Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

Postcard from Fromm

Winery businesses come in all sizes within the Family of Twelve: Villa Maria at one end of the scale and the small but beautifully formed Fromm winery in Marlborough at the other end.  Set up by Swiss wine lover Georg Fromm, this estate has specialised in small-batch Pinots and Chardonnays, with some obligatory Sauvignon Blanc and a bit of Gewürztraminer too.  It is run along artisan and organic lines with an impressive cast list of cows and chooks all making their particular contributions.  

But it is really the special plots on the hills which excite Will Hoare, General Manager and winemaker. Will explains: Marlborough is about 10% on slopes, while 60% of the Fromm’s vineyards are on slopes.  Furthermore, they have leases on small parcels in the Clayvin vineyard with 6m depth of clay.  They don’t require a huge amount of work as the roots struggle through the clay which holds water and leads to very moderate-sized canopies.  These (relatively) richer soils in the Southern Valleys are ideal for Pinot.  

As always the proof of the pudding is in the tasting or, even better, drinking.  And we had the real treat of tasting a number of vintages. 

La Strada Pinot Noir 2014 – the La Strada label is 60% of the production and therefore it is vital to get this right.  From a decent (‘nothing wrong’) vintage, it showed bright and savoury fruit, a pretty ripe palate and was attractively layered: red berries, smoke, stone, already complex.  

Clayvin Pinot Noir 2014, 13.2% – twelve barrels only, picked at 22-23º Brix, rather than the more typical for Marlborough 24, an indication that Fromm are looking for freshness and balance.  Very pure and lifted on the nose, fine red berried fruit and very fine and just ripe tannins. Potential to age and develop.  

Clayvin Pinot Noir 2013, 13.2% – fine mushroom and truffle notes beginning to emerge over a delightful red fruit core, a fine balance between the fruit and the savoury themes. 

Clayvin Pinot Noir 2007 – fully developed, hits the spot between fruit, savoury notes and tertiary development.  First forest floor notes emerging.  Will says that this is the state of the wine he has in mind as his goal. 

Clayvin Pinot Noir 2001 – garnet rim with the fruit beginning to fade.  Full-on truffle,  very fine soft tannins. Apparently these wines were made in a more extractive manner than today’s but they have softened with time.

La Strada Pinot Noir 1994, 13% – a real treat: a chance to try one of the remaining 18 bottles of the wine from vines planted in 1991-92.  The nose opens with bold truffle notes but under that, there is fine raspberry to red plum fruit, followed by umami, iodine and salt.  This had retained real freshness and some grip. Made with a hot ferment and lots of punch-downs, this had been a big rich wine in its time and has aged brilliantly: a great bottle.  Will today’s more gently extracted, perfumed, subtle wines age as well? Or is that not the point?  As always with Pinot Noir, there is both sensory and intellectual pleasure.  

With many thanks to Will both for this great visit and for overseeing my scholarship trip as a whole.  One of my many memories will be of Will popping up with magnums of Fromm to drink on the train to the beach party, part of the Sauvignon Blanc celebration. Entirely characteristic of a warm-hearted and generous man.  

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