◆ What drove the establishment of Frankland Estate in such a remote location?Hunter―― My dad grew up on a vineyard in Riverland in South Australia, s o g rape g rowing was part of growing up and drinking wine a hobby. His family came to Western Australia and my grandfather settled on a War Settlement Service block down in Frankland River a Rocky Gully. My dad was working in real estate in Perth and my mum was a radiologist. They fell in love with Rocky Gully during their weekend trips, and they bought a property close to my grandparents with the idea of going into farming. They subsequently bought another property, and in 1974 bought Isolation Ridge, which was a sheep, wheat and canola farm. The family have been farming in the district for 3 generations now.◆ Mum and dad had a passion for drinking wine and all things wine――they did vintages in Bordeaux and then locally at the newly-established Plantagenet Wines. In 1988 they decided to plant a small vineyard at Isolation Ridge ‒ about 1ha each of Riesling, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc, and 2ha each of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. I don’t think they knew what they were getting into. As there was only a couple of vineyards in the region, they had to go through all the challenges of starting a winery and producing wine in a remote location. The concrete for the winery was poured in the middle of the vineyard in 1992 and the winery inaugurated for the 1993 harvest.Their openness to travel and exposure to great wineries around the world in the early 80s instilled a passion for wineries that expressed a t rue sense of place. It is something they held true to throughout their journey, and it drives the wines and the location we make them in today.◆ How isolated is Great Southern?―― It is really isolated, hence the name Isolation Ridge. Perth is one of the most isolated cities in the world, and we are a good 4 -hours drive south. We back on to one of the biggest wilderness areas (Mount Frankland National Park) in the Southern Hemisphere, so it’s bush right down to the Southern Ocean 60 kilometers away. It does feel quite remote, but we’re surrounded by pristine nature, and have the most amazing lifestyle because of that.Frankland River◆ What makes your wines so unique and attractive? ―― The Frankland River has an incredible valley system with beautiful rolling hills with forest and farmland, and isolated vineyard sites on top of the hillsides. Most have ironstone lateritic soil which gives very good vine health and balance, water leaches through nicely, and nutrients stay in the soil. At 280m of elevation, the vines get an afternoon sea breeze coming off the Southern Ocean that makes its way up the river valley to cool what otherwise would be a hot day. And when the sun sets, the heat just disappears ‒ it can be 30 degrees during the day, down to 12 degrees by 9 o’clock, and under 10 degrees first thing in the morning.It’s a unique location. Cool climate is not quite the right description because of the low summer rainfall. By December the green grass has gone, and we have straw coloured rolling hills, and our unirrigated vines really have to work to get their roots down into the soil to survive the long dry summer. The evenings are their respite. So, you have this beautiful combination of dryness and coolness, and I see that in the wines - they have a great ability to show generosity and power, pulled back by a fine acid line and balance which tightens and gives them incredible energy. We very much understand what it is to be in such a unique location. The vineyard is the one thing that no-one else can replicate, and we want to express that uniqueness in our wines.◆ When did your vineyards become organic, and what does it involve?Today, all our vineyards are certified organic, and it is a big part of Frankland Estate. We started farming organically in 2005 and received full organic certification in time for the 2010 harvest. My father was close to being organic anyway, and we changed a few things progressively over the years as we gained more knowledge of our system and property. For example, our rich ironstone gravelly soils can hold a lot of nutrients which releases in neutral soil. To achieve neutral soil we need to farm crops that are alkaline, not acidic.We also have recurring cover crops in the vineyard, including lots of clover to fix nitrogen in the soil. We use sheep in the vineyard in winter when the vines are dormant to graze down the tall grass, which help spread nutrients around. The grasses die off naturally after the rain stops in November, the hillsides turn from green to a lovely brown, and hopefully stay that way until harvest, which lends itself very nicely to organics.We also have a flock of guinea fowls that run wild through the vineyard and eat all the pests, so we don’t need to use chemicals. One of their number, Gladys, even features on our website. At night they fly into the trees to roost, evading the foxes, unlike our chooks which must be locked up at night, so they don’t get eaten.We really are passionate about our vineyards and put a lot into them, having respect for each individual plant is how we think about it. A lot of practices are done manually and not by machine, so the vines don’t get accidentally harmed.