Natural Wonders

Travel bites: The odd bod Marlborough winery producing the region’s most distinctive wines

Natural wonders, human-made monuments and cultural experiences typically serve as the headline points of interest when venturing beyond borders and hopping over oceans. For some, it’s local delicacies that rise up like Michaelangelo’s David and make the journey entirely worth it.

France has its fries, Belgium has its biscuits and Australia has dark brown yeast spread, but in this series we’ll be highlighting food worth travelling around New Zealand for. Stamp these culinary delights in your passport – just don’t expect pineapple-flavoured lumps.

The folks at Framingham aren’t afraid of doing things a little differently.

SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFF

The folks at Framingham aren’t afraid of doing things a little differently.

Famous for its riesling in a region synonymous with sauvignon blanc, Framingham has never been afraid of being the odd one out.

To the contrary, winemaker Andrew Brown goes out of his way to produce wines that differ from the typical Marlborough sav with its zingy acidity and tropical fruit aromas, specialising in aromatics that also include viognier and gewurztraminer.

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Visiting the winery’s cosy Golden Mile tasting room in Renwick, I sipped my way through my selection of rieslings from its three ranges – Framingham, the experimental, limited edition F-Series, and the still more avant-garde Nobody’s Hero – with complementary cheese, marvelling at how different they all were from each other.

I knew I was going to be a fan of the 2020 Framingham Classic, made with grapes from some of New Zealand’s oldest riesling vines, when the host told me it smelt like a mixture of old-school lemonade and gin and tonic. But it was the intense orange, Meyer lemon and stone fruit flavours that really got me.

The winery’s landscaped courtyard is a pretty place to while away a sunny afternoon.

Framingham

The winery’s landscaped courtyard is a pretty place to while away a sunny afternoon.

I fell even harder though for the F-Series Riesling Spatlese 2020 – the sweetly rich flavour stemming from a low-rainfall season which essentially saw the grapes dehydrate on the vine. I’m not normally one to drop $70 on a bottle of wine but, after finishing the one I took home with me disconcertingly quickly, I regretted not having invested in a whole case.

Asked where the winery’s contrarian streak comes from, Brown says the story starts with the planting of the first riesling vines back in 1981.

“The fruit that comes off these now-41-year-old vines is pretty awesome to work with, and I guess we have forged a reputation for making good examples of riesling, whatever the style, because of this.”

Marlborough’s harsh riverbed soils with their mixture of alluvial gravel, silt and fist-sized stones composed of greywacke – a dark type of sandstone streaked with quartz and feldspar – are particularly well-suited to aromatic whites, he says.

“They are really infertile, which has a moderating effect on vine vigour and yields, lending itself to concentrated flavours in the fruit.”

While riesling isn’t nearly as popular as sauvignon blanc or chardonnay in New Zealand, Brown feels it is more misunderstood than underrated.

“I think it is appreciated by the real riesling lovers out there and for everyone else it’s a slow burn, which is okay.”

While “riesling geeks” tend to seek out Framingham on winery tours, those who turn up not knowing what to expect are often surprised to find rieslings can run the gamut from dry to super sweet.

Brown idolises many German producers of the varietal, with a recent Mosel tasting going down particularly well. Among his own ranges, he particularly enjoys the 2021 Select Riesling, describing it (in unusually unpretentious terms for a wine geek) as “very tasty”.

He’s also enjoying some of the later harvest wines, such as the F-Series Auslese and Noble rieslings.

“This is real small-batch winemaking – bugger all of each is made, which makes them pretty special.”

His Christmas picks: “Go a three pack: Select Riesling to start, the Classic Riesling with the ham, and the Noble to cleanse. Then repeat.”

My Christmas wish this year: Making it back to Framingham’s sunny courtyard, with its bean bags and song lyrics scrawled on paving stones, in the not-too-distant future. I hear the Spatlese has sold out, so I’m in need of a repeat tasting to find a new favourite.

Fact file

Where to drink: You can find Framingham Wines at 19 Conders Bend Road, Renwick 7271. The cellar door is open seven days a week (except Christmas Day, ​Boxing Day and Good Friday) from 10.30am to 4.30pm.

Staying safe: New Zealand is currently under Covid-19 restrictions. Face coverings are mandatory on all flights and public transport. Proof of vaccination and vaccine exemption may be required in some venues under the traffic light system. Follow the instructions at covid19.govt.nz.

Do you have a favourite snack worth travelling for? Email us at travel@stuff.co.nz or let us know in the comments.


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