Franklin’s faithfully Burgundian techniques deliver a magnificent synopsis of the potential of his warm site: broad, statuesque Pinot with grand depth and texture, and a deliciously baroque Chardonnay.
— Andrew Jefford
The single-minded Brian Franklin at Apsley Gorge has rendered himself half Burgundian with annual work immersion in Gevrey, and his courageously restrained winemaking combined with a warm, dry East Coast site results in Pinot of unusual breadth but great subtlety and allusiveness too.
— Andrew Jefford
 

Established in 1988 this tiny vineyard is planted to Pinot Noir (5.5 hectares) and Chardonnay (1 hectare) and is located several kilometres inland from the coast near the entrance to the Apsley Gorge national Park north-west of Bicheno. The vineyards unique situation near the entry to the gorge brings breezes in the afternoon which have a distinct cooling effect which means this vineyard is typically one of the last to harvest in Tasmania with harvest usually being around the first week of May. This micro-climate is unique for the east coast.

Since 1999 winemaking has been undertaken by owner Brian Franklin who also does vintage each year in Burgundy with Philippe Charlopin (himself mentored by his friend Henri Jayer) in Gevrey Chambertin, and is helped here in Tasmania by young French winemakers including Philippe Charlopin’s son Yann. Including vintages undertaken in France Brian now has almost 40 vintages of wine-making experience in both France and Australia.

Always aiming for full phenolic ripeness the style of wines produced are rich and intense wines characterised by fully ripe fruit made using Burgundian know-how with texture and finesse and excellent natural acidity, without excessive extraction or heaviness. Produced very naturally with only a small percentage of new oak (maximum 30%) each year these are very individual wines of great class and structure that drink very well when young yet also age and evolve over a decade or more for the Pinot Noir.

‘The results at Apsley Gorge are wines, and especially Pinot Noirs, that brilliantly express spirit of place, a Tasmanian terroir through Burgundian technique – richly flavoured, complex Pinot Noirs, with soft tannins, that are an ode to the splendours of late autumn fruit.’ Decanter February 2019

2017 Chardonnay
From just 1 ha of fully mature vines the yield in 2017 was 2 barrels and 1 demi-muid giving a total production of about 100 dozen bottles. 2017 was a very cool year for the east coast of Tasmania and the wine shows more restraint and finesse to the benefit of the finished wine. Rich bright and intense with wonderful texture and depth this will drink well young and also age gracefully for 5-10 years if given time.

2016 Chardonnay - SOLD OUT
’Fine light gold. Toasted nuts and classic Burgundian Chardonnay notes with aromas of honey, mint and hay. The palate is soft and rich with well-integrated oak. There’s lower acidity than in Burgundy and a soft roundness without being overblown. Certainly a perfect match for salmon. Drink 2019-2022 Alcohol 14%.’ Decanter February 2019

‘Today, Franklin looks less maverick than seer, as Burgundian methods have become more frequently applied to Pinot Noir in Australia. Critical acclaim has also come, and Apsley’s cult wines sit comfortably in the premium price range for Australian Pinot Noir (on a par with Burgundy premier cru).’ Decanter February 2019

2016 Pinot Noir
There is the usual dark colour from the ripe east coast fruit. The nose is intense and vibrant with dark cherries and a  hint of charey oak and charcuterie. There is still that clean earthy purity of Pinot fruit. There is a rich textured entry with a hint of coffee. Just before the mid palate the fruit really comes to the fore, much more than with the 2015. The textural, mouth filling component of the tannins leads into a long masculine finish that lingers and lingers. Brian Franklin (winemaker)

2015 Pinot Noir
A cool vintage for Tasmania with little summer to speak of and wind and rain extending the cool weather into February. The months leading into harvest were ideal with a long ripening season enabling harvest for Apsley to continue into May enabling perfectly ripe fruit with intense flavours and ideal balance resulting in a typical intensely rich Apsley style of Pinot Noir. Incorporating a small percentage of whole-bunch in the ferment (less than 15%) has resulted in a wine with a little more finesse and lift in this vintage. As always decanting is recommended.

2014 Pinot Noir
From a cooler more ‘typical’ Tasmanian vintage 2014 has yielded a wine with notable freshness and finesse whilst still maintaining the intensity and depth of Apsley Gorge Pinot Noir. Deeper in colour than his 2011, 2012 and 2013 Pinots the 2014 shows extra depth and dimension with deep dark fruit aromatics showing raspberry coulis with a touch of autumnal complexity. A deep rich style of Pinot with very soft and polished tannins on the palate with all the trademark texture and Burgundian influence which Apsley is so well known for.
’A dark ruby colour. Aromas swing toward blueberry and blackcurrant fruit, however violets and meaty characters evolve on the palate with time in the glass. Complex secondary aromas with earthiness and forest floor. A firm structure, with grape tannins evident. Bigger in alcohol than Burgundy but more Old World than New World in style. Drink 2019-2024 Alc 14.5%.’ Decanter February 2019

2017 Clos Vougeot, Domaine Charlopin-Tissier (made in conjunction with Brian Franklin) - due late 2019
And so to the latest project: the grand cru Franklin is now making on the Côte d’Or. His partner here is none other than his old friend Yann. These days Yann has his own domaine (Charlopin-Tissier, as distinct from his father’s Charlopin-Parizot) at Morey-St-Denis, just down the road from Gevrey. And that explains Franklin’s incredible access to the grand cru fruit: a tonne of viticultural gold. ‘If it were me,’ he concedes, ‘and not Yann Charlopin, it would not have been possible – a business like you wouldn’t believe.’ He does not elaborate. The source, in any case, is the clay soil at Clos de Vougeot, which can get quite wet, but in a dry year delivers good quality. The 2017 vintage was dry and Franklin assures me: ‘The fruit is sensational, as good as any I have seen during my time in Burgundy – superb primary Pinot characteristics, cherry and strawberry, and no astringency.’ Nor are there divergences
on matters philosophical. Franklin remarks: ‘The basic principles – 100% destalked, a long pre-ferment maceration, indigenous yeast, a press for grand cru that halts at the tannins, and 100% new oak – go back to Henri Jayer, and the techniques he imparted to Philippe Charlopin. Yann is his son; and I have worked as assistant winemaker to Philippe. There is complete likeness of mind.’ When we spoke, the wine, in two special barrels – one from François Frères, another from Taransaud – was going through malolactic at Yann’s winery. Some 600 bottles will be on the market under the Charlopin-Tissier label before the end of 2019.