The Margaret River Wine Association has launched a comprehensive and compelling, new 60-page Media Kit.

This powerful storytelling tool provides the most up-to-date and in-depth information about the region, validated through science, history and third-party endorsement.

CEO Amanda Whiteland says, “The objective was to create a valuable resource to help Margaret River Wine Association members, stakeholders and media to tell the Margaret River Story consistently and accurately. Never before have we had such a compelling and comprehensive tool at our fingertips.”

This project has been a few years in the making and would not have been possible without the input of the MRWA Technical sub-committee or the incredible knowledge and expertise of the team at DPIRD, as well as funding support from Wines of Western Australia and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, as part of the WA Wines to the World Program.

The DPIRD collaboration to produce the “Geology, Soils and Climate of the Margaret River Wine Region” report was essentially the platform on which the media kit was built and provides source information and scientific credibility throughout.  Thanks to this report we had the essential maps, copy and data needed to complete the sections on geology, sustainability, maritime influence, soils and climate in the kit.

This is a living document which will be updated biannually and evolve to become even more sophisticated over time as we uncover new findings on our region.

The content is divided into the four brand pillars and each section, fact sheets and maps can be downloaded separately.

Details covered in the media kit include:

You can download the Margaret River Media Kit at www.margaretriver.wine/media

This year the Margaret River celebrated the 20th Margaret River Wine Show.  Continuing its recent winning streak, the 2020 Cherubino Margaret River Chardonnay took home three trophies, including Best Chardonnay, Best White Wine and Best Wine of Show.  This adds the five trophies it had already picked up at two other wine shows earlier this year.

Larry Cherubino said, “it was great to be there and celebrate with our amazing winemaking and viticultural team.”

From the 762 Margaret River wines, submitted by 105 exhibitors, 80 wines, or 10.5% of all entries, received a gold medal, which equates to 95 points or above.

Chair of Judges Nick Ryan said at the Gala lunch, “It’s been a pleasure and privilege to lead a brilliant group of judges at this year’s Show. You can’t help but come away from a few intense days debating the region’s best confident that Margaret River is performing at an exceptionally high level and assured that it’s only going to get higher in years to come.

Margaret River Wine Association CEO, Amanda Whiteland said, “We believe Margaret River was the only regional wine show in Australia that has interstate judges this year, which confirms our team’s tenacity and also the desirability of an invitation to judge here.”

The Xanadu team triumphed again this year taking home five trophies, including Most Successful Exhibitor.  Xanadu Head Winemaker Glenn Goodall said, “The Margaret River Wine Show has been one of the highlights of the year for Xanadu. Performing well at our local show, amongst so many other great Margaret River producers, is always an incredible achievement for the team and our growers.

It was great to see interstate judges back at the show this year, we are obviously wrapped with the results! The icing on the cake was again being awarded the Langton’s Trophy for Wines of Provenance, especially given the pride we take in our Cabernets. It is testament to the efforts of so many people over the years at Xanadu. I’m very proud of the whole team.”

The Margaret River Wine Association was thrilled to announce the 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award to lifetime wine zealot, importer and retailer John Jens, and the winners of the Viticultural and Wine Tourism Excellence Awards also. 

Langton’s 2021 Margaret River Wine Show Trophy and Awards

Langton’s Trophy for Wine of Show
Cherubino Margaret River Chardonnay 2020

Margaret River Wagyu Trophy for Red Wine of Show
Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Labelmakers Group Trophy for White Wine of Show
Cherubino Margaret River Chardonnay 2020

Vinline Mobile Bottling Trophy for Most Successful Exhibitor
Xanadu Wines

Langton’s Trophy for Wine of Provenance
Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, 2014, 2020

City of Busselton Trophy for Best Cabernet Sauvignon
Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Multi-Color Trophy for Best Chardonnay
Cherubino Margaret River Chardonnay 2020

Tonnellerie de Mercurey Trophy for Best Single Vineyard Red
McHenry Hohnen Hazel’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Portavin Trophy for Best Single Vineyard White
Deep Woods Estate Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2020

Cospak / Saverglass Trophy for Best Cabernet Sauvignon Blend
Evans & Tate Redbrook Estate Cabernet Merlot 2018

Winequip / Lallemand Trophy for Best Sauvignon Blanc
Wills Domain Mystic Spring Sauvignon Blanc 2021

MR Refund Trophy for Best Blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon
Xanadu DJL Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2020

 My Vintner Trophy for Best Other White Blend or Varietal
tripe.Iscariot Kroos Chenin Blanc 2020

 Fusion Electrical Trophy for Best Shiraz
Stella Bella Shiraz 2020

Chr. Hansen Trophy for Best Rosé
Marq Serious Rosé 2021

 Hahn Corporation Trophy for Best Other Red Blend or Varietal
Evans & Tate Single Vineyard “Carter Road Vineyard” Malbec 2020

 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award
John Jens

 Viticultural Excellence Award – sponsored by Happs Wines
Chris Gilmore, Clairault Streicker

Wine Tourism Excellence Award – sponsored by Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association
Grace Pigram, Vasse Felix

This year, the awards were presented at a Gala luncheon rather than a dinner and the new format under a sperry tent at Swings & Roundabouts in Yallingup was well received by the 190 attendees at the sold-out celebration.

The Langton’s Margaret River Wine Show was judged at the Margaret River HEART from Monday 25 to Wednesday 27 October 2021.

Judges were (in alphabetic order by surname):
Nick Ryan (Chair of Judges) – Writer, Presenter, Communicator
Anna Pooley – Winemaker, Pooley Wines, Tasmania
Daniel Swincer – Chief Winemaker, Pernod Ricard, South Australia
Emma Farrelly – Director of Wine, State Buildings, Western Australia
Erin Larkin – Wine Writer, Halliday Wine Companion, Western Australia
Kate Laurie – Winemaker & Owner, Deviation Road, South Australia
Kim Horton – Senior Winemaker, Willow Bridge Estate, Western Australia
Liam McElhinney – General Manager & Chief Winemaker, Tasmanian Vintners, Tasmania
Tim Lovett – Senior Winemaker, Leeuwin Estate, Western Australia
Tom Wallace – Winemaker / Winery Manager, Brown Family Wine Group, Tasmania

Associate Judges were Andrew Bretheton – Deep Woods Estate, Matt Buchan – Cherubino Wines, Japo Dalli Cani – McHenry Hohnen Vintners, Matt Godfrey – Devil’s Lair, Foni Pollitt – Mayfair Lane and Feleasha Prendergast – Margaret River Vintners.

All results from the 2021 Langton’s Margaret River Wine Show are available at https://margaretriver.wine/margaret-river-wine-show/

Widely considered the biggest ambassador for Margaret River’s National Wine Show success on the planet!!

On the 29th of October 2021 the Margaret River Wine Association presented John Jens with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his lifetime commitment to Western Australia wine.

John was joined by his son, Jack Jens, and upon receiving the award to recognise his achievements, he spent his whole acceptance speech talking about everyone else’s achievements. 

“I’m grateful and I’m honoured and I’m also very very aware there are many, many other people who deserve this sort of thing.  But I can tell you I moved to the west in 1977, at the same time Margaret River and the Great Southern were opening up.  You guys have given me a reason for passion, a reason for pride, a reason for purpose and you’ve made my businesses financially.”

As Wine Writer, Nick Ryan summarised, “that says a lot about the man“.

John Jen’s Full Biography

John Henry Jens is a wine zealot, who lives for and has given his life to wine.

Born in Victoria, John attended Xavier College Melbourne, studied Commerce Arts at Santa Clara University California and later attended Roseworthy College, then Australia’s only wine educational institute.

John’s introduction to wine started at home from a young age.  He and each of his 9 siblings, from the age of 12, were not only expected to locate, decant and pour wines – from their father’s very extensive cellar.  They were also expected to taste daily and to be able to explain their views, typically on 15 to 20 year-old red wines.

He had collected 180 bottles of Penfolds Grange by the age of 24, along with 60 dozen other premium reds.

John moved to Perth in 1977 and in 1981, in the early days of Margaret River’s wine production, he started his first wine wholesale operation to represent the state’s most prominent names including Ashbrook Estate, Pierro, Moss Wood and Cullen.

John set up and managed six liquor stores under the John Jens Fine Wine banner, and in 1990 was a 50% founding partner in Devil’s Lair Wines.

John has consulted to a number of Western Australia’s small wineries and “online” specialty wine retailers.

For 40 years he has driven Australia’s largest and most comprehensive formal tasting program. These play host predominantly to WA’s and Margaret River wineries but also to some of the world’s greatest wine names – some of whom, including Chateau d’Yquem – have flown to Perth solely to host Lamont tastings.

Since 2007 John has worked during the day in Wine Importing and Retailing, and at night as a sommelier for his wife in her family’s group of Lamonts restaurants and retail outlets.

John is a regular wine industry speaker, has hosted a weekly 6PR radio wine program for many years, and for 25 years was the wine writer for the Western Suburbs Weekly.

John’s raison d’etre has always been to put the West Australian wine industry into context.  As a former professional statistician, he has more than 250,000 wine tasting notes on file and has constructed wine grids on all of Capital City Trophy winning varietal wines since 2013 – thus only recommending wines that he considered to be the best in every style and price range.

At 73 he still works 70 to 80 hours a week.

John has a steadfast commitment to Margaret River wine and his warmth and charisma that makes him such an engaging spokesperson and ambassador for the region.

 A very special project which included the coming together of so many producers to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Cabernet pioneers who started the journey we’re all now on.

In 2017, to celebrate 50 years of regional collaboration, all Margaret River producers were invited to submit a sample of their best single vineyard 2017 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon for this collaborative project.

