Introducing Western Australia
The wine map of Western Australia shows that almost all the Western Australia wine regions are located in the southwest zone of the state, with famed regions Margaret River and Great Southern the most commercially significant.
History however, shows that the wine region first formed was Swan Valley in 1829, not far outside of the state capital of Perth, and is considered one of the hottest wine growing areas in the world. It wasn’t until the 1960's that Western Australia wineries started planting in the cooler southwest, including Margaret River, Great Southern and Geographe wine regions.
Western Australia red wine produced from Cabernet Sauvignon and blends, particularly from Margaret River, has been instrumental in the prestige of Western Australia wineries. Chardonnay and blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon have also been important and continue to be benchmarks of their styles.
Where are Western Australia Wine Regions?
Western Australia wineries are best accessed via the capital city of Perth, however travelling to the southwest tip where famed Margaret River and Great Southern wine regions are located, can involve an additional three hour drive. Swan Valley is proximate to Perth city, and Geographe is around two hours drive from Perth CBD.
Western Australia Climate
Western Australia wineries enjoy a breadth of climate and wine styles, however Swan Valley is distinctly hot, as opposed to the cooler climates found in the southwest of the Western Australia wine map.
Unique Characteristics of Western Australia
Swan Valley wines are typically very generous in style, rich in fruit flavour, higher in alcohol, with a focus on Verdelho wine. There is also a strong culture of fortified wines from Swan Valley.
Margaret River wineries produce some of Australia’s most famous Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Western Australia red wine is typically elegant, medium bodied, fine in fruit character, and ages superbly. Chardonnay from Margaret River is typically powerful yet refined.
Great Southern wine styles vary greatly due to the size of the Western Australia wine region, but Riesling is piercing and fresh, while Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon show good concentration and savouriness.
Wines to try from Western Australia
Western Australia wineries work with a breadth of grape varieties, though Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are most widely recognized. Margaret River is predominately known for its Western Australia red wine, while Great Southern is famed for Riesling. Western Australian sparkling wine is on the rise, with best examples yet to come.
Margaret River wineries typically produce Cabernet Sauvignon at a very high quality level and reputation. Western Australia wine made from Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and blends of ubiquitous Bordeaux varieties, show sweet, black berry spectrum fruit, medium weight, regional bay leaf character and fine, often firm yet structural tannin profile. These wines can appear lean yet succulent in youth, and tend to age superbly.
Western Australia wineries from Margaret River have a very fine reputation for Chardonnay wines. The Margaret River region is renowned for Chardonnay that shows ripeness of fruit, depth of flavour, power, concentration and yet refreshing acid profiles that can extend the life of the wine to decades. The region is also known for liberal oak use to lend complexity to these wine styles.
Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc Blends
Western Australia wineries of Margaret River produce very unique Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc blends. The Margaret River wine style of ‘Classic Dry White’ was often produced from these varieties, and at the more mass-market end of the spectrum fermented in stainless steel tanks and bottled young to retain grassy, tropical fruity freshness and intensity.
Wineries from Margaret River have also worked on the principle that Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc that are blended and aged in barrel, on lees, can create wines of profound interest, complexity and depth of flavour, that can be released as ‘reserve’ examples of the style. These wines are typically fresh, yet imbued with savouriness and layered fruit and ‘winemaking’ flavours.
Western Australia wines from the Great Southern region have a superb track record with Riesling. Western Australia wineries producing Great Southern Riesling show wines that are typically piercing with acidity, but also has a succulence that makes for refreshing, brisk young wines. Great Southern wineries produce more intense, crisp, and leaner Riesling styles than many wine regions in Australia, with an expectation that the wines will age with aplomb in cellar, for up to and sometimes beyond two decades.
Shiraz, in the Western Australia wine region of Geographe has great currency. Wines produced from Shiraz in Geographe tend to be bold in flavour, but soft in texture, though an increasing number of wine producers are shifting their house style to reflect more medium bodied rather than fuller bodied styles. Fruit characters for Geographe Shiraz tend to be in the cherry or red berry fruit spectrum, with hints of mint and peppery spice.
Must See Western Australia Wineries
Some of the best established Western Australia wineries and brands include:
- Dune Ridge - Right Reverend
- Abbey View - Franklin Tate
- Byron & Harold - Thompson Estate
- Evans & Tate - Vinaceous
- Cape Mentelle - Ferngrove
- Big Jetty Bay - Rogues And Rascals
- West Cape Howe
The future of Western Australia Wine
Biodynamic wine from Western Australia is an increasingly important yet small category of wines, particularly from Margaret River. Wine from Western Australia at a glance suggests a focus on Margaret River, which continues to be an important lead for those wishing to explore further afield.
Best Western Australia red wine continues to be benchmarked against international examples, including yearly tastings of Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon against the best of fine wines from Bordeaux. Western Australia wine region profiles continue to be raised by their proximity to lifestyle activities, beautiful beaches and the ocean, and a burgeoning gourmand scene.
- Cool Climate
- Pinot Noir
- Cabernet Sauvignon