◆ How have the fruit characteristics of the whites changed over time?With vine age we have better balance and nutrition, which adds to the flavour. Also, we saw a big benefit when we went organic ‒ the vines don’t stress as much during the latter part of the vintage because the vines are healthier. Healthier vines hold natural acidity which allows us to keep the fruit on the vine an extra week or so, and with that the flavour improves.With Riesling we’ve gone from lemons, limes, a quite austere, very classic Australian Riesling profile in the early days, towards a more European profile with little more richness of flavour, and softness in the acid profile. We use a term ‘resolved acidity’ which we look when we harvest, where the acid goes from sharp and present to a bit softer and rounder. When we get that we know we are going to get the palate structure and acid profile we really like. We are also seeing the development of more exotic flavours of white peaches and nectarines. When they first began, my parents were advised not to plant Riesling because it was difficult to sell. Today, Riesling accounts for 40-45% of our total production.◆ How has the flavour profile of the reds changed over time?―― Like the Riesling, for the reds with vine age and better balance and health, we have found that less is more. We have come to understand and appreciate that the vineyard will give us the flavours, even at lower Baumes and higher acid levels, so we don’t need to chase fruitfulness, weight and power. Our Syrah is more Pinotesque in the Australian spectrum of reds, which is why we call it Syrah, and not Shiraz. We’ve been talking for the last 30 years about how Shiraz is the most widely-planted varietal in Australia and with that comes a lot of regional diversity. So, we are starting to see greater acceptance of a more elegant, medium-weighted Syrah.With the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Cabernet Franc, these 30+ years old vines are really starting to deliver a serious thread of ironstone minerality, which is our terroir. We found that the acidity and the story of who we are can be lost if we make the wines too fruitful, because our story is the cool climate where we grow. Frankland Estate's Cabernet is a perfect example of the cool climate of the region where it is grown, and we’ve gradually increased the proportion of Cabernet Franc and decreased Merlot in our Olmo's Reward (Bordeaux blend). The 2021 vintage we just bottled is 95% Cabernet Franc.Brian Kent, Chief Winemaker & Hunter Smith, Co-owner and Viticulture Manager◆ Until now, and here-onwards on planting strategyVineyard expansion is a very generational discussion, you don’t just expand overnight. The original plantings at Isolation in 1988 was 7ha, and there are now 24ha. We added 8ha of new vineyards in 2005-2007, and another 8 ha which were planted in denser, northwest-facing rows to shade the fruit during the hottest part of the day in 2021. Hopefully the older vines just keep getting older and better.Western Australia has very strict quarantine regulations, and we are free of a lot of foreign pests and diseases. It means we don’t have phylloxera yet, so all of our vines are planted on their own rootstock in the belief that own-rooted vines keep them true to their varietals and clones. The quarantine regulations also mean it’s a very slow process for introducing new material. We have 3 new clones of Syrah in the vineyard with slightly different characters. Put together they make a more compelling wine than we’ve made historically. It’s also about looking after these vines for longevity. South Australia has some very old wine material – 100 years plus - so we know it can be done, and there is a lot of work happening in the background.Within Great Southern, we’re seeing some young producers working with the ‘traditional’ varietals planting new varietals. With the region’s ability to have a long hang time and extended season, the grapes pick up intensity of flavour without high alcohols or sugar levels, which is a lovely combination. There are a lot of opportunities here for all sorts of varietals, right across the gamut from Pet Nat to dry red table wines which makes Great Southern really exciting. And that is exciting for me ‒ we will start seeing incredibly good wines that shift people’s perception of what Western Australia and Great Southern are about. Recently we started making Grüner Veltliner because I loved making and drinking it in Austria, and we also planted some Touriga Nacional. But still, we are very committed to Riesling and Syrah, and think they have an incredibly strong future.《From Village Cellars》I still remember being surprised by the sudden appearance of vineyards among endless rolling hills on our first Frankland Estate visit over 20 years ago. Even though we organized group Margaret River trip every year since, they would come to Margaret River instead of us going down, as the long trip to Frankland was too difficult for us to organize.In 2019, I finally visited Frankland River again. I was surprised to find that not only had the winery and cellar door changed dramatically, but the road to the winery seemed to run through a dense forest! It was the amazing result of their effort to restore the beautiful natural environment by planting thousands of native trees which now covers 250ha of their 1,000ha land.* Olmo's Report was published in 1956 by Dr. Harold Olmo, a pioneering viticultural expert who was also known as the ‘Indiana Jones of Viticulture’. A professor at UC Davis, in 1955 he spent 8 months in the region at the invitation of a Western Australasian research institute, and his report was the first to describe the potential of the Frankland River a s a premium wine region. Frankland Estate’s Bordeaux blend ‘Olmo's Reward’ was named as a tribute to him.