Stylistically, this occupies a middle ground between the Acacia and Riversdale Shirazes I tasted recently (although this wine is from an earlier vintage than either of those two). It has suggestions of the Acacia’s palate weight while channeling the Riversdale’s almost brutal savouriness and sinewy palate structure. Interestingly, the 2010 and 2011 vintages of this wine come from the Acacia and Riversdale vineyards respectively, whereas the vineyard source here isn’t specified (on the Cherubino Web site at any rate).
It’s also quite fascinating, because it’s a wine that, over several hours of contemplative tasting, never entirely yielded to me. It’s not a matter of being somehow unresolved; this is drinking quite well, really. Its style, though, with a focus on muscular savouriness, is one that can’t help but dodge easy deliciousness. I wondered at one point whether a wine style that keeps insisting on its form and sophistication at the expense of much else takes the idea too far; whether some fruit might have been brought further forward to provide a way in, and whether its noticeable reduction might have been dialled back at bit. But, in the end, I’m glad of its balance, and I enjoy the way it insists the drinker rise a little in his seat to taste.
It’s a wine that shows great tannin, and its relatively high — by mainstream Australian standards — pH of 3.9 came as something of a surprise when I looked up the technical data. Not forcing it down to a more textbook level, though, shows great winemaking judgement, because the wine’s palate structure is fantastic as is, and a brighter streak of acid might destroy the dark, dense way this moves through the mid-palate in particular. Fruit weaves in and out of this rope-like architecture, occasionally swelling to a point stopping just short of generosity, then folding back into the dark fabric of the wine. Oak, though present, seems to work at the level of density and mouthfeel rather than adding any obvious sweetness or overt flavour.
It’s been good to taste a few Frankland River Shirazes of late. It has confirmed my view that this region, and its neighbours in Great Southern, is capable of producing some of the most distinctive, challenging and sophisticated Shiraz in Australia.