Vasse Felix, Cape Mentelle, Juniper Estate, Hay Shed Hill, Leeuwin Estate, Voyager Estate, Lenton Brae, Brookland Valley, Deep Woods, Devils Lair, Heydon Estate, Xanadu, Flametree, Redgate Wines, Happs Wines, Rosily Vineyard, Stormflower Vineyard, Fraser Gallop Estate, Amelia Park Wines, Evans & Tate, McHenry Hohnen, Snake + Herring, Thompson Estate, Victory Point, Oates Ends, Ringbolt, Howard Park, Watershed, Cloudburst , Credaro Wines, Miles from Nowhere, Calneggia Family Vineyards and Swings & Roundabouts* samples were tasted blind on Friday 4 August 2017 by the winemaking team of Andrew Calliard MW, Cath Oates of Oates End, Virginia Willcock of Vasse Felix and Glenn Goodall of Xanadu Wines.

(* listed by age of vineyard)

A blend was produced using the Margaret River’s finest 2017 single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon lots submitted. Oak barrels donated for the maturation included a Sylvain Grande Reserve Chateau barrel from Mastercask and an Icone Elegance barrel from Seguin Moreau.  After aging in oak for over 12 months, the final wine is a blend of the two barrels.  The wine was bottled in 2018.  372 bottles were produced and have been sold through a series of charity auctions.

The label features an original landscape artwork by leading Margaret River artist, Mary-Lynne Stratton, winner of the 50th Anniversary Wine Label Art Prize.

The wine world is seeing an explosion of interest in regional wine stories told differently.

To satiate this interest, WA Wines to the World is endeavouring to uncover new and unique content that will capture the interest of international wine trade and consumers.

New or experienced writers with a passion for telling Western Australian wine stories are invited to send a 150-word story pitch to WA Wines to the World. Successful pitch writers will then be invited to submit their stories of 1000-1500 words, for which they will be paid $1 per word (AUD).

The stories will be used in the delivery of global wine activations across the UK, USA, Canada, Hong Kong and Singapore. These include luxury wine tourism, luxury tastings, consumer tastings, educational campaigns and social media campaigns.

Pitch Brief

Pitches should be no longer than 150 words and must explain why this is a new story/angle; how this will express a new view or perspective on Western Australian wine; and why it will be of interest to international wine engaged consumers.

To submit a pitch, please email [email protected] with your name, contact details and pitch.

The deadline for submissions is 31 October 2021.

Xanadu Wines who established one of the Margaret River first vineyards in 1977, and now is one of the country’s most acclaimed wineries, takes a step further on their sustainability journey as one of the first wineries in Australia to be applying the Sustainable Winegrowing Australia (SWA) certified Trust Mark on their wine labels, starting with the DJL range.

Xanadu Senior Winemaker Glenn Goodall says, “Xanadu joined the pilot program over a decade ago, becoming certified in 2012. We always believed the program would be worthwhile, and now we are excited to be one of the first wineries to begin using the SWA trust mark on our wine labels. 

“It is a significant milestone for the whole team, which includes the much-appreciated efforts of our growers who have achieved SWA certification. It’s great to have growers joining us on our journey to continuously improve our environmental and sustainability credentials.

Margaret River Wine Association CEO, Amanda Whiteland says, “The use of a SWA certified trust mark assures customers and consumers of the integrity and that that the vineyards and winery have met rigorous standards of sustainability

Join us as we celebrate International Cabernet Day on Thursday 2 September, with USA wine critic Karen MacNeil as she chats with three Margaret River winemakers who are making world class Cabernet in this exciting virtual event.

Karen is the author of The Wine Bible the bestselling book on wine in the United States, as well as the creator and editor of WineSpeed.  She was also recently named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the Wine Business.

On Thursday, 2 September 2021, at 5 pm PT / 8 pm ET (Friday, 3 September 2021, at 8am AWST) Karen MacNeil will be introducing:

🍷Cape Mentelle with Ben Cane, Winemaker and the CAPE MENTELLE Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
🍷Vasse Felix Wines with Virginia Willcock, Chief Winemaker and the VASSE FELIX Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
🍷 Clairault Streicker with Bruce Dukes, Chief Winemaker and the CLAIRAULT Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Register HERE 

Also, if you missed the very informative Margaret River Chardonnay tasting and discussion on 25 June 2021, you can watch the Zoom recording HERE

The 2022 Halliday Wine Companion is out. 
The coveted ‘Top Rated by Variety’ list in this year’s Halliday Wine Companion represented 335 top scoring wines, including 41 Sparkling wines and 6 Fortified wines.

62 wines are from Margaret River, representing 21.5% of the still wine list.  A great result for a region which makes less than 2% of Australia’s wine.

Discover Margaret River’s Top Rated Wines by Variety!

Chardonnay
98        Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2018 – Chardonnay of the Year
98       
Cullen Kevin John 2019
98        Voyager Estate MJW Chardonnay 2018
97        Domaine Naturaliste Artus Margaret River Chardonnay 2019
97        Flametree S.R.S Wallcliffe Chardonnay 2019
97        Larry Cherubino Cherubino Chardonnay 2019
97        Larry Cherubino Dijon Wychwood Vineyard Chardonnay 2019
97        Pierro Chardonnay VR 2017
97        Stella Bella Luminosa Chardonnay 2019
97        Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay 2019
97        Windows Estate La Fenetre Chardonnay 2017
97        Xanadu Chardonnay 2019
97        Xanadu Stevens Road Chardonnay 2019

Semillon
96        Moss Wood Wilyabrup Semillon 2020
95        Fermoy Estate Reserve Semillon 2019 

Sauvignon Blanc
97        Cullen Legacy Sauvignon Blanc 2019
97        Flowstone Queen of the Earth Sauvignon Blanc 2019
97        Cullen Amber 2019
96        Flowstone Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc 2019
96        Moss Wood Ribbon Vale Elsa 2019
95        Clairault Streicker Bridgeland Block Fume Blanc 2019
95        Domaine Naturaliste Sauvage Sauvignon Blanc 2018
95        Redgate Ullinger Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2020
95        Vasse Felix Blanc X 2020
95        Window Estate Petit Lot Fume Blanc 2019

Other Whites and Blends
96        L.A.S. Vino CBDB Chenin Blanc Dynamic Blend 2019
96        Pierro L.T.C. Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2020
96        Windows Estate Petit Lot Chenin 2019

Rose
96        Deep Woods Estate Rose 2020
95        L.A.S. Vino Albino PNO 2019
95        Larry Cherubino Willows Vineyard Rose 2020
95        Nocturne Sangiovese Nebbiolo Rose 2020

Pinot Noir
96        Moss Wood Wilyabrup Pinot Noir 2018
96        Victory Point Pinot Noir 2019 

Grenache
97        McHenry Hohnen Hazel’s Vineyard GSM 2019

Cabernet Sauvignon
99        Cullen Vanya Wilyabrup Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
98        Moss Wood Wilyabrup Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
98        Xanadu Wines Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
97        Amelia Park Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
97        Corymbia Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
97        Deep Woods Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
97        Deep Woods Estate G5 Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
97        Leeuwin Estate Art Series Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
97        Moss Wood Ribbon Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
97        Nocturne Sheoak Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
97        Stella Bella Luminosa Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
97        Voyager Estate MJW Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
97        Xanadu Stevens Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Cabernet and Family
98        Cullen Diana Madeline 2018
98        Cullen Diana Madeline 2019
98        Peccavi Estate Merlot 2018
97        Cullen Legacy Series Fruit Day Malbec 2019
97        Deep Woods Estate Single Vineyard Cabernet Malbec 2019
97        McHenry Hohnen Vintners Rolling Stone 2017
97        Vasse Felix Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec 2017
97        Wills Domain Paladin Hill Matrix 2019
96        Domaine Naturaliste Le Naturaliste Cabernet Franc 2018
96        Flametree Jeremy John Cabernet Malbec 2018
96        Juniper Estate Aquitaine Rouge 2018
96        Moss Wood Ribbon Vale Merlot 2018
96        Woodlands Emily 2019

Congratulations to all the grape growers and winemakers!

Vanya Cullen wins the inaugural Viticulturist of the Year in the 2022 Halliday Wine Companion Awards, with her wines being recognised as exemplifying best practice and sustainability in the vineyard.

Vanya was delighted and said “I feel very honoured and grateful to receive this award at this time of Cullen’s 50th anniversary and am grateful to all the many people and the land and nature herself for all the contributions towards this inaugural award win.”

The win coincides with Cullen Wines marking half a century since planting their first Cabernet vines.  Vanya noted “It’s 50 years of sustainable wine growing preceded by 65,000 years of Wadandi sustainable land care.”

Cullen Wines has been organic and certified biodynamic for more than 20 years and is the only ‘carbon positive’ winery in Australia, achieving certification in 2019. The vineyard sequesters more carbon than the business emits.

Congratulations Vanya!  We raise a glass with you to celebrate your win and the 50th anniversary since the Cullen Estate was planted in 1971.

A curated selection of seasonal wine events designed for every palate.

If there’s one thing better than a wine festival, it’s a festival that fuses the mastery of different blends with the wildness of the region and the uniqueness of its produce.

Over 10 days this October, you’re invited to celebrate the craft that has shaped the Margaret River region for over half a century and experience the ultimate in gastronomic brilliance.

Margaret River is, of course, a desirable destination in its own right, now offering a collection of unmissable, upmarket moments scattered throughout its world class wineries. Whether your skill level is ‘aficionado’ or ‘occasional drinker’, the event offering of Fine Vines Festival invites you to explore all aspects of the famed region through a blend of tastings and tours, dining experiences, masterclasses and exclusive museum wines.

