The Great Southern’s own Frankland River has cemented it status as a “world-class wine region” after emerging as a standout performer in Ray Jordan’s 2022 Top 100 Reds List — and local producers say it is just the beginning.
The tiny town between Albany and Kojonup continues to make waves among the wine industry, with wines and grapes grown in the region rising to the top of more than 600 drops tasted.
Margaret River-based winery Cherubino won the best overall wine title for its Omaggio shiraz mataro 2020, produced from grapes grown at its Riversdale vineyard in Frankland River.
Wines from Frankland River have rated highly on wine writer Jordan’s annual lists in the past, with Amelia Park Frankland shiraz 2020 taking top spot in last year’s ranking.
The region’s wines featured across all price categories in this year’s rankings, with Jordan writing it “solidifies the emergence of Frankland River … as a world-class wine region”.
Jordan said his inclusion of many Frankland River wines in this year’s list could indicate Frankland River was “heading towards superstardom that in the end might just match that of that other superstar, Margaret River”.
“Stylistically it’s going to be nothing like Margaret River, and I think that’s a good thing.
“What it’s doing is making its mark for its individual position as Frankland River.
“And it doesn’t need to compete with Margaret River, all it needs to do is be really good Frankland River and I can assure you it’s going to continue to appeal to people.”
Jordan said Frankland River was now producing more distinct wines than in the past.
“In the old days, I think a lot of fruit that was produced in Frankland (River) was sort of turned into wines that were the style of the day … that unfortunately took a lot of the real character of the region away from them,” he said.
“But more recently the winemakers have looked at what they’ve got, and they’re now armed with mature vines that have been in there for some decades.
“They’re making a style of shiraz that is really creating a distinctive regional stamp within Australian winemaking.”
Frankland River was first identified as a potential site for vineyards in a report published by American viticulturist Harold Olmo in 1956 due to its ideal climactic and soil conditions.
The initial vineyards were planted in the mid-1960s, with three wineries, Alkoomi, Frankland Estate and Ferngrove, now established in the area.
Wineries based across WA also produce wine from grapes grown in the area.
Cherubino owner Larry Cherubino purchased his Riversdale vineyard in 2004 and compared the growing conditions in the area to “parts of Italy and southern parts of France”.
“When we invested in the vineyard we got rid of anything that we didn’t think was going to work,” he said.
“So we took out all the sauvignon blanc, and all the semillon, all the semillon–sauvignon blanc effectively, and replanted it with things that we thought had a real long-term future in the region, like grenache, like new clones of shiraz, new clones of cabernet.”
Mr Cherubino said he did not have plans to expand his brand’s presence in Frankland River by opening a winery, but he would “continue to invest and back” the area “because we really believe in it”.
“We’ve got vineyards in Pemberton, Margaret River and Frankland (River) but obviously this one is good because we had five wines in Ray’s Top 100, and every single wine we had reviewed in that Top 100 was from that Riversdale vineyard,” he said.
Pioneering Frankland River winery Alkoomi, which planted its first vineyards in 1971, placed fifth on Jordan’s Top $15 to $20 reds list with their cabernet merlot 2020.
Alkoomi chief winemaker Andrew Cherry said he believed the rising status of Frankland River followed the popularisation of the kind of cool climate wines produced in the area.
“It’s the continental climate; warm days, cool nights during the ripening,” he said.
“Not too much rainfall, so there’s no disease pressure, so we can ripen pretty much any variety that you like.
“And because it’s cool climate (the area produces) the more elegant styles which are becoming more popular now.
“Therefore the Great Southern, and Frankland River in particular, are becoming more recognised because that’s what people are chasing.”
Frankland Estate owner Hunter Smith, whose shiraz 2020 placed fourth on Jordan’s $25 to $40 reds list, said the growing recognition of the Frankland River wine region was “fantastic”.
“Across the region, it reflects the growing maturity of the vineyards, but also the growing relevance of the style that the region makes to modern day drinking,” he said.
Frankland Estate wines are exported across the world, with Mr Smith citing strong markets in Denmark, Sweden, the US and UK, with growing markets throughout Asia including Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.
“Whilst we are isolated in Frankland River, we have about 16 export markets around the world,” he said.
“And it’s those export markets that sort of convince us that the styles of wines that we’re making out of this region will go a long way to helping the region gain the recognition of being world-class.”
Mr Smith said he believed the Frankland River region may follow a similar trajectory to Margaret River.
“The awareness (of Frankland River) is growing, which is really exciting,” he said.
“Margaret River has been an incredibly successful wine region but you know, started from very humble beginnings.
“And I’d say that’s very much where we are in Frankland River.
“The region’s really not that old, and we started from very humble beginnings, and we’re already seeing some remarkable success and growth.”