A DIFFERENT SIDE OF MARLBOROUGH
After the number of wine tastings and cellar doors we have been to, it takes a lot to really "wow" us. Don't get me wrong, we have some amazing experiences, though very few seem over-the-top. I'm sure a few of you have experienced this too, be it a guided tasting, private or public tasting, or something much more casual, they can start to feel similar and pedestrian.
To me, this means that those experiences that do stand out, are really special, because they have gone out of their way to break the mold. Our recent trip to Framingham Wine was one such experience. If you have clicked through that link (and confirmed your age), you will be greeted by a rather bold claim, "In a world on increasing blandness, we remain individual." and they certainly can be applauded for holding to this mission.
Framingham wines was started with some of the first riesling plantings in the Wairau Valley, in 1981 by a Wellington engineer. This obviously laid a solid foundation, as Framingham still specializes in riesling (very well I might add) to this day. Fast forward to 2001, and the Framingham team was joined by Dr. Andrew Hedley, a self taught winemaker. Now, we are going to take a quick moment to assuage any fears you have of self taught winemaker. Wine making is not rocket science (Although Dr. Hedley holds a Phd in Organic Chemistry, so he is already one step ahead of the game). In fact most would argue that modern wine making is attempting to see how little we can do to the wine, instead allowing it to do its own thing. Some of our favourite wines have been made by self taught winemakers, and when you sample the breadth of a collection put out by a self taught winemaker, you can taste a certain unrestricted nature to the wines. There is a willingness to break the rules they have never been taught, and try something new. There are so many quotes I could conjure about about people learning more from their successes than their failures, and to me this idea of learning from our less-than-successful-experiments (one might read that as "mistakes") is the special ingredient that makes wine made by self taught winemakers so brilliant.
Now, the wines at Framingham fall into this category perfectly. Some of the wines are good, some of them are brilliant, but none of them could be called bland, so they certainly meet their mission statement.
Our tasting (you can certainly see the chemistry influences in the servings) started with the 2019 Framingham Sauvignon Blanc. If you are into those massive tropical fruit bowls of a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, this is not your cup of tea. On the other hand, if you are tired of tasting Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that needs to tell you it is Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, this is your wine. It relies much more heavily on its savoury, and bitter elements, lemon peel, grapefruit, and thyme, and backs them up with a gorgeous stony mineral finish.
The next real stand out in our tasting was the Montepulciano Rosé. First I applaud anyone who is willing to step outside the box, and plant a distinctive varietal in a region where it is not typical (especially if it is Italian). Second, this wine feeds that spirit of experimentation and boldness that I think Framingham is known for. At first, this wine gets you with its amazing rich colour. The wine starts with the typical strawberries and cream that you might expect from a pinot noir rose, but layered with elements of watermelon, red florals, and dare I say, pink peppercorn? There is a lovely minerality in the finish that balances the wine, and makes it refreshing.
Keep your eyes on the Framingham F-Series, this is where they feature one-off and out of the box wines, that sure to never be bland. While you are waiting for the F-Series wines to be released (as they can often sell out fast), you can stick to the more tried and tested Framingham range. These wines are more of what you expect from Marlborough offerings, but they by no means fit into the mold of "blandness."