Uncover which grape variety speaks to you the most; get to know the intricacies of blending Bordeaux-style wine or have an intimate exploration of the world’s original grape chameleon, Chardonnay. Patrons can peruse the full list of events on the festival website.

For those that want to discuss the difference between a Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, a selection of red based events could tickle your fancy.

See below for this week’s decanting of red wine events:

Blend it like Bordeaux – Get to know the intricacies of blending Bordeaux-style wine at Cape Grace with winemaker Conrad Tritt. Learn the structure and style traits of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec before creating a wine to suit your palate under Conrad’s astute guidance. Walk away with a new understanding of how these supporting varietals give prominence to the Margaret River Region king, Cabernet Sauvignon. This is an intimate event with limited spots available.

Syrahcentric – Lovers of Syrah and Shiraz can dive deep into the similarities and differences of these two wine styles with trophy-winning winemaker Bruce Dukes of Domaine Naturaliste. Take a tasting tour of the Rhone Valley, South Australia and return to Margaret River with six wines showcasing classic examples of these two wine styles, accompanied by a selection of charcuterie.

Vineyard to Cabernet Masterclass – Small family-run vineyards are an intrinsic part of the Margaret River Region wine fabric. Join Grace Farm’s viticulturist Tim Quinlan with cellar door manager Julie Hartley and get an insight into this winemaking world, touring the vineyard’s Cabernet Franc vines before experiencing a vertical Cabernet Sauvignon tasting from Grace Farm’s first vintage in 2011 until now. This masterclass includes ten tastings, seven Cabernets and three incredible museum reserve wines, accompanied by shared grazing platters.

Tickets are now on sale via the festival website www.finevinesfestival.com.au.

You can also discover more via the Fine Vines Festival Facebook and Instagram

Locals and visitors to the Margaret River region will couple their love for wine with a luxurious film experience this month when Australia’s premier destination film festival CinefestOZ returns to the South West for the 14th time.

Loaded with a stack of cinematic events in Margaret River as well across the areas of Augusta, Busselton, and Bunbury – CinefestOZ will have film buffs on the edge of their seats with its biggest offering yet of more than 270 exciting events.

Wine lovers not wishing to venture far from the sights of the State’s most beautiful vineyards can still be fully immersed in the action as a broad range of screenings, premieres, In Conversation dining experiences and workshops go full speed ahead right in the HEART of Margaret River.

Kick off the five-day Festival week on Tuesday August 24 at Margaret River’s Opening Night, headlined by the World Premiere of Facing Monsters. Taking place at Margaret River HEART, this intriguing documentary details a remarkable portrait of enigmatic free surfer Kerby Brown as he defies logic to take on some of the world’s most dangerous slab waves off the rugged coast of Western Australia.

Going ahead in the home of the much-loved Margaret River Pro surfing competition, viewing the World Premiere of this engaging film couldn’t be done in a better way. A red carpet event prior to the screening at 6pm will set the stage perfectly for this highly anticipated film. Back it up with an In Conversation lunch with filmmakers the following day at Burger Baby to get all the ins and outs of how this doco was brought to life.

Going ahead just down the road to open the Festival in Augusta on Wednesday August 25 will be the World Premiere of Akoni, headed by wonderful pre screening party at Augusta Community Resource Centre. CinefestOZ is thrilled to return to this beautiful town in 2021 to host such an engaging film that tells the story of a homeless Nigerian refugee who struggles to integrate into Australian society after escaping the clutches of Boko Haram.

But wait, that’s just two days of the Festival out of a whopping five! There’s still so much more to jump into while in the Margaret River Region.

Travel a little further on Thursday August 26 to the bustling hub of Bunbury for a wine experience like no other. Watch the West Australian premiere of Blind Ambition, documenting the story of four refugees who conquer all odds to become South Africa’s top sommeliers, before an intriguing virtual Q&A with the filmmakers. Then, roll on down to Mojos Restaurant to enjoy canapes and a blind wine-tasting journey of your own with experienced Sommelier, Jake Atkinson.

Friday August 27 will have you a little closer to home with the World Premiere of Film Prize Finalist, River at Orana Cinemas Busselton. River is one of four Australian films competingfor the Country’s richest Film Prize of $100,000AUD and will be backed up by a fun-filled after party at the Esplanade Hotel.

Finally, wrap the week’s festivities in the best way possible with the WA Premiere of Under the Volcano on Saturday August 28. Charting the rise and fall of AIR Studios Montserrat, the recording studio at the centre of the pop universe in the 1980s, this is a cracking film to end the week on. A pre screening event will go ahead at Margaret River HEART from 6pm and an immersive Q&A will follow.

Grab a glass of wine and view the full CinefestOZ festival program online for further insight into all the Festival has to offer.

Tickets to events can be purchased here, and the CinefestOZ App is available now for your added booking convenience.

The Decanter World Wine Awards 2021 have been announced and congratulations to the Margaret River Award Winners!

Best in Show
Fermoy Reserve Chardonnay 2019

Platinum
Stella Bella Suckfizzle Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2019
Stella Bella Luminosa Chardonnay 2019

Gold
Cape Naturaliste The Sextant Appassimento 2018
Clairault Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2017
Deep Woods Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2020
Deep Woods Estate Grand Selection Yallingup Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
Fermoy Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
Forester Estate Home Block Shiraz 2019
Fraser Gallop Estate Parterre Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
Gralyn Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2018
Gralyn Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

The Decanter World Wine Awards is the world’s largest and most influential wine competition. Find out more here.

To recognise the incredible finalists considered for this year’s Halliday Wine Companion Awards, a 2022 Shortlist has been released and we’re thrilled to see so many Margaret River Wineries included.  Congratulations to –
  • Best New Winery Finalist
    LS Merchants
  • Best Value Winery Finalists
    Deep Wood Estate
    Stella Bella Wines
    Xanadu Wines
  • Dark Horse Winery Finalist
    South-by South-West
  • Viticulturalist of the Year Finalist
    Vanya Cullen, Cullen Wines
  • Winemaker of the Year Finalist
    Glenn Goodall, Xanadu Wines
  • Winery of the Year Finalists
    Cullen Wines
    McHenry Hohnen
    Moss Wood
Keep your eye out for the winner announcements on Thursday, August 12.
Find out more about the awards here.

GROWING SEASON

A good part of the vintage growing season happens in the prior year. For vintage 2021, the growing season was a mild spring in 2020, with reasonable but not extreme rainfall, which is excellent growing conditions for vines.

Budburst and flowering across all varieties were normal. Crops were good but not excessive and things looked promising from very early on.

The La Niña weather system created a strong cyclone season in the north of Western Australia resulting in increased rainfall and unusual conditions across the region.

November was significantly wet, double the long-term average, with 14 days of rain.

Fortunately, in December and January, the region experienced virtually no rain and warmer than average mean maximum temperatures.  The cool nights allowed the vines some reprieve from the hot days.

As harvest was commencing in early February, the region saw significant rainfall.  This rainfall soaked deep into the soils and was great timing for the later ripening Cabernet Sauvignon to have a drink.  Warm weather and a period of high humidity (for Margaret River) followed, which increased the risk of disease pressure in some vineyards.

HARVEST CONDITIONS

“Overall a vintage of extreme weather conditions. Weather conditions resulted in a lot of work in the vineyards.  It was a season that we had to keep tweaking canopy structure and potentially taking some risks as the weather changed and it was hard to predict what was going to happen next.”  David Moulton, Cape Mentelle, Viticulturist

Early February was very windy, and then on the 7th and 8th, there was a significant rain event that had most of the region a little bit on edge.  The whites had finished veraison, so all the berries were soft, and the reds were still mid-veraison.

Marri tree blossom was moderate, therefore there was not too much bird pressure, but nets were still applied to the vines across the region.

It was quite humid for a while, which made it a bit more challenging than what the region is accustomed to. The humidity caused a bit of botrytis pressure in some vineyards and required careful fruit selection.  Growers reacted with leaf plucking across the reds to improve airflow and some fruit dropping to ensure physiological ripeness was achievable.

Reds progressed nicely into Autumn with some expressive fruit, the tannins seemed to take a little longer to evolve which saw a rush at the end to take the fruit off before cyclone Seroja hit Western Australia on 11th April.

Those who put in the extra work will no doubt reap the rewards.  As usual, the best vineyards will rise to the top.

Labour shortages deserve a mention. It necessitated a lot of pre-planning and forecasting by the wineries to ensure harvesting could be achieved when required. Many were affected and called on anyone available to help with the harvest.  Many wineries called on their cellar door staff, stranded travellers and retirees to assist with some hand picking this year.

It seems everyone across the region rolled up their sleeves and got to work to ensure that it would be another successful vintage.

THE WINES

“Across the region, the vineyard teams all look a little weary but the winemakers seem to be pleasantly surprised and excited about the quality that they have received.”  David Moulton, Cape Mentelle, Viticulturist

Early observations indicate that white varieties had incredible flavour at lower baume than usual and retained natural acidity.  There is purity and varietal expression and all at lower potential alcohol levels. Chardonnay is looking very elegant.  Sauvignon Blanc is a standout this season.

The 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon is looking great in ferment.  It has a purity and aromatic profile that should progress into a wine that will age gracefully.  The tannins are super polished and fine.

The 2021 yields were below the Margaret River long-term average but up 6% versus last year to 30,150 tonnes.

 

Image: David Moulton, Viticulturist at Cape Mentelle and the Langton’s Margaret River Wine Show 2020 Viticultural Excellence Award Winner.

Exceptional wine, extraordinary experiences –
A wine lover’s paradise at Fine Vines Festival this spring.

