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FRANKLAND Estate winemakers Judy Cullam and Barry Smith are passionate about riesling. So deep runs their enthusiasm that each year they award the Frankland Estate Riesling Scholarship to a member of the hospitality or retail wine industry they consider has contributed to the greater appreciation and enjoyment of riesling.

They also hold a bi-annual international riesling tasting, which is attended by riesling lovers from around the world.

Frankland Estate recently released a trio of rieslings from individual single vineyard locations, further expressing the virtues of a variety that is still struggling to hold down a position in the top eight.

Suffering from a bad trip during the late 1960s and 1970s, riesling producers are still trying to get consumers to understand that the majority of bottled riesling in Australia is dry. Ask the question: ‘When did you last buy a bottle of the noble variety’ and you are met with a blank look. Bottle sales for riesling don’t seem to be getting much better, and it’s more than likely the same 5 per cent of the wine loving community buying riesling now has been the variety’s main supporters for the past decade.

Riesling is only half the price of a very good chardonnay and, for my mind, offers so much more.

Each region across Australia expresses riesling in a slightly different way. It is a variety that Judy says: “Is a reflection of where and how riesling is grown. It is not a winemaker’s wine, such as chardonnay, which can be manipulated into a particular style. Riesling stubbornly reflects its site no matter what the winemaker does.”

Taking a slightly European view, Frankland Estate decided in 2001 to explore the concept of what the French call ‘terroir’ and produce a trio of rieslings from sites around the sub-region of Frankland Valley in the Great Southern. The trio of wine comes from single vineyard sites with mature vines.

The first of the three vineyards is located on Frankland Estate and is called Isolation Ridge. It was established in 1988 and is the most southern of the three sites. Worthy of note is the aspect of this site, which is located on an ironstone ridge with soils of gravel and loam over a clay sub-soil. The vines are on average 14 years old and produce a yield of around four tonnes per acre. The fruit was harvested between February 5 and March 11 2001.

The second vineyard, located just north of the Frankland town site, is named Poison Hill after a plant called Heartleaf poison plant, which was in the area as early settlers moved sheep along the nearby stock route. The vineyard is also around 14 years old, but is planted on deep clay soils, which would not be the first choice of many planting riesling today. However, this vineyard is producing quite a stunning wine. The fruit was harvested on February 6 2001, and yielded around three tonnes to the acre.

The third vineyard is situated on the most northern of the sites, not all that far from Poison Hill, and is called Cooladerra. This vineyard was planted 20 years ago by John Ahern of department store fame. Judy told me Cooladerra has a fantastic aspect located on a rocky ridge that a couple of years back was fused together with heat.

“It is an ironstone knoll with intensely fired ironstone gravely soils and I am amazed that they got the vines in the ground,” Judy says.

Cooladerra is a tiny vineyard of just two acres and yields a measly 1.25 tonnes. It was harvested on February 8 2001.

The valley that runs through the region influences each of the three vineyards. The cooling air that is sucked down through the valley at night demonstrates the valley’s unique qualities. This cold air pulled from the Southern Ocean serves to prevent spring frosts during the vital bud burst time, and during the ripening period the cold or cooling breeze enables a moderation of the temperature, providing a long slow ripening period that grapes prefer.

My results of these three wines are listed below. The wines from Poison Hill and Cooladerra vineyards are only available in tiny quantities, and anyone serious about riesling should go out and find these wines. Even if you are not a fan of this noble variety then you should look at these wines simply for their expression. You will see difference in the wines, which have all been handled in exactly the same way.

Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge 2001 Riesling rrp $ 24.00 18.50/20

Bottled under a Stelvin Closure, 13 per cent alc/vol.

Pale in colour with just a tinge of green displayed

Aromas are layered, with spice and a ginger touch, fragrant mineral bath salt characters and some zesty lemon-lime citrus.

The palate gives an immediate explosion of lemon and lime citrus zing, which leads to a mid palate full of complex mineral characters and pronounced lively acidity that is in tune with the fabulous fruit. A slight spice and ginger nuances on the back palate. The wine is remarkably tight in structure and will evolve over the next four to five years. Dynamic length and rewarding persistence.

Frankland Estate Poison Hill 2001 Rieslingrrp $22.00 17.50/20

Bottled with a cork closure, 12.5 per cent alc/vol.

Pale straw in colour with a slightly deeper green tinge.

Aromas are really attractive, talcum powder with rose petals and an orange blossom character, with underlying mandarin spice.

On the palate there are some lime flavours with a ripe touch. The palate is soft in style, with no pronounced acidity. Touches of mandarin and spice across the back palate and, although the acidity doesn’t dominate, it is integrated with the fruit, giving the impression of some sweetness. The wine finishes with a crisp twist and an amazing length. A delightful, lingering wine that made me go back for a second glass. Just a little more forward than the other two wines with its Germanic suggestions – a delight.

Frankland Estate Cooladerra 2001 Riesling rrp $22.00 18.50/20

Bottled with a cork closure 12 per cent alc/vol.

Pale in colour with a green tinge.

Aromas are tightly bound at present, showing restraint. Complex notes of minerals, a slight influence of lime and an underlying degree of what I associate with a freshly shucked oyster.

The palate, like the aromas, is very tight and seems to be very happy that way at the moment. Searing acidity greets you across the palate with lime, minerality and a flintiness flowing through the wine. I find the acidity a little drying at present, almost sour-savoury in its appearance. The wine gives indications that, in a few years, the flavours hidden under the expressive acidity will explode to life and you will have a stunning wine to impress with.

Wines Available through Frankland Estate on 9855 1544.

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