Australian wine - Western Australia

Australian Wine - Western Australia. The varied climates and terrains of the 350-odd-mile coast of ‘WA’ suit a wide range of grape varieties that make wine in a wide variety of styles, almost all of which have one thing in common: high quality. There are very few WA wines in super-markets and even the lowest-priced are well above average price. This is a good thing and reflects the fact that, refreshingly, the biggest producers (Houghton – pronounced ‘horton’, Plantagenet and Evans & Tate ) seem to make only good – and often good value – wines.

The southernmost region of WA is Great Southern, where Antarctic Ocean currents cool coastal areas sufficiently for succulent Pinot Noir and racy Riesling while intense Shiraz and rich Chardonnays emerge from the warmer interior. Most wineries are brand-spanking but there are established role-models in the Mount Barker sub-region (Plantagenet , Forest Hill ) to give the tyros in Denmark (Howard Park, West Cape) and Frankland River (Alkoomi, Ferngrove, Frankland Estate) something to aim for. In the latter the Westfield Vineyard (Houghton) was where winemaker Jack Mann started the modern WA industry and the remaining two easternmost regions Albany and Porongurup have yet to hit their export stride.

Heading west, the Pemberton region (Brookland Valley – also in Margaret River; Fonty’s Pool ; Picardy ; Seven Day Road ) is rapidly making a name for itself beyond its perimeters. The name of the beguiling Margaret River region is probably known to more people than that of WA itself. Cooled by the onshore Fremantle Doctor breeze, it’s not just a pretty face: there are over 100 producers, many of them adept with a wide range of varietals including Cape Mentelle , Evans and Tate , Marchand & Burch , McHenry Hohnen , Palandri , Suckfizzle/Stella Bella and Voyager , with rich age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon (Vasse Felix), rounded Bordeaux blends (Cullen) and tropical Chardonnay (Leeuwin Moss Wood , Pierro, Woodlands) at the top of the list and Shiraz, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc not far behind.

The Swan Valley north of Perth is where things started (1834 saw the first vintage) – it once made ninety per cent of the region’s wine. That’s now down to ten per cent: the 100ºF summer temperatures don’t suit modern styles – most of the original wines were fortified. The cooler Perth Hills area to the east is seeing a lot of new investment and is one to watch.

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