Wine lovers rejoice! Tickets are now on sale for Fine Vines Festival, the Margaret River region’s newest festival celebrating all things wine, with a first-release program of over 30 events taking place this spring between October 15th – 24th. The program shines a spotlight on the people, places and passion behind the region’s much-loved and highly regarded wine and offers exclusive experiences you won’t find anywhere else.

Festival goers can expect to meet the winemakers and grape growers, see first-hand where and how different wines are made, taste the difference between vintages, terroir, oak, aging methods, and blends; discover new varietals or a new appreciation for old ones; stock their cellars with new release, museum and large format wines; and of course enjoy it all in the stunning locations of the Margaret River Wine Region that spans from Busselton to Augusta.

Tickets to Fine Vines Festival events are now on sale via the festival website www.finevinesfestival.com.au.

Organisers suggest following Fine Vines Festival on social media via Facebook and Instagram for updates and to see what events are taking place. You can also visit the website www.finevinesfestival.com.au.

The Fine Vines Festival is supported by Margaret River Wine Association, Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association, City of Busselton and Shire of Augusta Margaret River.

Gourmet Traveller WINE 2021 Australia’s Best Cellar Doors have been announced.

Be sure to add these six Margaret River wineries to the list for your next visit!

Check out the full list at Gourmet Traveller WINE or plan your wine trail here.

Last night we launched a new campaign video to a mix of winery, vineyard, cellar door, owners and wider community at a sundowner at Cape Mentelle vineyards.

To view, click here.

The campaign is the creative work of local trio Mark Boskell (Director), Darren McCagh – Farmhouse Films (Director of Photography and Editor), and Sophie Mathewson (Producer). The local team outsourced a sophisticated sound design from Envelope Audio.

The outcome is a film that feels cinematic and premium in execution and highlights the distinctly unique coastal positioning of the wine region. The punctuating sound design supplements the visuals and supports the overarching narrative that Margaret River wine country is quite simply, breathtaking.

Thanks also to Wine AustraliaWines of Western AustraliaShire of Augusta Margaret River and City of Busselton for funding support.

By Fergal Gleeson

The need for action on sustainability is understood by most. The weight of evidence on record breaking temperatures, unprecedented levels of carbon and melting polar ice caps is hard to ignore. Winemakers in Australia and in Margaret River have responded. Over 30 Wineries in Margaret River are members of Sustainable Winegrowing Australia (SWA).

SWA is the Australian wine industry’s sustainability program – set up to support growers and winemakers to improve the sustainability of their businesses. SWA is managed by the Australian Wine Research Institute supported by Wine Australia and Australian Grape & Wine.

Being a member requires the submission to SWA of environmental, social and economic data on energy consumption, water usage, waste and biodiversity. About half of the 30 wineries are Certified Members meaning that in addition to supplying data they are independently audited.

I spoke to three winemakers about what they are doing about sustainability and why they are doing it.

CAPE MENTELLE
Ben Cane is a Winemaker at Cape Mentelle, an Australian who has spent much of his career in California before coming to Margaret River in 2018.

“Cape Mentelle have always had a great respect for the land and we understand the privilege of owning and tending old vines”, Ben tells me. Cape Mentelle are long term members of ‘Sustainable Winegrowing Australia’ which Ben feels is important. “It’s a measure of our commitment and puts into action rather than just words how strongly we feel.”

While many people ‘talk the talk’ on environmental matters it was interesting to find out the concrete initiatives Cape Mentelle are driving.

“We have been focussed on reducing our carbon footprint in all we do in the winery, vineyard, offices and warehouses. Solar panel installation, conversion to LED lighting, more highly detailed recycling and waste separation, compost creation, elimination of herbicide use and undervine cultivation,” Ben tells me.

“We bring sheep to graze between our vines between winter and spring, which helps us avoid cultivation when soils can be wet and will be compacted by running tractors over them. We have the added benefit of receiving the manure for fertilisation from our woolly friends. This results in vastly improved soil health, which can result in better resource utilisation, less pollution and ultimately better balanced vines.”

“The biggest impact in the vineyard has been decreased water usage by using precision viticulture to highlight specific areas requiring irrigation, allowing us to reduce usage by 60% between 2016 and 2019.” Cape Mentelle are now fully water self-sufficient.

“Our water capture and recycling system is a great example of a passive flow method of solid removal using natural means allowing us to avoid town water use, capturing rain to supply Cape Mentelle. Our winery waste water is sent back through a series of detoxifying dams of reed beds that remove impurities and allow us to irrigate a wood lot.”

“Upgrading our tractor fleet to be more fuel efficient and using recycling sprayers to recapture any excess spray improve resource utilisation and reduce pollution,” Ben points out.

“Extensive use of compost and natural fertilisers help to improve our water holding capacity in the soil by building organic matter and allow the vines better means of resisting climatic change. “

“Cape Mentelle are in the final stages of attaining ISO14001 certification which is an auditable international standard of environmental practices in the winery, vineyard and all facets of our business. It’s a very rigorous program, but once again illustrates our commitment to sustainability” Ben says.

STORMFLOWER VINEYARD
David Martin is the co-owner of boutique winery Stormflower Vineyard in Wilyabrup and was a cofounder with his business partners of Little Creatures Brewery in Fremantle. Their production is on a very different scale to Cape Mentelle but they are no less passionate about sustainability.

“I basically wanted to run the vineyard in way that looked after the environment as much as possible, and did not involve the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers” he tells me. “Organic certification provided a verifiable way of doing this, and Stormflower has been certified organic since 2016. Once I had certified organic grapes, the move to certified organic winemaking was the logical next step.”

“We don’t use chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers. We use certified organic composts and fertilisers, we use sheep to control weeds and minimise the amount of machinery used for this purpose, and we do as little disturbance of the soil as possible.

The biggest impact that Stormflower has made has been in the use of certified organic composts and fertilisers. This encourages and enables the build-up of the soil biology, which allows the vines to take up nutrients naturally.

As well as being certified organic Stormflower are also members of SWA.

“It is important because it focusses on measuring and recording data that is different from that required for organic certification, such as the efficiency of use of water and energy, and actions taken around waste management and biodiversity” he tells me. “The discipline around keeping records of this data will encourage us to find ways to improve our performance in these areas.”

I asked David if there confusion about what ‘sustainable’ means versus other ‘green’ approaches like organic, biodynamic or natural winemaking.

“Probably, as they are very different things, a producer can have very strong certified sustainability credentials via the SWA programme without being organic, biodynamic or natural. Both “sustainable” and “natural” are ill defined terms. Even with certification, there is no specific standard of sustainability under the SWA programme. It simply means the data that is being recorded is verified.”

“Both organic and biodynamic have certification standards with respect to viticulture and winemaking. Properly done, with certified grapes, organic and biodynamic winemaking are all environmentally sustainable practices.”

David has put together a useful website on Margaret River wineries that are certified organic and biodynamic www.margaretriverorganicwine.com and those that are in progress towards it.

There are currently 5 wineries who are certified to one of the standards and whose current range of wines is entirely certified organic or biodynamic: Cullen Wines, Blind Corner, Burnside Organic, Settlers Ridge and Stormflower. Encouragingly there are 16 more on the journey. Cullen Wines is also ‘carbon negative’ which means that they are removing more carbon from the atmosphere through offsetting initiatives than they are creating.

The next steps in terms of sustainability for Stormflower Vineyard will involve enhancing the biodiversity of the vineyard through revegetation of the land that is not under vine and increasing the diversity of plants within the vineyard area.

XANADU
For long term and highly awarded Xanadu Winemaker Glenn Goodall “It really just comes down to wanting ‘to do our bit’ and to demonstrate some environmental stewardship.”

About a decade ago, the opportunity arose to get involved with an environmental pilot program and Glenn was keen for Xanadu to join so that they could benefit and improve by being part of a recognised program.

For Xanadu initiatives have included investing in equipment and practices to become more energy and water efficient, recycling, composting, reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the business. They have implemented land care plans, based on biodiversity and biosecurity on the Estate vineyards and encouraged Growers to do the same.

“In the short term I’m looking forward to finally getting the winery converted over to solar power!” he says.

For Glenn there’s no ‘silver bullet’ to sustainability. “It all adds up, but it’s the cumulative effect that results in the biggest impact, which is our attitude and endeavour to keep improving.”

“Record keeping is not a particularly ‘sexy’ aspect, however the requirement to keep accurate records around energy and water use, effluent management, biodiversity etc. means that we have got metrics that we can measure ourselves against,” he tells me.

Unlike Cape Mentelle and Stormflower, Xanadu have taken the extra step of becoming Certified Members of the SWA.

“We certainly feel that it is important to be certified,” Glenn says ”it give us peace of mind that our sustainability claims have been independently verified, and it will now permit us use of a certified trust mark – an assurance to customers and consumers of how the product is produced.”

“There is often confusion about what various claims in this space means; ‘sustainable’ does not necessarily mean organic or biodynamic, although these approaches certainly embrace sustainability! Gaining certification, in whatever approach is used, is the best way to verify how wines have been grown and made.”

For Glenn being part of the program allows Xanadu to benchmark performance against producers all around Australia.

This is perhaps the greatest benefit of working on sustainability through membership of the SWA. The sharing of information shows where there’s room for improvement.

The 2020 Margaret River Wine Association Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented at a sold out Gala Dinner at Leeuwin Estate on Thursday 19 November to Dorham Mann OAM for his critical role in pioneering the Margaret River wine region.

Mann said “I am very proud to have had the opportunity to contribute in its early years to the development of wine production in the Margaret River region. From the beginning, I knew that the area’s distinctive and highly attractive varietal characters, exemplified in Cabernet Sauvignon, would ensure a wonderful future.

