Andrew Hedley, originally from Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the far north east of England but now based in New Zealand's South Island, is one of the most skilled practitioners of Riesling anywhere in the world. He makes small quantities of exquisitely balanced, extremely bright-fruited, crystalline-fresh Rieslings of very different but carefully-judged sweetness levels, invariably with excellent acid balance.
I have enjoyed many of his very sweet wines, and at the Frankland Estate Riesling Celebration in Sydney a couple of years ago the Framingham F Series Auslese 2011 managed to outshine the German prototypes. But the wine I'd like to bring to your attention today is what might be called his riposte to Clos Ste Hune - at a fraction of the price.
This is a rather odd winery because it gives all the appearance of being a one-man outfit, albeit one man who has had far more than his fair share of health problems and has to speak through one of those voice-box thingies. Yet in fact Framingham has bounced around corporate portfolios, currently being the rather unexpectedly located subsidiary of the Portuguese giant Sogrape. Not that long ago it was owned by the Australian producers of Jacob's Creek Orlando Wyndham, who, I am told, poured substantial quantities of mature Riesling down the drain on their watch.
Hedley designates his special bottlings, which include a wide range of sweeter Rieslings, F-series. Framingham, F-series Old Vine Riesling 2012 Marlborough is only the second vintage of this, the richest of Hedley's dry Rieslings. It was made from 32-year-old vines and, unusually for Framingham, fermented spontaneously. Aged on the lees in a combination of old wood, glass and stainless steel, it has a residual sugar level of just 6 g/l, so that it doesn't taste sweet at all. But it has the same intensity and extract as one of Trimbach's finest Alsace Rieslings - except that it seems to have aged a bit faster. The 2012 is already delicious whereas the 2009 Clos Ste Hune is unusually accessible in being drinkable at only five years old. I loved its nutty note and real 'fume' of the purest Riesling. This is a substantial wine that I would happily cellar for up to 10 years too. It is 13.5% alcohol and is, of course, stoppered by screwcap.
According to UK importers Les Caves de Pyrène (who presumably offer some of these wines in their excellent wine bar/restaurants Terroir, Brawn, Soif, Toast and The Green Man and French Horn), this marvel is currently available in London W1 at Hedonism Wines of Mayfair and Vagabond Wines of Charlotte Street. Via our Find this wine link, wine-searcher.com identifies other retailers in both the UK and New Zealand, and you can order it from Framingham's own website.
Not that this is the only Riesling of interest from Framingham. (I have tasted a perfectly nice Pinot Noir from Framingham as part of the own-label series chez posh shop Harvey Nichols, but the white wines are their strength.) At a recent Great Riesling tasting in London, on which I will be reporting in detail, I also enjoyed Framingham Classic Riesling 2011 Marlborough (£13.99) with 19 g/l residual sugar but so much racy acidity and lime juice character that it didn't seem anything like as sweet and would make a great aperitif. The price is recommended retail in the UK, where it is sold by the Fulham Wine Rooms and Joseph Barnes of Saffron Walden.
The sweeter wines Riesling Noble Selection 2013 Marlborough (£15.49 a half), F-Series Riesling Spätlese 2012 Marlborough (£24.49), F-Series Riesling Auslese 2013 Marlborough (£27.99 a half), F-Series Riesling Auslese 2012 Marlborough (£25.99 a half), F-Series Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese 2013 Marlborough (n/a) were all exceptionally fine. And I was also able to taste a thoroughly convincing Dry Riesling 2005 Marlborough that showed just how well Framingham Rieslings age.
All in all, this is a producer not to be overlooked by the many Riesling-loving visitors to JancisRobinson.com. See this list of Framingham distributors worldwide on their website, from which the landscape image is taken. Other vintages are available all over the world, including the US, Spain, Portugal, Poland,Japan, South Africa and, of course, Australia.