From the very beginnings of the Fromm winery in 1992, the core philosophy of expressing terroir through single vineyard wines has never been compromised. Such a driven approach is to be admired, and Hatsch Kalberer, the Fromm winemaker has come to represent the winery’s determination and unwavering direction. The wines he has faithfully crafted from the special vineyards are deemed some of Marlborough’s finest and the Rieslings, Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Syrahs can be seen as particularly special. The recognition of the unique qualities of the wines from the ‘Clayvin’ and ‘Fromm’ vineyards with the latter three varieties has been recognised with a ‘May Day’ release.
The ‘May Day’ release of the single vineyard wines is part of Fromm’s evolution into a more complete winegrowing business. The greater emphasis in marketing has been assisted by the arrival of Adam Balasoglou, who has the sales and marketing role as well as one in winemaking. It supplements the increased range and breadth of styles and varieties that became implemented at Fromm when general manager William Hoare came on board to join Hatsch in winemaking. The Fromm winery now offers a portfolio with greater balance, and is more active in the promotional sense than ever before, but the heart of its existence is the crafting of the single vineyard wines.
The Fromm 2014 ‘May Day’ Release Tasting
Adam Balasoglou conducted the ‘May Day’ 2014 Release Tasting for trade and media in Wellington at Duke Carvell’s Emporium in the Cuba Quarter. He briefly discussed the original, founding traditional approach with the high-density plantings carried out by Hatsch from 1992 with around 4,700 vines per hectare, and the progress made since. This includes the BioGro certification of the vineyards and the adoption of many biodynamic practices. Also discussed was the continuation of the ‘Clayvin’ wines, the vineyard now leased in whole by Giesen, but Fromm still has access to the fruit it requires. Adam stressed the limited production of the single vineyard wines, citing the availability to the New Zealand trade being only 14 -28 dozen from the low yielding 2012 vintage.
The tasting of the new release wines incorporated two older vintages of each of the wines. Especially noticeable was the inexorable move towards greater elegance in the red wines, with a turning point after the commissioning of a new destemmer for the 2006 vintage. The wines before then were firmer and with greater density, demanding long bottle-aging. The wines from 2006 onwards are certainly more supple, aromatic and beautiful, as well as being more accessible. What was noticeable was the consistent expression of the terroir of the ‘Clayvin’ vineyard with its redder fruits and florality, and the blacker fruits and minerality of the ‘Fromm’ vineyard wines, whether before or after the use of the new destemmer.
Duke Carvell’s served some excellent match tapas with the wines, a creamy croquette with the Chardonnays, a hearty lamb cutlet with the Pinot Noirs and a deliciously soft beef slider with the Syrahs. It was a very busy tasting, and I didn’t make full notes on the wines, and offer my impressions here. I will be able to offer ‘Feature Reviews’ on the wines in the near future. www.frommwinery.co.nz
The new Fromm Marlborough Riesling Spatlese 2013 (18.5+/20), very pale straw with green hues, the tightness, finesse and purity on nose is striking, the aromatics unfolding delicately refreshing lime, floral and rainwater suggestions. Medium in sweetness, the residual sugar is balanced by pinpoint acidity, the palate still luscious, with lime juice and honeysuckle flavours along with white floral lift. A little toasty interest is noticeable. Beautifully mouthwatering and all underscored by a very fine textural line. This will keep 6-8 years.
Flight One: Clayvin Vineyard Chardonnay
The Fromm ‘Clayvin’ Chardonnay has white burgundy as its model, with less overt fruitiness and oaking, employing sophisticated vinification of the Mendoza clone fruit including full barrel-fermentation by indigenous yeasts, 100% MLF and approx. 16 months in oak.
