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Notes from New Zealand, 2011

text and photographs © 2011 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on New Zealand 2011.


andrew I really enjoyed my visit to Framingham, not least because Gateshead-born winemaker Andrew Hedley (right) was so entertaining: an unreformed punk rocker, he launched his new 'F-Series' wines with posters that mimicked the iconic image from The Clash's 'White Riot' tour from 1977, and his slogan is "No bullsh*t!"

The Framingham story goes back to 1980. At that point the company was a grape grower, selling grapes to various well-known labels. In 1994 the first wine under the Framingham label appeared, appropriately enough a Riesling, the grape with which they have become most associated. By the end of the 1990s several other aromatic white wines joined the portfolio, and remain the main focus here.

Whilst working in the Chemical industry as a scientist Andrew's interest in wines developed, particularly German wines. At age 33 he decided to follow his passion for wine, and made his first stop the London International Wine Trade Fair where he pounded the aisles making contacts in the wine industry. New Zealand emerged as the place that interested him most "I managed to get the New Zealand newspapers delivered in Gateshead," he tells me, "and kept my eyes open for work, eventually landing a lab manager's job."

After several years Andrew made the transition into winemaking "without ever attending a wine making course." He says that is something he is very happy with: "It avoids the 'accept' or 'reject' mentality," he says, where wines can be seen in too simplistic black and white terms.

Andrew became senior winemaker at Framingham in 2002, though since then the company has changed hands a couple of times. It is now owned by the giant Portuguese wine group SOGRAPE. But Andrew says he has full autonomy in Framingham and has made many changes, including bringing in new styles of Riesling, getting rid of Cabernet and Merlot, and launching the innovate F-Series. "Riesling is still a tough, tough sell," he says and despite the soaring reputation for Framingham's Rieslings, they are a minority part of the business. But then he also says it is getting harder and harder to sell standard Sauvignon Blanc to sommeliers too: "The story is stale," he concludes.

the wines

UK Agent and Distributor: are Les Caves de Pyrene, William Morton in Scotland and Le Caveau in Ireland. See all Framingham wines on wine-searcher.

Framingham Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010
A little bit of barrel ferment. Very bright, focused, limey and clean with sherbetty tones, with lots of really crisp, lemony fruit and a lovely crispness and focus. Has lovely dryness and mineral, river-stone freshness. Lots of punch and currant dryness. 90. £10.99. Selfridges own-label.

Framingham F-Series Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008
'Our alternative take on Sauvignon, chasing away those green flavours'. From a single acre estate, all handpicked, no sulphur at the front end, wild ferment in old oak and small stainless steel barrels. Lees stirring for 10 months. Very wild and earthy, with real wild ferment character, leesiness, and a nutty, coffeeish quality. The palate has wonderfully sweet fruit at its core, with a lemony sweetness of peach fruit and herbs and a really long, umami flavours and terrific acidity. 93. £14.99

Framingham Marlborough Dry Riesling 2004
Has been in bottle for six years. Beautifully mineral nose, with exquisite stony and gently waxy aromas. Palate is filled with wonderfully punch fruit - apple and ripe, juicy creamy textured fruit with huge tang and verve but has such fabulous persistence and intensity. 90. £13.99 Harvey Nicholls

Framingham F-Series Marlborough Old Vine Riesling 2009
"alternative, not better". Just under 9g/l , lovely savoury wild ferment character with a touch of oak, that umami nose with a meatiness and a core of such piercing, vital lime and apple fruit. Incredible freshness, stunning intense minerality but that touch of sweetness just emphasises the fruit and gives this fabulous clarity. 94. £16.99

Framingham Marlborough Classic Riesling 2009
The biggest Riesling blend and arguably the 'flagship' wine as the best known, with fruit from all three parcels of Riesling on the property. A blend of normal and late-picked. Peachy and ripe, lots of Gin & Tonic quality, the palate pin-sharp and focused, with delicious tang and vibrancy, but an intrinsic softness and ripeness, giving this delicious drinkability. Fabulous stuff. 90-91. 12%. £11.49

Framingham Marlborough Select Riesling 2009
A new wine Andrew introduced when he took over the winemaking. Fine sherbetty nose, lovely herby character and a touch of bruised apple. Has a grippy impression of stoniness too. The lime-streaked purity of the palate betrays the sweetness, the finish being all about minerality and stony freshness. Delightful and delicate, without the harsher acidity that makes some sweeter Rieslings seem dry. 91-92 £13.99

Framingham Marlborough Noble Riesling 2009
Deliciously toasty and deep, with lots of passionfruit and herbs and intriguing layers of complexity with honeyed notes and a delicate nuttiness. The palate has pristine fruit and an orchard fruit clarity - very tangy, with marmalade tang and fresh citrus acidity, lots of acidity keeping this flowing and not cloying. 7.5%. 91. £12.99 per half.

Framingham F-Series Marlborough Viognier 2009
First crop. All in 50cls - 450 bottles. Very cool climate, understated nose, with herbs and those earthy, mealy notes over cool pear fruit and apricot notes just subtly present. Fabulous acidity, streaking through with such concentration. Glowing, lip-smacking acidity and chicory bitterness. 89. £11.99

Framingham Marlborough Pinot Gris 2009
Old barrels, a portion wild fermented, handpicked and whole bunch pressed. Quite aromatic, with pear and a slightly toffee quality. Smooth, silky textured stuff on the palate with a flood of sweet fruit building on the mid [palate before a pithy grapefruit acidity take over, pushing this through into a long, dry but just off-dry sweetness with the old wood phenolic giving a little edge that suggests it is drier than its 9g/l. 90. £12.49

Framingham Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2009
Similar winemaking to the Pinot Gris. Fantastically aromatic nose, excellent expression of Gewurz, with smokiness and all the lychee and Turkish delight typicity, with an intense palate showing massive minerality, streaking through with grapefruit and lemon pith that gives the wild ferment umami complexity. Match with pork. £12.49

Framingham Marlborough Pinot Noir 2009
Delightful, silky, fragrant cranberry and beetrooty, but has a strawberry charm too. Soft background of oak. The fruit is beautifully sweet-edged, with fabulous coffee and earth background, but staying light and with great charm. Layered, but in some ways very straightforward and deliciously. 89. £13.49

Framingham F-Series Marlborough Pinot Noir 2008
Fantastically sweet, velvety, with a chocolate quality and bigger, more broad-shouldered, real density and depth of flavour. The palate has a slightly aggressive touch to the tannin, with a sweet fruit depth, but are the tannins a little aggressive. 90 £16.99

Framingham Marlborough Montepulciano 2008
Planted by Italianate original owners, but survived when Sangiovese didn't. A nice touch of herbal quality, tobacco and charming savoury, leafy cherry fruit. The palate has lovely balance, with plenty acidity and plenty of herbs and that sour cherry savour. Delicious and hits the spot very nicely. 89-90. £13.79

See all Framingham wines on wine-searcher.

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