz Cabernet 2010 (Frankland River)
This wine comprises a blend of the best Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from the Isolation Ridge vineyard (all aged in 500l barrels). It’s generally made in riper years and, sure enough, deeper in hue, plusher and plumper. It’s quite a different proposition from the previous two wines, with a palpably muscular seam of tightly coiled black fruits yet to be sprung and its sweet veneer of vanillin oak. But what it shares with them is a keen freshness (a lovely sense of fruit vibrancy) and its fine grain tannins. It just needs time – a year or two – for the oak to integrate and the fruit to unfurl to show off its undoubted power and finesse to best effect.
And will last for a good deal longer. 14.5%