Dorham Mann was born in the Swan Valley on 10 May 1939. His grandfather, George Mann, made wine in the Barossa Valley at Château Tanunda; he became a winemaker at Santa Rosa in WA in 1906 , at Glen Hardy in 1908 and then at Houghton’s in 1910. Dorham’s father, Jack Mann, began work at Houghton as an apprentice in 1922 and took over from his father in 1930, ultimately completing 51 vintages at Houghton Winery.

Dorham grew up on the Houghton 600 acres property in the Swan Valley with a childhood heavily involved in wine.  He went to the University of Western Australia on a government agricultural science cadetship; he decided to become involved in viticulture due to the influence of Bill Jamieson.

One of the key recommendations of the Olmo Report in 1956 was that the Department of Agriculture should appoint an extension oenologist. Dorham was sent to Roseworthy College in 1963 to subsequently fill this role. He helped establish the experimental vineyard at Mt Barker (another Olmo Report recommendation) in 1966 to demonstrate the potential for the production of cool-climate table wines. Whilst at the Department of Agriculture, Dorham went above and beyond his role to help the early pioneers in Margaret River. He helped many with their site selections and early plantings; Sandalford and Cape Mentelle being two examples.

At the end of 1972, Dorham left the Department of Agriculture to become the Sandalford winemaker. Having seen the potential of the Margaret River region first-hand, he was motivated by a desire to help set a standard for Margaret River wines. At Sandalford from 1972 to 1987, Dorham identified and helped establish Sandalford’s Margaret River vineyard and made high-quality table wines from a range of varieties including Riesling, Verdelho, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. By the early 1980’s Sandalford was selling in excess of 20,000 cases of Margaret River Riesling per year, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, mainly to east coast markets, providing to many their first taste of Margaret River wine. At Sandalford, Dorham produced wines that won numerous gold medals and awards, including the 1978 Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon, which was the highest-pointed young Cabernet at the Melbourne Show. The volume of quality wine produced and the show successes helped establish the market for and success of Margaret River-branded wine, as well as raise the profile of the region across Australia and overseas.

Dorham’s vast experience ensured that he could always be considered a reliable source of information across all segments of the production process which was particularly important at the very beginnings of vine planting and winemaking in the Margaret River region. This contribution continued after he left Sandalford with his work as a private consultant, for example at Lenton Brae, where he guided the production of the 1992 Chardonnay, awarded the best White wine of the Perth Royal Show.

Dorham Mann’s contribution to the Margaret River region is twofold; firstly, that as a Consultant, both with the Department of Agriculture and in a private capacity, and as the Senior Winemaker for Sandalford Wines.

6 decades after returning from Roseworthy in 1963, Dorham continues to make wine from his home vineyard in the Swan Valley, specialising in Méthode Champenoise.

Dorham Mann OAM Additional Information

The 2018 Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon is the 2020 James Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge Trophy winner, scoring 97 points and taking out the top prize from 364 entries from 29 regions across the Australia.

Xanadu Senior Winemaker, Glenn Goodall said “I’m absolutely wrapped! We’ve always taken enormous pride in our Cabernet Sauvignons, so to be awarded as the Cabernet Challenge Trophy in this year’s Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge is definitely the highlight of 2020, and a huge achievement for everyone involved at Xanadu, especially our growers.

“Cabernet Sauvignon loves Margaret River, and there would have been some strong wines in the mix given 2018 was such an amazing vintage here. No doubt, in years to come everyone’s 2018 Cabernets will still be the yardstick by which such exceptional vintages are remembered, so to have our 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon recognised like this, amongst so many great Australian producers, is extremely rewarding for the whole Xanadu team.”

Last night the results of the James Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge presented by Langton’s were announced on Langton’s Youtube channel and streamed to Facebook. It was great to see five regional winners presented in what was a true celebration of the world’s most planted and extremely versatile, food-friendly variety.

The streamed virtual presentation following the 3-days of virtual judging which is believed to be a world-first as it was held simultaneously in two separate judging hubs in Coonawarra and Margaret River, due to Covid-19 travel restrictions restricting judges to gather together.

The 2020 James Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge Regional Winners are:

Adelaide Hills Best of Region
Wines by Geoff Hardy
2018 K1 By Geoff Hardy 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon – 95 points

Barossa Valley Best of Region
Casella Family Brands 2018 Peter Lehmann Wines Masters Mentor Cabernet Sauvignon – 95 points

Coonawarra Best of Region
Brand’s Laira of Coonawarra
2018 Brand’s Laira 1968 Vines Cabernet Sauvignon – 96 points

Margaret River Best of Region and Trophy Winner
Xanadu Wines
2018 Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon – 97 points

Yarra Valley Best of Region
Boat O’Craigo Wines
2018 Boat O’Craigo Braveheart Cabernet Sauvignon – 96 points

The full results are also now available to view at www.australiancabernetchallenge.com.au

Three days of simultaneous judging of 364 wine exhibits from 29 different wine regions in Coonawarra and Margaret River wrapped up the 2020 James Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge presented by Langton’s last week.

In what is believed to be a world first, the judging panels, stewards and organising teams connected through Zoom, Skype, telephone, social media and the AWRI wine show judging software, to make the show run smoothly.

It was a true celebration of the world’s most planted variety, and the Australian regions who champion the variety.

Margaret River Panel Chair, Robert Mann said at the commencement of Day-One that “people drink wine for enjoyment, but people drink cabernet for enlightenment”.

During the 3-days of judging, five live-crosses to the judging venues were shared on Facebook and Instagram, which have been watched by over 8,500 people to-date.   The pre-teaser CABERNET LIVE that was broadcast on International Cabernet Day has also had over 14,000 views, showing a huge interest in Cabernet Sauvignon by social media users.

Results to be announced at 6pm AWST (8pm AEST) Thursday 24th September.  We’ll be live on Langton’s Youtube channel and we’ll stream to Langton’s Facebook page too. Don’t miss out, like and subscribe!

To learn more, see www.australiancabernetchallenge.com.au

The 2020 James Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge presented by Langton’s has received 364 wine exhibits from 29 different regions across Australia for simultaneous judging on the 7th to 9th September in Coonawarra and Margaret River.

The Challenge is a true celebration of Cabernet Sauvignon and regions who champion the variety, with the Margaret River Wine Association, Coonawarra Vignerons and Yarra Valley Wine Growers Association collaborating on all elements of the competition.

Organisers of this year’s James Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge are excited to announce a pre-teaser virtual tasting and chat session to coincide with the varietal day that falls a week before the prestigious national competition. “In the lead up to the Challenge, we’ve rounded up three all-star winemakers (and Cabernet Challenge judges) to join us for “CABERNET LIVE”, a virtual tasting on International Cabernet Day at 5pm AEST | 4.30pm ACT | 3pm AWST on Thursday 3rd September”, said Margaret River Wine Chief Executive Officer, Amanda Whiteland.

Despite having to withdraw from judging activities, Yarra Valley will be streaming CABERNET LIVE as part of our popular, weekly Thursday Wine Down sessions via Facebook Live, so follow @margaretriverwines1 @coonawarra or @ wineyarravalley1”, said Caroline Evans, Wine Yarra Valley, Chief Executive Officer.

Coonawarra Vignerons acting EO Heidi Eldridge is encouraging wine enthusiasts to tune in and be entertained “Our presenting judges/ winemakers will be tasting through a trio of past Cabernet Challenge Trophy winners from their states of origin. There will be plenty of insights and a lot of fun banter. It’s a great opportunity to compare tasting notes and sit back to learn from the masters, while enjoying your own favourite bottle of Australian Cabernet at home!”.

The wines that will be included in the tasting and discussion include last year’s James Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge regional winners;

2017 Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra, 2018 Dominique Portet Fontaine from Yarra Valley and Trophy winner, 2018 Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River.

Hosted by wine writer and presenter Erin Larkin and featuring winemakers/ judges:
• Julian Langworthy, Winemaker at Deep Woods Estate / Owner at Nocturne Wines (Representing WA)
• Jane Ferrari, Independent Wine Consultant, formerly Yalumba (Representing SA)
• Ben Portet, Winemaker at Dominique Portet (Representing VIC)

Seasonal weather aside, drinking local cabernet – which also happens to be some of the very best wine in Australia – has never made more sense than it does right now.

By Erin Larkin.

As the weather cools off and the fires in our hearths (actual or otherwise) are lit, no doubt plenty of wines have been nobly sacrificed for the greater good of enjoyment.  For the inveterate cabernet drinkers out there the change in season won’t matter a jot, but if you drink with the weather, then autumn and winter mean one thing: red wine.  Whichever way that particular cookie may crumble in your house, one thing is for certain: the cabernets are starting to sweat right about now, for their time has come.  The cooler nights have you whispering as you walk past them, ‘your days are numbered, my friends’.

Margaret River enjoys an enviable position at the very top of the Australian cabernet tree, with wine press in Australia and further afield praising the wines from this little windswept corner of Oz for their high quality, age-worthiness, and deliciousness.  Margaret River’s most vocal proponent is undoubtedly James Halliday, describing in his article written for Winemaker of the Year 2020 (awarded to Vanya Cullen) “the Margaret River region is richly endowed with its percentage of 5-red-star wineries – to simply stay where you are is to imperil your very existence in this highly charged world.”  The cabernets from Margaret River are so good, that the last two Jimmy Watson trophies awarded to the region for 2014 and 2016 wines, were cabernets.  In fact, every Jimmy Watson Trophy ever awarded to a wine from Margaret River – and there have been six in total – have all been awarded to cabernet sauvignon or cab blends.  That paints a very clear picture of regional strength.  Labelled the ‘king of grapes’, cabernet has carved out an authoritative territory in Margaret River and has an escalating reputation on the rise that shows no signs of slowing down.

