Custodians of Australia's Most Isolated Wine Region: Frankland Estate
Today we’re travelling to explore Australia’s most remote and isolated wine sub-region but you won’t need the 4WD for this expedition. The Frankland river area located approximately 220km east of Margaret River and 120kms north of Denmark by car.
This area is one of the five subregions of Australia’s largest wine region - the Great Southern here in WA, comprised of a rectangle 200 km from east to west and over 100 km from north to south, sitting in the north-western corner of the region.
The Great Southern’s subregions include the Porongurups, Mount Barker, Albany, Denmark and of course Frankland River. The climate is still moderately Mediterranean around Frankland in terms of winter rainfall while the soils consist of lateric sandy gravel loams due to the abundance of granite in the area. The soil is typically a rich red colour and highly fertile. These conditions tend to favour lighter European styles of wines.
The history of wine in the region goes as far back as one of the original settlers in the area George Egerton-Warburton when he decided to plant vines on his Mount Barker property and bottled his first vintage two years later still early in the area's settlement. However it was not until the following century and some decades later that the quality of the surrounding area for winemaking was officially realised through a number of extensive research projects in the area.
One of which was carried out by Professor of Viticulture at the University of California Dr Harold Olmo in 1955 which backed up the notion the region was utterly perfect for lighter European lighter wine styles.
After Dr Olmo identified the potential of the Frankland River region to produce wines comparable to those of Bordeaux back in the 50’s, Frankland Estate’s founders, Barrie and Judie who were originally working their property for wool production made the decision to visit Bordeaux before making their own shift into wine. The pair first worked two vintages in Bordeaux before they embarked on their vision, establishing Frankland Estate in 1988 and now finally pursuing their dream to create wines of uncompromising quality in the remote south west of Australia.
Frankland Estate is as much apart of its natural landscape as it is a winery and this is by design. The estate was founded with the direct intention to honour the rich and unique surrounding landscape in their wine rather than showing off the hand of the winemaker. Frankland Estate’s viticultural practices not only boost their region’s breathtaking qualities and bring them out in the flavour of their wines. The winery also ensures a healthy, sustainable surrounding ecosystem in regards to their operation. These two values are at the forefront of their efforts as they describe themselves as the ‘custodians of this remote land’.
"Our appreciation for the environment in which we work ensures our wines and our vineyards continue to grow with our land in accordance to the cycles of nature. We take our role as custodians of our land very seriously. We have invested a lot of time and energy into minimising our impact on the ecological balance of the region, nurturing the micro-biology of our soils and supporting causes to improve the health and future prosperity of our local fauna and flora.”
This approach includes carefully nurturing the health of the soils in Frankland Estate’s vineyard, and only taking from the land as much as can be later replaced by natural processes. It is this keen passion for sustainable farming which was recognised in 2009, when Frankland Estate was awarded their organic certification.
The winery has excelled leaps and bounds in their 30 year existence and have without question, conquered distance, isolation and any seeds of doubt to bring their wines to the world which are now available in 20 countries as the quality and severance for the vineyard’s fruit only continues to develop. Today, Barrie and Judi’s children Hunter and Elizabeth strive to match the tenacity of their parents, along with a firm focus on their local terrior and have now successfully fully converted the winery into a fully certified organic operation.
“Our thirty years has really only signalled the beginning of what we hope will be a long history of wine making at Frankland Estate, as we continue to experiment, refine and craft a lasting precision in our wines by honouring the health and purity of our unique environment and vineyard sites.”