Frankland River Shiraz, if I may generalise for a moment, is the sort of wine the modern wine lover feels she ought to like. A friend of mine who has worked with fruit from the region considers it Australia’s closest approximation to a Northern Rhône style and, in its often uncompromising spice and savouriness, the style provides ample support for this view. In a line-up of Australian Shirazes tasted recently — blind — with a friend, the Frankland River wines showed poorly, seeming underdeveloped in fruit flavour by comparison even to other cooler climate expressions like wines from Canberra and the Grampians. Yet I can’t help but be drawn to the purity and edge these wines so often bring, and feel they benefit from a more contemplative tasting approach. Sometimes, drinkers need to meet a wine half way.
This wine, a companion to the Riesling tasted earlier, seems archetypal. It’s forcefully savoury in its aroma, throwing notes of clove, liquorice, savoury red fruit and crushed herbs. It’s not as spiced as a Canberran and lacks the generous fruit character most Shirazes from South Eastern Australia seem to effortlessly deliver. In their place, a sense of concentration and focus that is both slightly confrontational and impressive. Smelling this wine is almost a challenge.
The palate carries through with a wonderfully clear structure and good articulation of flavours. There’s a finesse to the way this wine moves down its line. It remains savoury in terms of flavour, with a distinctively reductive gunpowder note, and its slinky palate structure only serves to draw attention to the angularity of its other components. Tannins are well managed, presenting at the right level and with just a hint of aggression. Although clearly a young wine, this shows impressive coherence and stylistic integrity.
Unquestionably a wine of considerable sophistication, if somewhat forbidding character. It’s the party guest who’s just too good looking to talk to.