The region was ‘discovered’ in the mid 1960’s after various pieces of scientific research from Professor Harold Olmo (USA) and Dr John Gladstones (Australia) identified it as a potentially great grape growing region.
Since the first significant commercial planting of vines that are still producing wine in 1967 the Margaret River Wine Region has built an international reputation as a true home of fine wine capable of achieving parity and more with the world’s best.
For more information on the history of the region visit the Margaret River & Districts Historical Society website.
How it All Began – By Peter Forrestal
The Margaret River Wine Region was first planted by Perth cardiologist, Tom Cullity, who was influenced primarily by a 1966 research paper of University of Western Australia agronomist, Dr John Gladstones. In it, he examined the Margaret River’s suitability for viticulture. He believed that the only possible disadvantage of the region could be its heavy winter rainfall which would necessitate choosing vineyard land which had good drainage.
The planting at Vasse Felix in 1967 signalled the beginnings of a wine industry in the region. It was quickly followed by Moss Wood (1969), Cape Mentelle (1970), Cullen (1971), Sandalford (1972), Leeuwin Estate, Woodlands and Wrights (1973).
Californian Harold Olmo, Professor of Viticulture at the University of California (Davis) was given a Fullbright scholarship to take up an invitation of the Vine Fruits Research Trust to investigate problems with viticulture in the Swan Valley.
Professor Olmo’s eight months in Western Australia was profoundly influential especially after he had suggested that many of the parts of the South West might be as good or better than established areas in California or Australia. He was particularly take with the potential of Rocky Gully and the area along the Frankland River.
When he commented that these areas could provide employment possibilities and export income, politicans, in particular Minister of Industrial Development, Charles Court kept a close eye on developments.
Although Dr Gladstones was influenced by his contact with Professor Olmo and his work, he rejected the Californian’s belief that the heavy rainfall and possibilities for disease in Margaret River and Pemberton would exclude them as potentially suitable for viticulture. He argued that careful site selection was all that was needed. The pioneering vignerons took his advice to heart.
Dr John Gladstones accepting Margaret River Wine Association Life Time Achievement Award