There is a well-established group of consistently terrific cabernet makers in the region, the likes of Cullen, Vasse Felix, Woodlands, Moss Wood, Xanadu, Deep Woods, Leeuwin… so here is a list of five you may not have had the chance to look at yet.

Five Cabernets To Try:

2017 Windows Estate Petit Lot Basket Pressed Cabernet Sauvignon – love this medium bodied, elegant and spicy cabernet, much more about the finesse than the oomph.  Brilliant packaging completes the already very attractive picture.

2018 Nocturne Wines Sheoak Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – pure, concentrated and pristine cassis fruit.  This is an elegant blockbuster.  From one of the glory vintages of the region. The cooler vintage 2019 rolling out very soon…

2018 Walsh and Sons Roi Cabernet Sauvignon – another beautiful wine/label combo, Roi is a step outside the box, one you will not regret.

2017 Victory Point Cabernet Sauvignon – Another brilliant cabernet in the hands of a small boutique producer.  Located about 15 ks east of Gracetown, and on an approximate parallel.

2016 Grace Farm Cabernet Sauvignon – nestled less than 3 ks from the coast, Grace Farm consistently produce wines of value, poise and charm.

The Margaret River Wine Association (MRWA) Board is relieved to be notified of the Geographical Indications Committee’s (GIC) decision not to determine Wilyabrup as a Geographical Indication (GI) within the Margaret River wine region (GI).

The MRWA Board holds a unified belief that the region is not yet in a position to scientifically validate where, or to what extent, uniqueness or uniformity occurs within the Margaret River GI based on the Wine Australia criteria in section 57 of the Act.

Currently, MRWA is working on an exciting study, The Margaret River Region Project (MRRP), to evaluate the links between landscape, meso climates, soil types and variations within wine produced in the Margaret River GI, particular in relation to the region’s signature varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

This project will provide the most up-to-date scientific data of where GI’s or sub-regions within the Margaret River wine region, may or may not, exist.

To date, the project has been supported by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), CSIRO, soil scientists, climate analysts, academics and experienced viticulturists and winemakers.  The study will also include sensory analysis to identify areas which are distinct in climate or soil characteristics that could set them apart from the remainder of the Margaret River region.

It is with much relief that the GIC has reached this decision, allowing time for the necessary scientific work to be completed through the Margaret River Region Project, and for any GI’s within the Margaret River wine region to be granted on the most up-to-date data and thorough scientific basis.

The GIC has published a Statement of Reasons on their determination which is available here.

The Halliday Wine Companion Awards 2021 have been announced and congratulations to the Margaret River Award Winners!

Also, to Flowstone Wines and Deep Woods Estate for being named in the Ten of the Best Value Wineries.

Download the overview of Margaret River’s Best of the Best and the 65 wineries who received a 5-star rating (11.6% of all the 5-star wineries in Australia).

LO-FI WINE IN MARGARET RIVER is riding the very front of the wave of ‘cool’ right now.  There is no doubt it is trending.  But… what is it?

By Erin Larkin

In a nutshell, while the term is officially undefined, it indicates that a wine has been made with a ‘minimal intervention’ ‘hands-off’, or ‘lo-fi’ approach in the winery.  This does NOT mean ‘lazy’, or ‘less work’, in fact it can often be quite the opposite.  Lo-fi indicates no or very few additions or adjustments throughout the fermentation process (such as but not limited to: acidification/deacidification, added tannin, chaptalisation (aka added sugar), inoculated ferments and most other tweaks that you can imagine here) and often the wines are bottled unfiltered and/or unfined.  Whether or not sulphur is added at bottling is up to the winemaker, however it does assist in maintaining freshness and stability post bottling, so not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination.

These principles in the winery often follow-on from the farming practice in the vineyards.  When applied to viticultural practice, ‘lo-fi’ can refer to an avoidance of pesticides/herbicides sprays on the vines were possible, and the implementation of sheep, guinea fowl and others to assist with supporting overall biodiversity and health of the earth, the vines and the surrounding grounds.  The animals also help to keep inter-row weeds at bay, all the while contributing their manure as a natural fertiliser.  All in all, a pretty neat and logical circle of life, really.  Organics and bio-dynamics (certified or practiced) are not necessary to the lo-fi movement, but they are often part and parcel, as both methodologies eschew the use of chemicals and encourage a more ‘natural’ approach to growing grapes and making wine.

I have just referred to ‘lo-fi’ as a ‘movement’, which makes an implication about impermanence.  That is not the intention.  I firmly believe that the focus on minimal intervention in winemaking is a) not ground-breaking – it has been happening since the dawn of time in relation to winemaking, we are just coming a full circle, and b) our current fascination with it is a product of our desire as consumers in 2020 – we not only want to know more about what goes into the food and drink products that we buy and consume, we demand it.  The world has moved on into an educated space and as technology advances, and our knowledge of the impact of the chemicals we use have on the environment and our bodies expands, we become more vigilant about what we put in them.  Hence, this uncomplicated approach to growing the right clones in the right place, utilising natural defence mechanisms where possible against pests and threats to overall vineyard health, and then bringing those grapes into the winery at the right time and ushering them into the bottle, is not only the healthy choice but the most effective way of conveying the story of their place.

So apart from the obvious, isn’t that why we choose one wine over another in the first place – to taste the difference, to taste the place?

The mysterious origin of Margaret River’s much-loved Gingin clone of Chardonnay has been solved in a study recently published in the Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research.

Gingin is the most planted clone of Chardonnay in the Margaret River wine region.   It is known both for its tendency to produce loose grape bunches with berries of different sizes and for making complex and elegant wines.

Introduced into Western Australia in 1957 via University of California, Davis, Gingin was believed by some to be derived from the same source material as a clone known as Old Foundation Block (OF) Chardonnay, but was also commonly thought of as being the same as another clone with similar traits, called Mendoza.

The new genomics research has revealed that all three clones have a shared heritage, in an old Californian source block at UC Davis. They are, however, quite distinct from each other.

In particular, Gingin and Mendoza are as different from each other as they are from any of the other clonal selections of Chardonnay, despite their shared origins.

Margaret River Wine Association CEO, Amanda Whiteland says, “This work has not only solved a decades-old mystery but it also reinforces the uniqueness of Margaret River Chardonnay, and the important part the Gingin clone plays in it the Margaret River regional story.”

By Bruce Dukes, Margaret River Agronomist and Winemaker.

The South West of Western Australia, which includes Margaret River, has been geologically stable for tens of millions of years.  The result is geologically ancient soils which are mainly parented from decomposed granite. The highly weathered soils typically have a loamy sand and gravelly surface which transitions to clay dominant at around 1 metre. The loam contributes to the nutrient and moisture holding capacity of the soil, while the interspersed ironstone gravels and sands assist in soil drainage and aeration.  The undulating topography allows for gentle slopes which favour both surface drainage of water and air.

The moderate depth and fertility of the soils allow for a sound balance between water holding and nutrient storage capacity for vine health and performance.  An excess of nutrients, including water will encourage too much growth, while a deficiency will restrict performance.  It is this moderate middle line or balance which is gives the best results in wine growing. Winter rains can be stored within the soil profile, and then gradually released to the vine as it requires it over the growing season.  As we approach Christmas, the vine has generally achieved full shoot length, corresponding to the lower levels of moisture in the soil.  Once the shoot growth has ceased, the vine then focuses on its evolutionary purpose of ripening the grapes.

Maritime Climate

Margaret River enjoys a maritime climate, characterised by cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers.  Around 80% of the 1,000mm of annual rainfall occurs during the winter months while the vines are predominantly dormant, with 20% during the growing season.  The infrequent and low amounts of summer rainfall correspond to low mildew pressures.  The plentiful winter rains originate from the west and south west, over thousands upon thousands of kilometres of uninterrupted ocean and airflows, which deliver reliable and pure rainwater.

The Indian Ocean defines Margaret River to the north and west, while the Great Southern Ocean which marks the southern boundary, while the eastern boundary is defined by the “Gladstones Line” of longitude, 118oand 30 mins.  This line runs from the town of Busselton in the north to 16 km east of Augusta in the south.  These oceanic influences moderate the environment.

The Leeuwin Current

The Leeuwin Current further stabilises and softens the Margaret River areas climate.  The sometimes-brisk Leeuwin Current begins in the warm tropical waters off the  North West  Cape of Western Australia. The current roughly follows the West Australian coastline down in a southerly direction, around Cape Naturaliste, along the west coast of Margaret River.  It then curves around Cape Leeuwin and heads across the great Australian Bight towards Tasmania. Fisherman and sailors often seek this current as it can advantage travel speeds.

Northerly winds over summer months slow down the southerly flowing and pulsing Leeuwin current.  As the northerly breezes slow over the winter months, the current strengthens, yielding warmth in winter and cooling in summer. The net effect is a softening of the Margaret River climate when compared to continents in similar latitudes which don’t have these specific current influences. The Leeuwin current is typically 2 to 3 km in width and only 20 cm deep and typically 35 km off the coastline around Margaret River.  The current is typically a few ° C warmer than the surrounding ocean in Margaret River, explaining why Southern Bluefin tuna, Western Rock lobster, and Australian salmon are prolific in our waters.  The Leeuwin current contributes to moderating temperature extremes, and enhancing the winter rainfall and reliability.