The first wine in this bracket was the ‘Clayvin Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2003 (17.0+/20) served from 1.5 L magnum, full light-golden colour, the nose is full, even and broad in expression with an amalgam of savoury white stonefruits, chalky minerals and nutty oxidative elements. Full-bodied, robust in the mouth and driven with power, the palate is somewhat grainy with phenolic textures and nutty, oxidative flavours alongside savoury, secondary stonefruit characters. There is still good acid liveliness keeping it all alive, but this is now a little past its best. The wine is from a second set of fruit following a severe frost in the growing season. Next was the ‘Clayvin Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2010 (19.0+/20), one of the top-rated vintages by Fromm. Pale straw-yellow with some depth, still youthful in appearance. The bouquet is extremely fine and tightly bound with pure white stonefruit and minerally expression, revealing a little reduction and flinty complexity in the glass. On palate, this is all finesse and subtle power with refined and concentrated white stonefruits along with apples, nuts and minerals, the oaking very discreet. Brilliant acidity and vitality with restrained sweetness and richness, the linearity and fruit intensity carries the wine to a very long and sustained finish. This is just beginning to show its full potential and will keep another 5-6 years. Then the new-release ‘Clayvin Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2011 (18.0+/20), very pale straw colour, the nose is very tightly bound and subtle in expression, with fine, white stonefruits, the most subtle flinty nuances and mouthwatering minerals. An elegantly sized wine with concentrated and tightly bound flavours of white stonefruits, citrus fruits and nuts, the detailing is restrained and fruit clearly to put on weight and open out. There is a fine textural line, with mouthwatering acidity that carries through to the long finish. This is similar to the 2010, though not quite with the concentration. Only 175 dozen made.
Flight Two: Pinot Noir
This consisted of the three new 2012 Pinot Noir releases, the Brancott Valley, ‘Clayvin Vineyard’ and ‘Fromm Vineyard’, each showing their distinctive terroirs and origins. There were two older vintages of the ‘Clayvin’ and ‘Fromm’ wines also served.
The Brancott Valley Pinot Noir 2012 (18.5/20) is dark ruby-red in colour with youthful, light purple hues. The nose is full with ripe dark red berry fruit and dark plum aromas, lifted with whole berry fermentation notes of confectionary and florals. Medium-full-bodied, the palate features full, sweet and fleshy dark red plum fruit flavours, quite bold and primary in expression, the fruit balanced bt fine-grained tannin structure. The mouthfeel is sweet, bright and supple, offering approachability, but this will develop well over the next 5-6 years.
Then the older ‘Clayvin Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2005 (19.0-/20), very dark black-red colour with real depth. This is tight tight and densely pack on bouquet with concentrated savoury black and red berry and cherry fruits along with complexing nuances of mushrooms, undergrowth, earth and tar. Full-bodied, solidly concentrated and deeply flavoured, this has a core of black-red fruits, along with secondary earth, dried herbs, mushrooms and tar that unfolds in funky layers. The tannins are beginning to round out and the textures offer a suppleness to the mouthfeel, moderating the near austerity, and subtly sweet fruit elements emerge to carry through to the long finish. This will keep another 5-6+ years. Next was the new ‘Clayvin Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2012 (18.5+/20), dark, deep, purple-hued ruby-red colour, the nose is very elegant, fresh-fruited and primary, with lifted red berry fruits and florals forming a refined core. With aeration, complexing savoury dark herb and mineral elements emerge. Medium-bodied and elegantly proportioned, penetrating flavours of sweet red berry fruits are the feature on palate, the fruit lifted with an array of dark red florals and hints of savoury herbs, and supported by very fine-grained supple tannins. The acidity is ripe, providing the mouthfeel with poise and energy, and good linearity that leads to a sweet, floral lifted finish. This is a beautifully elegant, aromatic Pinot Noir that will keep 6-8+ years.
