“Very similar to the climate experienced in Pomerol and St Emillion (France) in a dry vintage. So it's little wonder the Cabernet Sauvignon is so damn good“
The Fairytale Begins
The legend of Margaret river began nearly 50 years ago when Italian immigrants planted the seeds to the first vineyard in the south-west region to supply themselves and other Italian families with the quality table wine they missed so terribly. The princess was born.
The hard working Italians were assisted in the late 1960's by science agronomist Dr John Glad stone and viticulturist Professor Harold Olmo foresaw the regions great potential for viticulture with its climate and soil being comparable to Burgundy in France.
As fate would have it, this was "just the medicine" the burgeoning wine industry needed and shortly a small group of wine-loving Perth doctors followed his advice and established the first Margaret River vineyards. As time progressed the vines aged and new vineyards and wineries began to appear; Margaret River was maturing. The glamorous young wine princess was on her way to becoming the Australian Queen of premium wine regions, winning acclaim around the world for her outstanding 'fruit driven' varieties including Australia's finest cabernet and chardonnay; and quintessential blends like Semillon Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Merlot.
Today, the wineries of the Margaret River region produce just over 4% of Australia's wine , yet account for nearly 25% of Australia's premium wine output.
The Glamour Queen Of Wine Regions
An early three hour drive or a 35 minute flight from Perth, the Margaret river wine region extends from Busselton and Dunsborough in the north to Augusta in the south.
Swathed by the Indian ocean, the region is one of the most picturesque in Australia, featuring a dramatic coastline with some of the world's finest beaches and biggest surf, towering forests, spectacular subterranean caves and large tracts of undulating agricultural land including over 12,500 acres of premium vineyards.
Today the breathtaking scenery is punctuated by a relaxed lifestyle, fine dining and premium, yet 'unstuffy' wine culture-every year enjoyed by thousands of wine lovers from around the world.
The Jewels In Her Crown
While Margaret River's glamour title has been clearly the result of her cabernet sauvignon, the regions Chardonnay is now being rated amongst the very best in the world.
Most premium wineries produce a Cabernet, commonly blended with merlot to create the region's quintessential Cabernet Merlot. In general, they have a "leafiness" to them, but as the vines mature, this yields to secondary riper, darker and more solid flavours. Forty years on from the first major plantings, Margaret River is developing a wide spectrum of exceptional sub-region flavours. Cabernets from the Willyabrup sub-region (home to King kangaroo) are usually rounder, fuller and more mulberry-like, while futher south of the river they are leaner, leafier and more elegant.
The Chardonnays are superbly voluptuous, intense and concentrated with lemon, pineapple rind, grape fruit and hazelnut flavours. Semillon Sauvignon Blanc is the great white blend of the region. Here it displays passionfruit flavours in unwooded styles and herbaceous appeal in barrel-fermented styles.
Shiraz from this region is intense, spicy, dark cherry and pepper flavoured. Another variety to watch for is the dry-grown Grenache of which there are currently only two plantings of in Margaret River, with King Kangaroo using the majority of fruit from one of them. This vineyard was originally planted with French sourced rootlings from the Rhone Valley and varies greatly from the Spanish heritage in Eastern Australia. Verdelho and Chenin Blanc are two other white grape varieties sharing increasing popularity in the region.
The Most Mediterranean Of Climates
Surrounded by the sea on three sides, the Margaret River region enjoys a strong 'maritime climate'. The region has the most noticeable Mediterranean climate in Australia, in relation to rainfall; with less than 25% of its annual rain falling between October and April.
Additionally, the low diurnal and seasonal temperature range results in an unusually even accrual of warmth. In temperature terms, the overall climate similar to that of the French regions of Pomerol and St.Emilion, in a dry vintage, so it's no wonder the quality of its Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay is so good. The physiographic characteristics of the region provide a degree of protection from winds blowing in from the ocean. The principal soil type is predominantly gravelly or gritty sandy loan that has formed directly from the underlying granite and ancient bed rock.
The soils are highly absorbent when moist but moisture quickly flows from sloping sites to lower lying regions. Overall water capacity is low, placing additional emphasis on the need for irrigation.