Biodiversity

The well drained and moderate fertility soils along with the gentle climate creates a very long and sympathetic growing season for grapevines.  This provides a number of different grape varieties fantastic conditions to express their personalities.  The gentle climate, along with the moderate soil temperatures in part explains why we have such diversity of microflora and fauna in the region.  The moderate soil temperatures and soil moisture profiles, which of course are great for the vines, also allow for good germination of a diverse array of seed types, which corresponds to a large amount of biodiversity. Our local hardwood species, the Jarrah tree is a great reflection of our soils and climate. This tree is very slow growing, has very high-density wood and only grows to moderate heights.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon appear very well adapted to our growing environment.  As a global locator, we could describe the Margaret River climate as being intermediate to that of Bordeaux and Napa Valley.

In a farming sense, the Margaret River climate and soils represent a set of natural conditions which have a strong sympathy to grapevine biology. Our terroir is expressed as a purity of fruit, freshness and sympathetic textures.

Read more

© Copyright by Bruce Dukes, June 2020.

Chardonnay is a grape of many names, usually shortened versions: chard, chardy, card-onnay… more, perhaps.  A most adaptable grape to site, winemaking style/input and vintage: yet it has found its mecca in Margs.

Australia is responsible for a really exciting array of chardonnays.  Really exciting.  There are some steely and mineral laden examples from Tasmania; fine, spicy and acid driven in Victoria (Yarra Valley, Beechworth etc); rich and complex from the Hunter Valley… in fact, if one was to get stuck into describing the different styles from the different regions, we would be here all day.  Suffice to say, where there are grapes there is chardonnay and like your group of friends, they come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, moods, personalities and virtues.  So, what makes Margaret River such a hotspot for chardonnay?

The Gin Gin clone has a lot to do with it, but not everything.  Gin Gin is grown elsewhere and hasn’t elevated other regions to the status of Margaret River: so what is it? The clones + the maritime climate + the location of the vineyards (proximity to the oceans, angle of hills, sunshine, sea breeze and all other things) … all in combination form the unique terroir of Margaret River.  Add to that the talented winemakers who have chosen to make Margaret River their home and focus, and you’re essentially up to speed.

“an iron-clad structure, intensity with generosity, and sweet fruit with flowing natural acidity”  James Halliday

“I spent all last week tasting 2016 burgundies, but the more whites I tried, the more I lusted after the Western Australian alternatives I came across during a visit there last November.”  Jancis Robinson

 “All five of my favourites of the 22 wines, scoring 18 or 18.5 out of 20, were from Margaret River.  What’s great about them is that they have all the tension and precision (as opposed to fatness or, heaven forfend, oakiness) that is currently in vogue but, unlike many Chardonnays from the rest of Australia or even from cooler parts of California such as the extreme Sonoma Coast, they have enough fruit to counterbalance the acidity and austerity.” Jancis Robinson

The stats:

In the 2020 Wine Companion awards, Margaret River took out twenty one of the top forty two chardonnays in the country – not a bad result for a little region with a comparatively tiny (compared to national) output.

Margaret River was also responsible for five of the twelve Single Varietal awards (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Sauvignon (and family), Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon Sauvignon Blends), winemaker of the year (Vanya Cullen) and Best Value Winery of the Year (Domaine Naturaliste).

The style:

The Margaret River chardonnay style is typified by the presence of ripe yellow peach, pink grapefruit acidity and a savoury salty spice character that underpins it all.  If you’ve ever read one of my chardonnay tasting notes you may notice the use of ‘curry leaf’ as a descriptor.  I find this in many of the Margaret River chardonnays, although I do not think it is a character endemic to the region.  Red apple skins, white stone fruit, brine, crushed nuts/cashews and a fine minerality all feature heavily too.  The chardonnays from Margs are distinctive from the  chardonnays from elsewhere, primarily due to the shape of the fruit profile, which to my palate, forms a comet-like shape over the palate: rounded and powerful at the front, driven and focused, with a tapering, long, fiery tail into the finish.

International Chardonnay Day is coming up on May 21st, so here are five to get you going:
Pierro Fire Gully Chardonnay 2018
Deep Woods Reserve 2018
Xanadu Stevens Road 2017 (splurge, but worth it)
Vasse Felix Heytesbury 2018 (another splurge, also worth it)
Windows Petit Lot 2017

And one for something a little bit different:
Walsh and Sons Little Poppet (Semillon/Chardonnay blend and bloody delicious, value!)

Part VI – Chardonnay’s the way

While Margaret River is renowned for producing many outstanding wine varieties, Chardonnay – along with Cabernet Sauvignon – has long stood out from the rest.

Said to mainly derive from the Gin Gin heritage clone, a high quality cutting so well suited to the Margaret River climate and topography it has long reigned supreme in the region’s vineyards, Chardonnay grapes have an intense fruit concentration that translates to complex flavours in the glass.

Chardonnay tends to vary drastically on the palate depending on where it is produced; the grapes adapt so well to their surrounding environment that the resulting wines truly encapsulate each sub-region.

Team a grape that reflects its locale with innovative and different winemaking styles, and you’ve got a variety of wine that has and will continue to surprise and impress.

Learn more about the Margaret River Wine Story – Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IV & Part V.

Part V – Heritage Clones
The success of the Margaret River wine industry, as we are discovering through this series, is thanks to a number of factors, including optimum climate, ancient soils and… heritage clones.Thanks to an absence of the vine pest phylloxera, the majority of Margaret River vines have been grown from cuttings taken from high quality, existing vineyards. These cuttings, also known as clones, are created when a piece of the mother vine is cut off and either planted directly into the soil or grafted onto another vine.

Over time, two heritage clones have had a significant influence on the character of Margaret River’s distinctive Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon styles – the Gin Gin Clone and the Houghton Clone.

Gin Gin Clone

The Gin Gin clone is often acknowledged as being the key to the success of Margaret River’s award-winning Chardonnay. While its origins are shrouded in mystery, it is most recently though that the Gin Gin clone, previously known as FPS 1, was first brought to Western Australia from California by University of California Viticulture Professor Harold Olmo in 1957. It is now the predominant clone of Chardonnay grown in Margaret River today. Named after the West Australian vineyard site where it was first planted, the clone is renowned for producing grape bunches containing a variety of berry sizes, referred to as ‘hen and chicken’. The result – powerful-yet-elegant wines with complex and concentrated citrus and tropical fruit flavours.

Houghton Clone

Many of Margaret River’s greatest Cabernets were born from Houghton clones, which were originally developed by WA’s Department of Agriculture at Houghton Vineyard  in the Swan Valley from 1968 to 1970. The department sought to find vines of good health and fruit flavour, which they could then grow in the Margaret River Wine Region. Twenty one high-performing vines were selected and trialled at sites in Gingin and Frankland, before making their way to Margaret River. The Houghton Clone often displays lower vigour vines, lower yields and less herbaceous characters. On the palate, think classic blackcurrant and cassis characters that have become the quintessential markers of a fine drop of Margaret River Cab Sav.

As a remote and creative community, Margaret River wineries are rising to the regulation challenge and delivering their world-class wines and experiences in new, innovative ways.

Pyjama Wine Party

On Friday April 24 Margaret River winemaker Dylan Arvidson from LS Merchants and Fruitful Pursuits kicks-off a new way to taste wine in isolation – coming to a living room near you!

A $79 ticket gets you a three-pack of Dylan’s wine delivered to your door plus access to a 45-minute video about the wines.  The videos go live at 5pm AWST on Friday but can be viewed by ticketholders at any time once released.  Limited tickets.  Buy here.

‘Community Pack’ of wine, sanitiser and $20 to local relief

Not only does Ben Gould’s Blind Corner ‘Community 6 Pack’ include 6 organic wines, free local delivery but he is also throwing in a bottle of Sanitiser and giving $20 to a local relief fund!  That’s wine with a big dose of generosity & kindness! Buy here.

Personalised in-home tasting

With their cellar door closed the Fraser Gallop Estate team are still offering personal tasting sessions which can be arranged at a time that suits you.  During this complimentary experience, one of their wine educators will walk you through your selection of wines all from a safe distance. This private live video tasting experience is the perfect opportunity to ask your wine related questions and learn more about their wines from the comfort of your own home.

To book your in-home experience, email at [email protected] and let them know the date and time you would like.

Calling all Cheese Lovers

Goon Tycoons has partnered with Yallingup Cheese Company, one of the region’s foremost cheese companies, to delivery hampers of brie, beer-washed rind, chorizo, crackers, olives and a bottle of red for a little bit of self-isolating luxury. Deliveries are made to the Dunsborough, Yallingup, Margaret River and Cowaramup areas on Tuesday and Thursday. Busselton Wednesdays.

Your wine shopping hub

For all your wine home-delivery options on one page, click here

Margaret River Vintage 2020 has been Outstanding!

At the start of the 2020 growing season, no one would have believed the situation we are in right now. However, it is during challenging times like these that we look for a silver lining, and the silver lining for the Margaret River region is the exceptional vintage we are just wrapping up.

As the Margaret River wine industry finishes one of the most unusual harvests to date, the region raises a collective sigh of relief to have been able to complete the 2020 vintage undisrupted; without significant rain, lockdowns or the impact of bushfires and losses that sadly, some regions in other parts of Australia have had to endure. We are humbly counting our blessings.

The region enjoyed an early start to the season, with warmer than average spring temperatures evolving into the perfect summer growing conditions. Low disease pressure, timely flowering of native Marri trees to keep the birds at bay and little to no rain meant that growers could literally “take their pick” when they wanted.

Compared with the challenges of cooler weather and significant bird pressure in 2019, the 2020 vintage in Margaret River was a real treat for viticulturists. The only downside of note has been the lower than normal yields across all varieties, resulting in one of the smallest harvests in recent years.

