“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





08 January 2015


Here's DRINKSTER's appraisal of the new Rieslings from one of the outstanding wineries of Western Australia. Frankland Estate is on the banks of the wild Frankland River, away down in the south-westernmost corner of the continent. 

The pioneering enterprise is the work of Judy Cullam and Barrie Smith and their offspring, Elizabeth and Hunter, who are gradually taking over the day-to-day business. 

Since its opening in 1988, Frankland rose immediately to be one of the outstanding wineries of the west. Unlike the glamorous Margaret River a half day's drive away, the Frankland region is distinguished by its isolation and the fact that it's a lot more gritty and, in a way, Australian. 

If you want to start a winery in Margaret River, for example, the tendency is to start work by giving an architect five or six million bucks to commence thinking. At Frankland, the Cullam Smiths started by establishing a noted sheep farm. Then they studied their soils, their climate, thought about it, let it all digest for years, went and worked in Bordeaux, came home, and rolled up their sleeves. Now look.

Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Vineyard Riesling 2014 
$35; 11.7% alcohol; screw cap; certified organic; 94+++ points 

This is the sort of wine whose aroma just floods up out of the glass and spills all over the table. It's baby-fleshy and peachy as much as limy. Maybe even rosy, like turkish delight. And it reminds me of very fresh soft nougat. It smells real good. Wholesome, smooth and healthy. It has a little dusty prickle, like its vineyard in summer. But otherwise, it's all oozy comfort in the fragrance division. For a wine of such little alcohol, the texture is heavy; weighty in the mouth, like cool molten gold. It's not all raw metallic acid. There's plenty of acid there, mind you: authoritative and forceful. But in all that flesh and rich weight, such edge seems to fit. It's beautiful wine which will cellar like King Tut. In the meantime, it makes me want a bucket of fresh Coffin Bay oysters. Like now.

Frankland Estate was the first Australian winery I encountered which had bothered to import proper cylindrical oak cuves from Alsace, which they spent years curing with neutral wine before they trusted with their best Riesling. I suspect this wine has a touch of that business. But there's not a trace of wood. 

Frankland Estate Netley Road Vineyard Riesling 2014 
$30; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 90 points 

Right from the start, this one smells like Clare Riesling. It's all citrus leaf, and the smell of whole whole squashed lime, with juice, peel and pith, like you get when you use a pestle to mull limes in the bottom of your old fashioned glass as you lay down the foundations of a capriosca. (You can buy a perfect one of those in the cocktail bar at The Intercontinental.) It has a dusty edge as well, but this one reminds me quite specifically of worn-out podsolic soil shot with with ironstone after the first few drops of summer rain. It's quite limy in the mouth, too: more conventional than the Isolation Ridge. I suspect its berries got a fair touch of sun - if so, it might become one of those Rieslings which the Brits seem to think smell of petrol, which they like. Which says a lot about them, really. It dries the gums and makes your lips pucker. It's full-on, and is exactly the style of Riesling to which I add a bloody big ice block and a splash of soda. Food? Smoked salmon with capers and buffalo mozzarella on rye. Bread I mean, not Canadian whiskey. Sorry for those spirit references, but, well, you know ... thirteen whole per cent? 

Frankland Estate Poison Hill Vineyard Riesling 2014 
$30; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94+ points 

From a wild straggly bastard of a hillock in the back blocks somewhere way out past and too far away from the Rocky Gully pub (always a favourite), this is a very precise, angular Riesling a little like some of the austerities of Eden Valley. Given its niggardly provenance and site, it has the most endearing feminine whiff, like a majestic stringy surf queen I once met when she was covered only in Jan Juc sand. Sorry to get gender-specific, but I never inhaled a surf bloke who smelt anything like that/this. A little seaweed, a little sweat, a dab of sun oil (probly too late), and only then the citrus that betrays Riesling. Maybe more lemon than lime. I can smell the hearty giggles. I can smell pigface, too, that dunal succulent more politely known as Carpobrotus edulis. Maybe we rolled in some. That'll cool you down, I promise. And you can eat it. The first sensation upon the swallow is one of very dry, sandy acid and tannin. It's astringent, and draws all the juice out of your inner cheek squirters while drawing your blood dangerously close to the surface of that thin skin behind your lips. Whiting or gar fillets flashed through a buttery pan with a squeeze of lemon and served on soft white bread with globs of Paris Creek butter and a grind of fresh black pepper, please. In the back of a Sandman with a relatively fresh mattress and a touch of university tobacco. 

Frankland Estate Rocky Gully Frankland River Riesling 2014 
$18; 11.5% alcohol; screw cap; 91+ points 

One of the advantages of the works of the Smith and Cullam family is their forensic fussiness in Riesling, which means their lesser works, which are not nearly so much lesser as more famous Riesling majesties closer to here (turn right at Auburn), can give us bargain bottles like this baby. Lime butter and cream, sand and dust, lime, lemon and citrus leaf; it's all here. Bone dry, too, like somebody ground your granny's best bone china tea set up and put it in the tank. It's one of the best entry-level Rieslings I have encountered from anywhere, at a better price than all of them. It will perfectly accompany any of the abovementioned foodstuffs, and it would draw wicked contralto giggles from that sandy lass at Jan Juc. Top work.    


In the Poison Hill review, you mention the succulent pigface, Carpobrotus edulis. The problem is, this species is the invasive South African plant which I would rather did not appear too often. The native succulent in our dunal ecosystem is Carpobrotus rossii  (with the pink flower). C. edulis has a yellow flower and nudges out the C. rossii, and also hybridises with it, resulting in a yellow and pink flower (also invasive).

From a ‘sustainability’ POV it is considered important by some that we don’t promote the South African species in our dunes.

Kind regards

Sheryn Pitman 
Green Infrastructure & Sustainable Landscapes Project Officer
Botanic Gardens of South Australia

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