On the Trail

The "Off-Piste" Wines of Framingham

Ryan Woodhouse

You might be thinking why someone (namely Sarah Ahmed from The Wine Detective) would describe a range of wines as “off-piste". The meaning here is that these wines are a little rebellious, a little edgy—they can’t and won’t be contained with everyone else. They need to deviate from the norm and draw fresh lines in the powder. Framingham’s wines are some of the most fascinating we carry at K&L. The wines are dynamic, edgy, stylish and engaging. Framingham’s philosophy to remain “out of the mainstream” means the focus here is creating expressive, aromatic wines with a very deliberate sense of individualism—“we take risks and follow our hearts” is proudly emblazoned on the front page of their website. The wines are unashamedly audacious, full of bold flavors and zesty acidity. They have been portrayed by some of the world’s top wine critics using language such as: “original” and “fired by attitude”. They're one of my favorite producers I get to visit each year when I travel to New Zealand.

The creative force behind these outstanding wines is winemaker Andrew Hedley. Andrew has been described by two MWs (Bob Campbell and Jancis Robinson) as: “New Zealand’s best sweet winemaker” and “New Zealand’s finest Riesling producer”. While Riesling is his primary passion (his are truly world class), he also makes phenomenal Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Andrew is a very interesting guy, hailing from Northern England originally; he is a huge fan of Punk Rock (check out his Sex Pistols “God Save The Queen” T-shirt on the website) but also holds a PhD in Applied Chemistry. This diverse personality is definitely reflected in his wines—part raw rebellion and part intricate science.

As if the annual harvest punk rock concert wasn't cool enough, there are a lot of wine geeky facets to Framingham that should get most of our customers excited. Framingham’s estate is certified BioGro organic and has some fantastic plantings of 30+ year old vines. The fruit for their wines is exclusively from the Wairau Valley in the heart of Marlborough wine country. Andrew’s style is both experimental and artistic but also very measured and precise. His blending skills are perhaps second to none and he crafts wines with beautiful layers of flavor and complexity from a broad palate of diverse, small lot fermented, base wines. In the winery everything is kept very parcellated from the specific blocks that were individually picked/fermented. Andrew then uses these dozens of individual components to render the final expressions with great depth and detail.

After a couple visits to Framingham, last year we finally did a small direct import of some of the wines, many of which had previously been exclusive to the cellar door only. Our staff bought half of them and the rest went to customers already ‘in the know’. By the time huge scores came out and the legendary Jancis Robinson bestowed her blessing on the wines they were sold out. This time around we have managed to secure some larger quantities of the wines (though many are less than 50 cases total production) and we’re featuring a wider line up of Framingham’s releases. If you haven’t had any wines from this producer before they are not to be missed. They make taking the long voyage to New Zealand each year completely worthwhile!

-Ryan Woodhouse