Two ‘Fromm Vineyard’ wines followed, the first being the ‘Fromm Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2007 (19.0/20). Light ruby-red colour with depth, pale on edge. The bouquet is tightly concentrated with aromas of black, minerally fruits, iron and earth, with real depth and intensity, unfolding black and savoury violet florals. Medium-bodied, the black-fruited core exudes iron and mineral layers, the mouthfeel extremely fine-grained in texture with considerable extraction, brooding and still to resolve. The palate has excellent tension, energy and drive, and flows smoothly, unveiling delicate savoury dark herb detail and hints of undergrowth complexities, carrying through to a refined, elegant finish. This still has time to go, another 8-10 years. I sense a Richebourg style here! Finally, the ‘Fromm Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2012 (19.0-/20), darkish, deep, purple-red colour, the nose is a little shy, with densely packed black fruit and black mineral and earthy notes and fine aromatic lift providing elegance and finesse. This has presence and is bound up at present. Medium-full bodied, concentrated flavours of black fruit and dark cherry essence meld with a refined, firm core, the tannin extraction very fine providing a powdery, silky mouthfeel. The fruit sweetness is underlying and lifted with fine, ripe acidity, become more luscious in the glass. Dark red berry fruits and dark red florals emerge and lead to an aromatic, sweet-nuanced finish. A wine that will evolve over 8-10 years.
Flight Three: Syrah
Many observers would believe that Syrah may not be suitable in the cooler climates of the South Island, but the Fromm Syrah has been highly lauded internationally and leads the growth of the variety in Marlborough. The ‘Fromm Vineyard’ terroir is apparent, and a highly regarded Rhone Syrah presented as a comparison showed the Fromm wine’s uniqueness of style and its quality.
The first wine came under the old livery, being labelled ‘La Strada’ ‘Reserve’ Syrah 2001 (18.5-/20), very dark, deep, black-red colour, this has a very full, densely packed and concentrated bouquet of earthy black fruits, black pepper and tar, with complex, savoury game aromas, well into the secondary phase. Full-bodied and firmly concentrated on palate, flavours of black fruits, iron and minerals prevail, with background pepper and spice elements adding detail. The tannin extraction is serious, bolstering the concentrated core with density and depth. The palate has real power and drive, with good acidity, carrying the flavours and structure to a firm, tannic finish. This has the depth and power to see the wine age another 8-10 years. Almost the antithesis of the 2001, the accessible ‘Fromm Vineyard’ Syrah 2009 (18.5/20) is dark red colour with purple hues. This has an elegant and fragrant nose with savoury red berry fruits alongside game and meat notes, the fruit lifted with white and black pepper perfumes. Medium-full bodied and elegantly presented, black berry and black peppery fruit flavours show with richness and lusciousness. White pepper and floral notes from the 4% co-fermented Viognier provide aromatic lift, and the mouthfeel is enlivened by fresh, lacy acidity. The palate is guided by fine-grained, background tannin structure and the flavours flow with good energy and linearity to a lush, aromatic finish. The accessibility will see it drinking well over the next 6+ years. The final Fromm wine was the new release ‘Fromm Vineyard’ Syrah 2011 (18.5/20). With 4% co-fermented Viognier. Very full, dark, black-hued purple-red colour, with lighter edge, this is youthful looking. This has a full and voluminous nose with lifted black fruit and black pepper aromas in a complex amalgam entwined with violet florals, spices and a hint of minerally reduction. Medium-full bodied. The palate features piquant black fruits, spices and pepper, the flavour with complexing minerally reduction providing interest. The fruit is underlined by very fine-grained tannins and enlivened by excellent lacy, bright acidity. The mouthfeel is lively, refreshing and lifted, with a sweet and juicy core leading to a fine-textured, black fruited finish. This will evolve over the next 7-9 years.
For comparison, Adam served a Guigal ‘Brune et Blonde’ Cote-Rotie 2010 (19.0-/20). Dark, deep ruby-red colour, this has a very smooth-flowing, voluminous nose with perfumed red fruits withed with fine floral aromatics in a harmonious amalgam of savoury cedar, smoke, milk chocolate and oak, Fullish-bodied, the sweetness of red fruits and cedary, spicy oak feature on palate. Lifted milky MLF, chocolate, stonefruit, pepper and smoky nuances unfold to fill the mouth. The palate is seamless with very fine-grained structure in support, combining with the fruit extract to build in density. The fruit sweetness and succulence is enhanced by excellent acid spine and carried to a very long, sustained finish. This will develop greater complexities over the next 10-12+ years.