"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 pts, Ray Jordan - The West Australian, May 2018
"Youthful, deep red/purple colour, with a bright, briary and slightly peaty, iodine-like bouquet. It's full-bodied and firm, tight and concentrated, with abundant firm, drying tannins. Long finish. Already quite complex but it will reward long cellaring and deliver much more to the patient drinker. A big, solidly built but elegant cabernet. Very impressive." 95 pts, Huon Hooke - The Real Review, May 2018
"This excellent shiraz continues to be refined in the pursuit of a distinctly individual elegance and stylishness. This really gets it right, with a beautiful fleshy texture, gentle aromatics of plummy red fruits, with a light hint of cedar. Has a fine chalky tannin structure woven in to the smooth slightly medium-bodied palate. There's a slightly spicy minerality on the finish which completes an excellent wine." 94 pts, Ray Jordan, Top 100 Reds, July 2018
"Single vineyard shiraz from the Frankland River region. It's both solid and elegant. It sounds like a contradiction in terms but it somehow pulls it off. It's a meaty, graphite-infused red with peppercorn and black cherry flavours swooshing through. There's a clip of smoky oak too. Not a hair out of place. Quite lovely." 92+ pts, Campbell Mattinson - The Wine Front, May 2018
"Very deep red colour with purple tints. The bouquet is big and robust, with abundant spices, a hint of vegetal character, too, and a big, ripe, full-throttle palate. Soft tannins. A good 'each-way' wine: cellar or drink young." 92 pts, Huon Hooke - The Real Review, May 2018
Awarded Silver - 2018 Decanter World Wine Awards
"Riesling from the Isolation Ridge Vineyard. It commands respect. Essence of riesling. Floral and generally pretty but brilliant with fruit intensity. Lime blossom, honeysuckle, slate and then a gorgeous burst of gunsmoke-infused citrus. Ultra dry. Top class." 94 pts, Campbell Mattinson - The Wine Front, May 2018
"This excellent expression of riesling used a small amount of barrel fermentation to bring texture into the wine. Has a spicy floral aroma, with hints of minerals and light kaffir lime. The palate is very long, with a precise focus to the finish. This was an excellent year for riesling and it will happily cellar for another 15 years." 93 pts, Ray Jordan - The West Australian, May 2018
Awarded Silver - 2018 Decanter World Wine Awards
"Light to mid-yellow colour, with a lemon pith, crushed lime leaf aroma. The wine is very intense and quite rich on the palate, with a little grip and a faint broadness. It's a good foil for the Isolation Ridge wine. The palance is near enough to dry. Very good potential. " 95 pts, Huon Hooke - The Real Review, May 2018
"One of the most distinctive rieslings, which gets its character from this individual vineyard. Strong aromas of lemon-scented sorbet. The palate has a crunchy wet slatey feel, with a linear extension of lime and spices. This one doesn't get any barrel fermentation, which tends to heighten those primary lemon-zest influences." 92 pts, Ray Jordan - The West Australian, May 2018
"Light yellow colour, bright and fresh, the aroma very fresh and intense with lifted aromatics, which are more akin to a German than an Australian riesling. The wine is bright and fresh, crisp and intense, with a subtly off-dry balance. It's like a halbtrocken. Very fine, restrained, fresh and tense on the palate, with great potential. A superb wine, but it will be even better if cellared a few years." 96 pts, Huon Hooke - The Real Review
"Riesling from the Isolation Ridge Vineyard. Made in an off-dry style. Fermented in large oak. It's delicious for starters. It's intense with lime and orange oil-like flavour and it boasts an excellent start, a good middle and a terrific finish. It begs you to come back for more but it drives long through the finish too; it's quality all the way. Sweet-edged but thrilling. Quite beautiful." 93 pts, Campbell Mattinson - The Wine Front, May 2018
Awarded Gold - 2018 Decanter World Wine Awards
Huon Hooke and The Real Review is one of Australia's leading wine writers. On 4th July 2018, Huon featured Frankland Estate in his weekly spotlight. Read the full article below:
“Dad had just shy of 2,000 acres on which to plant a vineyard,” says Hunter Smith of Frankland Estate. “The selection of the right site was crucial, and he dug a lot of holes before deciding. The ironstone ridge – of hard little ironstone pebbles – was believed to be desirable.”
And that is where he planted the Frankland Estate vineyard, which now covers 34 hectares of what was a sheep and cattle farm in the remote south-west of Western Australia.
Once you’ve planted vines and erected trellisies, it’s too late to change your mind, and Barrie Smith’s decision to plant where he did was as well planned as it was fortuitous. Frankland Estate has emerged as one of the great vineyards of Australia. It’s most famous for riesling but shiraz, chardonnay and a cabernet family blend called Olmo’s Reward are also superb.
Frankland Estate is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year with a series of events around Australia. It is 30 years since Barrie Smith and his wife Judi Cullam planted their first vines.
Their son, Hunter Smith, credits the subsequent naming of the vineyard as Isolation Ridge to their marketing consultant at the time, Guy Grant.
It’s a no-brainer as the vineyard is one of the most remote in Australia.
