West to east is the way this Atlas travels. “WA” is our landfall, not the first in importance of Australia’s wine regions, with Jess than 5% of the Country’s wine output, blit In quality terms very near the top, with a distinctive lightness of touch combined with the ripeness of fruit – an unusual combination in Australia. Margaret River, its single most important region, is mapped overleaf.
The first colonists of Western Australia were almost as quick to start winemaking as those of New South Wales. The Swan Valley, just upstream from the state capital, Perth, saw Its first vintage in 1834. From the searing heat of the summer, with dry winds from the interior keeping temperatures to 100°F (38″C) for weeks, the early vintners realized that their force for many decades would be dessert wines. Its says much for their skill and ingenuity that the pioneer, Houghton, nonetheless made what for years was the whole country’s best selling dry while: its “White Burgundy”, based on Chenin Blanc anil perfumed with who-knows-what, in the baking heat of vineyards around Perth. It was not until the late 1960s that Western Australians realized that the real potential lay further south, in the cooler parts of this vast, almost empty, state where Antarctic currents and onshore westerlies cool things down considerably.
The Great Southern region, first staked out at Mount Barker in the 1960s and progressively extended, offers some of thy coolest, welts terrain in Australia with some grapes still on the vine well into May. Plantagenet was the preeminent pioneer, hut the region has since been invaded by an army of small growers. Some of them rely on one of several sizeable contract winemaking operations, but more and more of them are pursuing their own small-scale Independent projects. Unusually for Australia, Great Southern has been divided into subregions: Albany, Denmark, Frankland River, Mount Barker, and Porongurup.
The most obvious strength Mount Barker (not to be confused with the Mount Barker of Adelaide Hills) has so far been fine Riesling. Cabernet Sauvignon, and some attractively peppery Shiraz. Forest Нil vineyard, planted in 1966, recently revived, and supplying the winery’ of the same name in Denmark, qualifies as one of the Western Australian wine industry’s historic landmarks. Denmark on the coast is even wetter but often warmer. It can be a challenge to ripen Bordeaux varieties and keep Thinner-skinned Shiraz healthy, so early-maturing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay work best.
Albany is the region’s principal population centre, and Western Australia’s first European settlement. Shiraz and Pinot Noir both seem at home here. Higher and further inland, a string of vineyards along the Porongurup’s striking granite range produce tine, particularly mineral, taut Riesling, while Chardonnay and Pinot Noir go from strength to strength.
Boom-time arrived at the Frankland River in the late 1990s, largely driven by tax incentives. This subregion, inland, and west of Mount Barker, now’ has Great Southern’s greatest concentration of vineyards (and a 1,000 acre/400ha olive estate), though few wineries. Ferngrove is by far the biggest operation: Alkoomi has an established reputation for Sauvignon Blanc (and olive oil). Frankland Estate’s strength is single-vineyard Riesling and a Bordeaux blend known as Оlmos’s Reward in recognition of the California professor who first suggested back in the 1950s that the area would tie suitable for viticulture. The Westfield vineyard has long provided fruit for Houghton’s superlative red blend named after Jack Mann, even if, as so often, Great Southern is not acknowledged on the label.
FROM PERTH TO ALBANY
Western Australian wine production started close to Patna in the Swan Valley. from which came Houghton’s White Burgundy”, a dry white blend that was a national hit. But, from the 1960s after a certain amount of Californian prodding, would be vine-growers sot up shop much further south.
Towards the Indian Ocean
Most significant of the many vineyards between hen: and the Indian Ocean coast are the plantings in truffle capital Manjimup and Pemberton.
Being further from the cooling influence of Antarctic currents on the coast, Manjimup has a slightly more continental climate, and a higher proportion of gravelly loam soils. But although Manjimup’s potential shines through in Batista Pinot Noirs. Pemberton has a higher profile. Producers such as Picardy and Salitage are concentrating on Burgundy varieties with some fine results, and Pemberton’s Sauvignon Blanc is among the state’s best. Pembcrlcy Farms grows fruit for many of the state’s benchmark examples. Bellarmine’s German founders make great Riesling while Leeuwin Rslale’s former viticulturist, John Brocksopp of Lillian, has a winning way with white Rhone varieties.
As in Margaret River to the south, it was men of medicine – Dr Peter Pratten (of Capel Vale) and Dr Barry Killerby – who, in the 1970s, established the Geography wine region. Both planted vineyards on the southern coastal strip between Bunbury and Busselton known as Capel. Geography’s climate, like Margaret River’s, is thoroughly influenced by the Indian Ocean, but the soils are more varied, ranging from sandy coastal plains (the so-called Tuart Sands) to alluvial soils and, in the hillier country away from fire coast, granite. There has been considerable growth, especially inland in the Ferguson Valley, Donnybrook, and Harvey. A wide range of grape varieties ran thrive here. In addition to traditional strengths Chardonnay and the Bordeaux varieties, Tempranillo shows promise, as do some I Italian varieties. Rhenish red blends are becoming signature strength of the Ferguson Valiev. Blackwood Valley is essentially the land between Geographe and Manjimup. The region has grown significantly in the last 1,5 years, but lias been slower to raise its profile, although Barwick Estates’ The Collectables Cabernet Sauvignon demonstrates just how well suited the variety is to this beautiful corner of the world.