Margaret River - wine production

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Spring in the vineyard, Margaret River wine region, Western Australia

Spring in the vineyard, Margaret River wine region, Western Australia [©Australia’s South West Inc]

Location

Margaret River is located some 3-4 hours’ drive south of Perth, in the maritime south-west corner of Western Australia. Somewhat remote from Australia’s eastern seaboard, the region is a vibrant hub of gastronomic activity and enjoys a well-deserved reputation as one of the most popular destinations in the country for wine and food tourism.

Margaret River is one of six premium wine regions that collectively make up the South West Australia zone. The remaining regions are Blackwood Valley, Geographe, Great Southern, Manjimup, and Pemberton.

The Margaret River GI was finalised on October 30th 1996, when the name was entered in the Registrar of Protected Names. The term defines the region’s physical boundaries and proscribes its use under Commonwealth of Australia law (Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Act 1980).

History

Few regions in the wine world have been established as a direct result of scientific research and investigation. Margaret River is an exception. It owes its origins to the ground-breaking work of Dr John Gladstones, who highlighted the region’s suitability for viticulture in a government-backed report in 1965.

Margaret River’s first vineyard was planted by Dr Tom Cullity in 1967. His pioneering Vasse Felix property is no longer in the family’s hands but continues to enjoy celebratory status by virtue of its Holmes à Court ownership.

The region’s unique and distinctly New World character began its development in earnest in the 1970s with the influx of significant investment funds from Perth-based business identities and corporations. Margaret River’s recent history is marked by frenetic expansion during the 1990s, and has endowed it with a vibrant wine community that is willing to embrace progressive and quality-driven innovation in both viticulture and winemaking. 

Today, Margaret River is home to 5795 hectares of vineyards and more than 120 wine companies. Roughly 70 operate licensed cellar door outlets. Production volumes range from small scale and family-owned to large scale and corporate. The McWilliams’ owned Evans and Tate operation is the region’s largest player, producing close to 450,000 cases of wine annually.

Climate

Bounded by the ocean to the west and dry, desert-like country much further to the east, Margaret River’s climate appears a convenient blend of mediterranean and maritime. This ensures its vineyards are not affected by extremes of summer and winter temperature. Vineyard heat summation figures here hover around 1690 units.

Humidity levels are near ideal during the growing season, and the combination of reliable winter rain, bright summer sunshine, and cooling sea breezes promote the growth of consistently high quality fruit with intense varietal aroma and flavour. The resulting Margaret River wines are characterised by vibrant colours, clearly varietal aromas and flavours, and lingering natural acidities. Grape tannins in red varieties – especially in Cabernet Sauvignon – are typically ripe but can lay the foundation for austere wines with long term cellaring potential.

The region’s main soil type echoes that of the ridge which runs from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin. Predominantly gravelly or gritty sandy loam, it is highly permeable to natural rainfall but moisture is quickly shed from elevated vineyard sites.

From vine to glass

On international markets, the Margaret River brand is associated with premium and ultra-premium quality Australian wine. In 2007-2008, total export sales for wine labelled Margaret River exceeded $2.2m. Its top five destinations were the UK, the US, Hong Kong, Canada, and Singapore.

Regions

  • Margaret River (WA)

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