Introducing Great Southern
Great Southern wine region is one of Australia’s biggest grape growing regions. Indeed, looking at the map of the region suggests a grand landscape in which vines grow, but often with large gaps between vineyard land, uncommonly seen in most growing areas. Great Southern wineries are scattered across five distinct sub regions, including Porongurup, Mount Barker, Albany, Denmark and Frankland River.
The Great Southern wine region dates back to the 1850's when original settlers brought grape vines to the region and planted fledgling vineyards. However, the region was officially planted to commercial viticulture in the 1960's, with the arrival of Dr John Gladstones, who further recognised the potential of the region.
The Great Southern wine region is named well, with its proximity to the Southern Ocean prominent and its diverse and vast area an often surprising characteristic of the region. Its wineries are renowned for Riesling and Shiraz, but there are notable plantings and quality wines produced from Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and, increasingly, a raft of newer-to-Australia varieties like Tempranillo.
Where is Great Southern?
The Great Southern wine region is located in the great south of Western Australia. Regular flights to Albany or Denmark from Perth allow relatively easy passage to the Great Southern wine region. Flights are seen to be at times a greater convenience than the four-or-so hour drive from Perth to various parts of the vast Great Southern wine region.
Great Southern Climate
Great Southern wineries experience a breadth of climate conditions, from more continental-inland moderate temperatures and growing seasons, to the full impact of near-coastal maritime influence of the Southern Ocean. The region is diverse, with five sub-regions each lending character to wines in sometimes subtle yet different ways.
Unique Characteristics of Great Southern
Great Southern wineries are able to produce Riesling wines of great intensity, succulence and briskness of acidity. These wines are generally very cellar-worthy, and in youth prove to be relatively lean, though very refreshing. White wines of Great Southern wineries produced from staples of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are often elegant, tightly structured and fine in profile.
Red wines of the region are often elegant, finely boned and yet carry good intensity of dark fruit flavour. Shiraz has great potential to be of very high quality from Great Southern wineries, with a restraint meshed to attractive spice and savouriness and suggestions of regional pepper and anise character.
Wines to try in Great Southern
Great Southern wineries enjoy a broad spectrum of grapes to work with, however, regional staples are generally seen to be Riesling and Shiraz, with notable examples of Cabernet Sauvignon and blends. The Great Southern wine region uses its varying elevations and climatic conditions to its advantage, offering a broad spectrum of interpretation of wine styles.
Great Southern wine region has a superb track record with Riesling. Great Southern Riesling is typically piercing with acidity, but also has a succulence that makes for refreshing, brisk young wines. Great Southern wineries produce intense, crisp, and leaner Riesling styles than many other wine regions in Australia, with an expectation that the wines will age with aplomb in cellars for up to and sometimes beyond two decades.
Cabernet Sauvignon & Blends
Great Southern wine region has a proud history of very high profile, high quality Cabernet Sauvignon and blends. Great Southern wineries produce Cabernet Sauvignon with typically good concentration and firm tannin profile, and often show elements of herbal complexity and earthiness. The wines are intense and often quite rigid when young, but have potential for excellent aging.
Great Southern Shiraz has long been in the shadow of Great Southern wineries Cabernet Sauvignon but has now seen a raise in profile as the styles have been fine-tuned. Great Southern wine region may produce a breadth of examples of Shiraz, but the take home message is wines of medium weight, spice, silky texture, fine tannin profile and pepper/anise character. These are sublime wines for drinking in relative youth, but can age medium term too.
Must See Great Southern Wineries
There are more than 40 Great Southern wineries and the map of the region reflects an increasing number of smaller wine producers who are appearing from younger generations working in established wineries. Great Southern is often synonymous with Riesling, and Frankland Estate winery takes on the mantle of highest profile producer to work with the white grape. There is a great collection of high profile wineries in the Great Southern wine region, including:
- Alkoomi Wines
- Byron & Harold
- Rogues & Rascals
Key Great Southern Wine Event
IGA Taste Great Southern
The Great Southern region represents one of the most diverse and engaging food and wine regions in Australia. The event runs for 18 days from March to April each year, stretching over 3 weekends. The event is designed to attract people to the region at a time where the weather is enjoyable and local businesses are keen to showcase what they have to offer. Visitors are encouraged to stay over at least a few days and to take in more than one of a variety of sub events whilst enjoying the local attractions on offer.
The future of Great Southern Wines
With increasing interest in the Great Southern food and wine festival, alongside greater traction with Great Southern wineries producing noteworthy Riesling and Shiraz, there is a great and bright future for the Great Southern wine region.
The map of the region may describe a tyranny of distance, but the groundswell of interesting, unique wines from often smaller, start up and experimental producers, is also creating a currency of interest. Meanwhile, established Great Southern wineries are going from strength to strength as they fine-tune viticulture and push the boundaries with their existing fine wine programs.