Marlborough’s wine industry definitely owes much of its success to Sauvignon Blanc, which is why so many pioneers of the region fixated on it as a grape variety when starting their brands. To stray from Sauvignon Blanc in those early years and build a company focused on a different grape variety was a gutsy move, but one that made Framingham the iconic winery it is today. Planted in Marlborough in the 1980s, guided by a passion for Riesling, Framingham today owns one of the oldest Riesling vineyards in New Zealand. Their ability to coax grapes from those vines into a multitude of distinct styles is why wine guru Jancis Robinson calls them “New Zealand’s finest Riesling producers”.
Out of the mainstream, driven by passion
It’s no surprise their unique wines receive top praise, with three wine enthusiasts at the helm; Andrew Hedley, a Riesling lover, is head winemaker, while Andrew Brown is assistant winemaker and known for his creativity in the cellar, and James Bowskill runs the viticultural side, because great wines start in the vineyard. You’d be hard pressed to meet three people more devoted to the wine they make. Being located in Marlborough, Sauvignon Blanc is now a big part of their portfolio, alongside Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, and Montepulciano. All of their wines would be a reason to visit, but among industry professionals and wine critics, it’s the Riesling that draws a crowd.
Out of all their wines, Framingham’s love for Riesling is most obvious, if only at first for the fact that they present their guests with four styles: Select (Spatlese-style), Classic (off-dry), Dry, and Noble Riesling (Botrytised Dessert Style). Made in traditional Germanic fashion like most Rieslings in Marlborough, Framingham has something that other wineries don’t, and that is access to fruit from their old-growth vineyards, some being 30 or more years of age. Of course, these wines are made in small batches, meaning quantities are usually low and often snapped up quickly. Being able to try them in the cellar door is a real treat, along with their other aromatic wines.
Learning through play the Framingham way
The range of Framingham wines is remarkable in its own right, but in recent years, they started to produce what is known as F-series wines. For any wine-geek or enthusiast, this is a real opportunity. The F-series are only made in tiny quantities and are the result of letting the winemakers experiment with winemaking techniques. This is important because it allows them to play around with styles and choices, and in the end apply what they have learned to their Framingham range. They might trial spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeast, leaving the wine on skins longer after fermenting, or allowing skin contact with white wines before draining the juice off. The resulting wines from the F-series that release are exciting, out of the ordinary and often absolute gems. You won’t find them many places, so being able to try them in the cellar door makes a visit here worth it.
One of the first things people comment on when visiting Framingham is how strikingly beautiful the gardens are. Manicured hedges and thickets of roses lead the way to the cellar door, often distracting guests and tempting them with floral aromas that will later reveal themselves in the wines awaiting them in the cellar door. It makes for an immediate comparison when savouring a sample of their Gewurztraminer. Like everything with Framingham, the details have been thought through so that everything connects. When sampling all the wines side-by-side, it’s possible to see how their particular style of winemaking acts as a signature, distinguishing them from the masses. They don’t create formulaic wines at Framingham, or follow the same path as everyone else. They haven’t from day one, forging their own unique path out of the mainstream, making them truly an iconic winery in the Marlborough wine industry.
Sounds Connection Pick
- Andrew Hedley, chief winemaker at Framingham, is a fanatic when it comes to Riesling. He has been called one of the finest Riesling producers in New Zealand, and if given the chance to try Framingham’s Classic Riesling, you’ll know just how talented he is. With so many styles of Riesling possible, the off-dry version selected for this wine walks the thin line of perfect harmony and balance between acidity and sweetness. By retaining a bit of sweetness to the wine, the fresh and vibrant acidity is held in check with a honeyed element that brings out citrus, stonefruit and floral qualities. It is a concentrated wine with elegant minerality that will most likely get even better with age, but is enticingly tempting now.
- Riesling is a wine that many guests coming to Marlborough have heard of, but Gewurztraminer usually throws a few people for a loop. First, its name looks terrifying to pronounce, but once you’ve heard it a few times, it gets easier. In many regions famous for producing Riesling, Gewurztraminer is also grown. Like Riesling, it shines when a balance is struck between acidity and sugar levels. As an aromatic wine, it can either be love at first sniff or put people completely off, with varietal characteristics hinting rosewater or lychee fruit. With Framingham’s F-series Gewurztraminer, there are beautiful tropical fruit notes mingled with classic rose elements; the off-dry style provides a deliciously slippery, silky mouthfeel. As one of their experimental wines, this style ferments using indigenous yeast in mostly neutral barrels and some stainless steel. It is a wine that holds onto traditional elements while playing with mouthfeel and flavour.
Photographs courtesy of Framingham Wines0