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Frankland Estate

Hunter Smith
14 July 2020 | Hunter Smith

Olmo's Reward Today

“We have no desire, through our wines, to lose a sense of place or an understanding of where we are. This is not an ‘international’ style of wine, this is a wine that speaks very much of a specific place in the south west of Western Australia. The place is Frankland River.  The vineyard is Isolation Ridge.  Olmo’s Reward doesn’t come from anywhere else; it is intrinsically Frankland River and it expresses the beauty of where we are.” – Hunter Smith

Olmo’s Reward is the ultimate expression of the red varieties planted in the Isolation Ridge Vineyard and through the lens of the excellent, slightly cooler 2017 vintage the wine has achieved new levels of sophistication and poise.  It speaks of elegance, power and authenticity to the vineyard site, which reached its organic certification in 2010.

All four varieties were picked and fermented separately in order for them to retain as much as possible their individuality. The wine was blended 6 months after fermentation (in open pot fermenters) and returned for a further 12 months to 500Litre French oak for maturation as a completed blend. The wine is then bottled and matured in the cellar prior to release.

Olmo's Reward is only made in the best vintages and is sources from a  total of roughly two hectares within the certified organice Isolation Ridge Vineyard.                                                                                                                         

“The success of the wines made from the Isolation Ridge vineyard is rooted in the dirt, the aspect, the organic management and the fact that the right varieties were planted in the right spot.  Frankland River is wild and dramatically vast and beautiful in its rugged Australian-ness that is red gravelly dirt, wide open blue skies, and gum trees.  The vineyard produces wines that speak of minerality and fresh vibrant fruit: this is articulated with brilliant clarity both in the Isolation Ridge riesling and here in the Olmo’s Reward.  The varietal composition will differ slightly each vintage depending on the vintage conditions; however, this wine will always come from this vineyard.  The cabernet franc that makes up the lion’s share of the blend provides a bright purple edge both to the nose and colour, and a fresh crunch to this elegant wine: all of the gaps are filled in every possible corner with performances from malbec, cabernet sauvignon and merlot.  Cassis, violets and brambly raspberry is bolstered by liquorice, clove, and black pepper – the tannins are super fine and chorale the fruit across the palate, through into the finish.  The acidity is bright and lifts all of the dense fruit flavours, providing a perfect foil of freshness to the darkness. Silky, fine and almost succulent, the sunshine of Frankland River is evidenced by the perfectly ripe fruit, the cold nights exist in the natural acid and energy of this wine.  Glorious stuff.” Erin Larkin 

The History of Olmo’s Reward

Dr. Harold Olmo (July 31, 1909 – June 30, 2006) was a pioneering viticulturist and professor at the University of California.  Dubbed the “Indiana Jones” of viticulture for his pioneering work, Olmo was widely regarded as one of the most influential viticulturalists of the 20 century.

In 1955, Harold Olmo (Professor of Viticulture at the University of California) spent eight months in Western Australia studying climatic limitations of viticulture in the Swan Valley, at the invitation of the Western Australian Vine Fruits Research Trust.  When he published his findings in a report “A survey of the grape industry of Western Australia” in 1956, one of the recommendations put forward was that the Frankland [River] area of Western Australia showed great promise for making table wines in the light traditional European style.

The mention in Olmo’s publication was modest, but nonetheless it was the first mention that we know of, that acknowledged the suitability of the Frankland River region for grape growing. This early recognition coupled with Olmo’s tireless energy and contribution to viticulture globally, was the reason we named this wine Olmo’s Reward. 

Olmo’s Reward, Today

When Judi Cullam and Barrie Smith established Frankland Estate in 1988, they set out to highlight the nuance, allure and strength of a varietally blended wine, in a market that was at the time and remains today dominated by single varietal labelled wines.   Fast forward to 2020 (32 years later), and Judi and Barrie are still involved in the blending process each year, however their son Hunter and daughter Elizabeth together with Elizabeth’s winemaking husband Brian continue to evolve the Olmo’s Reward story each year that they have the fruit to do so.

The evolution of this wine is driven primarily by learning more about the vineyard site over time; how it performs as the seasons wash over it and the vines gain age, and also by witnessing the evolution of the prior vintages as they age in the cellar. Every year a small hand bottling of each of the components (straight cabernet franc, merlot, malbec and petit verdot) are reserved, so that in the future, 10 and 20+ year old wines can be revisited. This has provided us with great clarity with regards to how the wines evolve and change over time, and it affords us unblemished vision of the blending of the current Olmo’s Reward.  From what we now know of the vineyard and what it is capable of producing, we accept that age-worthiness is a given.  The cabernet franc vines are now 30 years old and are providing a welcome balance of elegance and benign power that typifies this wine.  This is the reason why cabernet franc now dominates the varietal makeup of this blend - it is assembled with small influences from malbec, cabernet sauvignon and merlot (the merlot comes from new clones planted 5 years ago).  These provide the complex and nuanced backdrop for the cabernet franc: the Olmo’s Reward stamp of uniqueness. 

Get a taste of this special wine for yourself 

96pts Huon Hooke

96pts GOLD James Halliday

96pts Decanter World Wine Awards.




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