EXPLORE WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Your guide to the best flavours from the winegrowing regions.
"Margaret River is the undisputed wine capital of WA."
In 1834 the WA wine industry began in the Swan Valley, now in the suburbs of Perth. Today the warm region has been joined by picturesque Margaret River and the sprawling Great Southern as the state has emerged as a premium player in recent years. The Swan still produces dessert wines but the focus now is on the cabernet sauvignons, chardonnays and sauvignon blanc/semillon blends from Margaret River, 260 kilometres south, and from the even more remote Great Southern, which encompasses several sub-regions and a wide range of styles. While Houghton and Sandalford maintain cellar doors in the Swan, the popular coastal region of Margaret River, where pioneering wineries such as Cullen, Moss Wood, Vasse Felix, Cape Mentelle and Leeuwin Estate have built global reputations, is the undisputed wine capital of WA. The Great Southern, which radiates outwards from Mount Barker, includes star riesling producer Frankland Estate along with Plantagenet and West Cape Howe.
A three-hour drive south of Perth, Margaret River is one of Australia’s most stunning wine regions – both visually and because of the quality of wines produced in a maritime climate that is similar to Bordeaux. The overall production may be small but Margaret River accounts for more than 15 per cent of Australia’s premium wines. Chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon are the star performers and sauvignon blanc/semillon and cabernet and blends have become the region’s signatures.
"The overall production may be small but Margaret River accounts for more than 15 per cent of Australia’s premium wines."
The big names include Voyager Estate, Leeuwin Estate, Vasse Felix, Cullen, Cape Mentelle, Howard Park, Devil’s Lair and Xanadu. With close to 100 wineries offering tastings it pays to allow plenty of time for leisurely exploration, particularly as the region covers over 100 kilometres in a narrow strip from north to south. Many of the top wineries have on-site restaurants. Most, however, are only open for lunch, or offer dinner only at weekends. Because of its many surf beaches, caves, lighthouses and other attractions, Margaret River is hugely popular with tourists.
Must-VISIT CELLAR doors
For decades, the warm Swan Valley was Western Australia's best-known wine region but it has been left in the wake of cooler Margaret River and the Great Southern, which is both one of the largest wine regions in the country in terms of size, and one of the most remote. With a range of climatic conditions, the Great Southern produces outstanding shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Riesling, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are the main white varieties and the Frankland River, Mount Barker and the Porongurup sub-regions have built formidable reputations for the quality of their rieslings, which are usually made in a crisp, dry style.
"With a range of climatic conditions, the Great Southern produces outstanding shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and merlot."
The five major wine sub-regions are Albany, Mount Barker, Frankland River, Denmark and the Porongurups. Key producers include Howard Park/Madfish, Harewood Estate, Singlefile, Frankland Estate, Alkoomi, Plantagenet, West Cape Howe and Dukes. There are also dozens of small producers like Oranje Tractor and Castle Rock producing wines of high quality.