Margaret River WA Wine Region
On The Grapevine, Feb 2012
If you are going to Western Australia for a holiday and you enjoy wine you must visit the Margaret River region about 3 hours drive south of Perth. It is a beautiful part of Australia with lovely beaches, forests, and caves etc. The recent bushfires only damaged a small part of the area and the vineyards and wineries were not greatly affected.
Margaret River is one of the world's most vibrant and popular premium wine growing regions with hundreds of vineyards and about ninety wineries. The region stretches just over 100 kilometres from north to south and is up to 27 kilometres wide in parts, comprises the rolling hills of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge, between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin and is bordered by the Indian and Southern Oceans
It may be the maritime climate, it may be the soil, it may even be the clones of the varieties chosen, but whatever it is, the wine loving doctors who founded the Margaret River wine region in the late 1960’s on the advice of America's Professor Harold Olmo and Western Australia's own Dr John Gladstone’s, found themselves in a viticultural paradise.
Bounded by oceans on three sides Margaret River is blessed with a Mediterranean climate offering something for everyone. Overall the climate is similar to that of Bordeaux France in a dry vintage: hence the widely regarded high quality of its Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The region is strongly influenced by its proximity to the coast, more so than any other major Australian wine region. Margaret River has the lowest mean annual range of only 7.6 degrees Celsius and the most marked Mediterranean climate. Only 200mm of the annual 1160mm of rain falls between October and April. The low variation in temperature means an unusually even accumulation of warmth.
The avoidance of extremes in temperature and near perfect humidity levels during the growing period combined with ideal soils leads to wine of consistently high quality fruit of intense flavour.
The region’s soils are deep gravelly loams which allow grape vine roots to penetrate and survive characteristically dry summers. Most of the regions vineyards are located on sloping sites which are highly permeable, and shed moisture quickly. Features which produce low yielding vines and grapes with a high concentration of flavours. Hence the regions wines are known for their depth of colour, intensity and robust full flavours combined with the Margaret River varietal character.
Best Grown Varieties
Margaret River is one of the world's magical areas for chardonnay, producing powerfully intense wines of great length and elegance. They take longer than their Australian peers in the South-east to evolve, but when they do, they are universally agreed to be among Australia's finest.
The region is perhaps even better known for its cabernet sauvignon and cabernet blends. They are arguably the nation's best (although Coonawarra may disagree) and are renowned for their incredible depth of flavour, layers of complexity, extraordinary length and performance in cellaring.
Shiraz, a relatively rare variety in Margaret River, does particularly well in the more northern half of the region producing rich, powerful wines.
Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Semillon Blends are truly becoming a star of the region with wineries sourcing cool climate fruit from the southern vineyards of the region for their Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blends.
Vintage occurs between February and May, depending on the weather and the resultant ripening. The region uses a combination of hand picking and machine harvesting to ensure the fruit is removed in a timely manner at optimum ripeness.
The best wineries in the region include Voyager Estate, Leeuwin Estate, Cape Mentelle to the south and west of the town of Margaret River and Vasse Felix, Cullen Wines and Howard Park to the north. There are plenty of wineries and fine restaurants to enjoy a few days touring and tasting. Most top brand Margaret River wines can be obtained in good bottle shops.
Try some out and compare to our Victorian and South Australian wines. My view is that they are among the most complex and elegant of Australian wines and the most closely to resemble Bordeaux style wines due to its more temperate climate and longer ripening season. They are generally not as big (fruit driven) and powerful as say Barossa or Coonawarra, SA wines, but if you enjoy more refined wines this is the area for you.
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