Judi had been a radiologist and Barrie a real estate agent at the time they decided to buy land and farm it. Later, trips to the wine regions of France and Germany, including a memorable one to Bordeaux with South Australian winemaker Bill Hardy, saw them fall in love with wine.
Now, wine has taken over their lives.
What is so good about this site?
“Cold nights and cold southerly winds” balance the warm sunny days and “the diurnal temperature variation sets the tone, and captures the natural acidity,” says Hunter.
“A lot of riesling-makers around the world say ‘If you’ve got acidity, you can do anything’.”
And Frankland Estate grapes have plenty of acidity.
The entire vineyard is certified organic, which also helps: “Since we’ve been organic, the acidity hangs on better.”
The Smiths also lease the 3-hectare Poison Hill vineyard which produces one of their single-site rieslings. Hunter believes all of their wines share a ‘house style’, and I’d agree with him. Part of that style is due to fully ripe grapes, which result from a relatively long hang-time. The climate allows this without loss of natural acidity.
The quality of these wines was amply demonstrated by a tasting hosted by Hunter. Isolation Ridge rieslings were poured, from 2017 back through 2016, 2015, then a jump to 2006, 2002 and 1991. All were still drinking superbly, the 1991 despite it being sealed with a cork. Made from first-crop grapes, the ’91 was deep, bright golden colour with a bouquet of lightly browned toast, very complex, the palate rich and deep and quite refined in texture.
The 2002 was the star, curiously from a vintage that made great rieslings throughout Australia. Still only light to mid-yellow in colour, it was fresh and tight, crisp and delicate, with terrific intensity and refinement. A great wine which still has years ahead of it.
I thought the 2015 was also outstanding, while the current release 2017 lacks nothing in comparison and could well prove to be another top wine in time.
*To view Huon's 2018 Top Australian Wineries click here.
Gourmet Traveller Wine is the Australian Wine Industry's leading journal of analysis and review. In the December/January edition, wine writer Mike Bennie writes about Frankland Estate in his article, 'Constant Evolution'.
Here's the article in full:
"Often my gaze is drawn to the new and shiny when researching Wines To Watch. That being said, it's also great to look at those producers who seem to tirelessly finetune, evolve and improve their established wine styles, elevating an existing offering.
Frankland Estate has been front of mind for their continuing quest to raise their already high bar. Visits to Great Southern and time spent with winemakers Hunter Smith and Brian Kent and viticulturist Elizabeth Smith have cemented my opinion that Frankland Estate is one of Australia's greatest wine producers with a thirst for excellence. That the wine offering is underpinned by the pioneering work and vision of founders Judi Cullam and Barrie Smith only enhances the potency of Frankland Estate's wines.
The focus on riesling is, of course, at the forefront of any conversation about Frankland Estate. Established vineyards and considered single-site offerings have contributed to Frankland Estate's fame. They continue to craft wines that not only reflect their unique patches of Great Southern, but show that Australia produces wines to match the best of any riesling-producing nation.
Not often talked about is the shift to organic farming that started in 2005, leading to certification in 2010. The vineyards have never been healthier or producing higher quality fruit.
The 2016 harvest was challenging but resulting wines reflect judicious work in vineyard and a steady, experienced hand in the winery. The 2016 Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling is at its scintillating, tense best. The single-vineyard offering from 2016 is a pure, driven white of citrus and green apple perfume and flavours. It's a long, fine and energetic riesling. There's argument that the wine might not cellar as long as previous releases, a touch of extra juiciness appears here, but you'll be fine for the medium term.
It's always a treat to taste riesling from the Isolation Ridge vineyard alongside Poison Hill's single-vineyard expression. 2016 Frankland Estate Poison Hill Riesling, like the Isolation Ridge, shows some extra width and juiciness, but not without delivering the bustling, flint and talc-like mineral characters that are typically found in the wine. It's heady in frangipani floral notes, green apple and exotic citrus character. The palate is set to green melon and white flesh stone-fruit flavours, but they are leaner rather than ripe. It finishes with a pleasing, squeaky-textured pucker.
For an estate-wide expression, 2017 Frankland Estate Riesling offers quality and value hand-in-hand. It's a limey, bright riesling of zingy acidity and crunchy texture. The perfume is voluminous in Thai spice, mixed citrus character and dried apple scents. The palate is bracing with its citrus tang, but finishes with a pool of gently sweet, mouth-filling fruitiness. It's one of those summery whites that is best suited to a deep chill and consumed while your legs are dangling in a swimming pool.
The 2017 Frankland Estate Rocky Gully Riesling is typically seen in supermarket retailers rather than on the shelves of independent bottle shops and fine dining restaurants, but it is an utter bargain. It's a wine built around a more loose-knit, juicy profile, rather than the inward concentration and sleek lines of the single-vineyard and estate releases. It's pretty with its floral, sweet citrus and lemon barley water scents. On the palate there is lemon barley water with tangy green apple acidity underlying. Such easy drinking.
Frankland Estate is to be revered and celebrated in equal measure. Quietly going about its work, it continues to delight and surprise with these latest releases."