It’s possible — perhaps even likely — that the first thing you ever tasted from Australia was Shiraz. In fact, it wouldn’t shock me if Shiraz is the only grape you’ve tasted from down under. Lots of Australian Shiraz, at bargain prices, filled lots of U.S. store shelves for a number of years. Some of it was interesting and tasty, but a lot of it was anonymous or worse. The thing is that Australia is a huge country with many distinct wine growing regions, and while they do make lots of delicious Shiraz, they also produce many other grapes quite well too. I recently sampled the wines of Frankland Estate at a portfolio tasting and was impressed enough that I needed to retaste them in a sit-down setting. There are quite a few distinct selections in their lineup, but three in particular really stood out to me above the others.
The Frankland Estate 2011 Isolation Ridge Chardonnay was produced using organic fruit. All of the grapes were harvested from a trio of different locations within the winery’s estate vineyards. This offering is 100 percent Chardonnay. After being pressed into stainless steel, the wine is fermented utilizing wild yeast in French oak barrels for a period of nine months. About 1,000 cases of this offering were produced in the 2011 vintage and it has a suggested retail price of $39.99. Aromas of limestone and citrus are joined by an undercurrent of nutmeg on the nose of this Chardonnay. Apple, pear and lemon zest flavors lead an absolutely intense blast of pure and unadulterated fresh fruit flavors. The finish is clean and crisp, showing off minerals, spice and a bit of crème fraiche. The depth and clarity of the fruit here is striking, as is the persistence and length of the finish. Frankland Estate’s 2011 Chardonnay is an extremely impressive example of this wonderful grape.
The Frankland Estate 2012 Isolation Ridge Riesling was produced using fruit that has been dry farmed with organic methodology. This wine is 100 percent Riesling. All of the fruit was hand harvested and then immediately pressed into tank. Fermentation took place in a combination of tank and neutral oak at low temperatures. About 1,200 cases of this Riesling were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $39.99.The nose is fresh and vibrant with bits of citrus alongside mineral aromas. Lemon zest flavors overlay stone fruit characteristics throughout a gently layered palate. Grapefruit, lime, white pepper and minerals galore are all part of the impressively long finish. This wine is refreshing with lively acidity and a crisp finish. It begs you back to the glass for sip after sip until the bottle stands empty.
The Frankland Estate 2009 Olmo’s Reward was produced using fruit sourced from older vines within the Isolation Ridge vineyard. This blended wine was produced from a combination of Cabernet Franc (70 percent), Merlot (13 percent), Malbec (10 percent), and Cabernet Sauvignon (7 percent). The fruit is all organic and dry farmed. Each grape variety was fermented separately in a temperature-controlled environment. Blending occurred after malolactic fermentation was complete; 18 months of aging in French oak followed. About 500 cases of Olmo’s Reward were produced in 2009 and it has a suggested retail price of $54.99. Aromas of cherry and leather dominate the nose of this 2009 blend; a dollop of cinnamon is present as well. The palate here is profoundly layered with oodles of red and black fruit flavors. Cherry characteristics continue along with plum and blackberry flavors. The fruit here is very engaging and friendly with oodles of proportionate power, grace and depth. Bits of chicory, sour cherry, black pepper and dark chocolate notes emerge on the finish which has above-average length. Each varietal comes together seamlessly to form a whole that far outweighs the sum of the parts. In short, Olmo’s Reward is a classic Bordeaux-inspired blend that shows off glorious Aussie fruit that is potent yet balanced and restrained where appropriate. This is a wonderful blend that drinks beautifully all by itself but will pair quite well with just about anything that comes off your grill.
Frankland Estate is located in Western Australia, part of the Frankland River wine growing region. They’re doing a wonderful job producing wines that speak to their specific place of origin. By allowing the fruit and the vineyard to shine through well-balanced proportionate wines, they’re also highlighting the fact that Australia is about much more than just high octane Shiraz. These are truly terrific wines and I urge everyone to seek them out. In their price categories these wines are very solid values. Equally important for wine lovers, they should look for the variety of distinct and singular offerings from Australia now on our shelves. Some of them are fine examples of Shiraz too, but really there’s so much more to the bounty of Australian wine.