Yet here is another silver lining… the lower yields have resulted in exceptional fruit that is physiologically ripe and shows divine concentration of aromas and flavours.

While the 2020 vintage from Margaret River will be in scarce supply, it will be a very special vintage to look out for.

Our thoughts go out to all those who have been adversely impacted by the current pandemic. We hope to raise a toast in acknowledgment of the difficult days we’ve survived when we get through to the other side of this.

Growing Season

After a significantly wet winter with rainfall 30% above average, temperatures gradually crept up to above long-term ranges while rainfall fell well below norms as spring commenced. Regular heat-waves through the months of October, November and December saw maximum daytime temperatures regularly in the mid 30’s.  These periods of high temperatures caused an acceleration in grape development, fortunately without the related sunburn which can occur if such heat occurs after veraison.

Chardonnay was first out of the blocks with an early budburst at the end of August. This allowed the soil to dry and warm, providing ideal conditions for early root growth and optimal access to nutrients. As other varieties commenced their growth, we saw development of healthy, well-balanced canopies across the region.

The growing season overall offered ideal conditions for a wide range of varieties, from early to late ripening. The beautiful weather and lower yields gave sufficient time for fruit to reach its best without the pressure of a premature harvest date due to disease or poor conditions.

Harvest Conditions

Harvest began at the end of January, the earliest start on record, brought on by lower yields and warm, dry weather which ripened the fruit more rapidly than is usual.

The warm daytime temperatures saw the first half of the vintage race along with all white grapes harvested by the end of February, a very early finish for the white’s harvest.

During this period, the season’s regular dry, sunny days provided a natural impediment to any development of disease which can thrive on humid, cloudy days.  Marri trees blossomed extensively, keeping the birds away from the vineyards.

A weak, cold front brought approximately 35mm of rain in late February to early March and daytime temperatures moderated in mid-March which was very beneficial in slowing things down and allowing softening and ripening of tannins and great flavour development. The small amount of rain was also considered a positive by those who own dry-grown vineyards.

By the end of March to early April most of the region had finished their Cabernet Sauvignon harvest, the latest ripening varietal in the region.

Yields

The 2020 yields are below the long-term average due to several factors, rather than a specific incident.  There were colder than average spring conditions in 2018 when the fruit load is determined in developing buds for the next season.  In the spring of 2019, isolated patches of hail, widespread winds and rain caused damage to vine shoots and impacted flowering and fruit-set with varieties which were at a sensitive growth stage on exposed sites in the region, creating low bunch weights. The dry growing season also contributed to lighter than average bunch weights across most varieties.

Fruit Profile

It has been a sensational Chardonnay vintage, with wonderful complexity, balance, concentration of flavours and clean, pristine fruit.  With the accelerated ripening, there is incredible retention of natural acidity, texture and loads of energy.

Sauvignon Blanc is showing excellent early floral characters while the Semillon shows richness and roundness.  The other whites have also been sensational with fruit displaying purity, freshness and excellent varietal expression.

Shiraz loved the warmth with good depth of flavour, a bright fruit spectrum and lovely tannins with medium weight.

Cabernet Sauvignon is showing excellent potential, with loads of colour, concentration, dark fruit vibrance and the standout feature of lovely fine soft tannins.

Across the board the quality is outstanding.

In 2018 Margaret River crushed just 2% of Australia’s grapes, but brought home a major part of the bacon. How did this mini little region become so mighty?

“The top rank of Margaret River Chardonnay and Cabernet is, simply put, in the top rank of the world. And by that, I’m including the likes of Burgundy (for the chardonnay) and Bordeaux and Napa Valley (for Cabernet Sauvignon).” – Matt Kramer, Wine Spectator USA

We’ve all heard the statistic about Western Australia producing just 3% of Australia’s wine yet providing more than 20% of the premium wine. Well in 2018, Margaret River crushed 37,213 tonnes of grapes, which is less than 2% of Australia’s total crush for the same year. I don’t know about you, but hearing that fact never gets old. The shine doesn’t wear off. We are living in an incredibly important time, as these are the early years of infancy, experimentation and evolution that Margaret River’s future historians will look back on with fondness and great pride. Heck – we’re proud now.

Margaret River’s greatest advocate is undoubtedly James Halliday and he has gone on record many times speaking about the high quality versus the relatively tiny output.

Margaret River’s top tier wineries collectively produce an indecent amount of Australia’s greatest chardonnays and cabernets: total production is only 3 per cent of the Australian crush but contributes 20 per cent of Australia’s top-rated wines” – James Halliday

In the 2020 Australian Wine Companion James Halliday listed 55 of his top Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Blends. Margaret River was by far and away responsible for the largest representation, contributing 23 of the top 55 wines. To really spell this one out, the next highest representation was from Frankland River, with six wines. Below that, the Yarra Valley with five. McLaren Vale with five, Coonawarra with four and so on…you get the idea.

In the chardonnay ranking there was slightly more competition from the likes of Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley (with honourable mentions to Adelaide Hills, Tasmania, Beechworth and others), however Margaret River still contributed 21 of the top 40 chardonnays in Australia. Not to mention the fact that the top chardonnay of the year at 99pts was from Moss Wood (2017) and the only other chardonnay rated at 99pts was the Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay (2016).

It’s not just Halliday who thinks the wines are among the best, take a look at this tremendous haul of Cabernet Trophies at the National Wine Shows from around the country since 2014…

2014: Margaret River win 5 of 7 trophies
2015: Margaret River win 4 of 7 trophies
2016: Margaret River win all 7!
2017: Margaret River win 5 of 7 trophies
2018: Margaret River win 5 of 7 trophies
2019: Margaret River win all 7!

Margaret River has won 34 of the last 42 Capital City Wine Show Cabernet trophies and the west has about 3% of Australia’s red Bordeaux varietals and so…. Margaret River has less!” – John Jens, Lamont’s Cottesloe

Long may the reign continue.

Waiting for a rainy day to open those wines you’ve been saving?  That day, Open that Bottle Night is 29 February 2020.

Great wine is made to be shared, wouldn’t you agree? And it’s not always about cracking open the oldest bottle in your cellar (although that’s a unique story in itself!). It could be a wine you were given for your wedding, the birth of your first child or an inexpensive bottle picked up on a visit to your favourite winery.

One of the best things about enjoying special wine is the enjoyment of the stories and memories that were made through your ownership of the bottle.

To quote an oldie but a goldie – life’s too short, drink the wine! So put 29 February in your diary, gather your nearest and dearest, crack open your special bottles of Margaret River wine and make memories while remembering those tales that have been kept in the cellar for too long.

Open That Bottle Night (#OTBN) is held on the last Saturday in February each year, this year being 29 February – here’s how you can make your own #OTBN an annual tradition.

What’s Open That Bottle Night all about?

The concept of Open That Bottle Night (#OTBN) was initiated by two reporters at The Wall Street JournalDorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher wanted to encourage their readers to open a significant bottle, then to share their stories. Since its inauguration in 2000 (well before social media became mainstream), the event has become a global phenomenon, and is always held annually on the last Saturday in February.

The underlying premise of Open That Bottle Night is that wine is more than liquid in a bottle. With the opening of these wines comes a memory of life milestones, births, deaths and marriages, long-lost loved ones and treasured holidays. These memories are too precious and significant not to celebrate and share.

For those in the hospitality industry, Open That Bottle Night is an opportunity to help customers put wine on the centre stage of your tables. Why not host a BYO night at your restaurant, or at least highlight your venue’s status as BYO?

For wineries and retailers, Open That Bottle Night represents an opportunity to focus on the compelling stories about your wines and producers, and encourage customers to open and enjoy the wines they have put aside. For retailers, why not encourage staff and customers to tell the tales of all your quirky producers that you have featured in your store.

When

The last Saturday in February every year – in 2020 it’s Saturday 29 February.

How to get involved?

As a wine lover

Dig out a special wine you’ve been saving for a special occasion or purchase a new release with an interesting back-story to join in the fun.

Invite friends and family to your place, a restaurant or host an outdoor picnic while the weather is warm. Tell your guests it’s a special occasion – you provide the wine, they bring a plate. Or ask everyone to bring their own special bottle. You could also try to match the food to the wine being enjoyed that night.

So what are the stories behind the wines? Just ask a few questions and the tales will start to roll in…

In previous Open That Bottle nights, we’ve been blown away by how well the wines have drunk on the night – guests brought an old Chardonnay they found while on holidays, others opened small parcel wines they were given for a birthday and had no idea what to expect. The most memorable wines are not always the most expensive, but those that relate to a personal connection or memory.

Once the wine has been opened and tasted, post your thoughts on social media using #OTBN, or post your OTBN photos on Facebook 

Plan to do it all over again throughout the year!

Restaurants and On-Premise Venues

Be the facilitator to encourage customers to enjoy wine even more and create a bit of fun. Promote #OTBN as a chance to have a BYO night, raid your own cellars and pull out special wines you want to share. Inspire your staff to tell their own stories about wines on the list or those they’ve enjoyed in their own time. Let the quirky anecdotes about the producers on your wine list come to life.

Wineries

Is product trial a challenge for your winery? OTBN is your chance to promote range discovery. Maybe there’s a back vintage pack you can release in cellar door or to your database? A special release of small parcel wines? Or why not compile a pack of your winemaker’s favourite wines for purchase? There’s so much scope to participate and help customers share wines they may have put away for a special occasion and put your product in the spotlight.

Retailers

Why not promote a selection of wines in your store and encourage people to purchase so they can get involved in the global conversation? Maybe you have back vintage wines you’d like people to discover, or small parcels from your favourite producers that have an interesting story behind their production. This is a perfect opportunity for you to get your own customers interacting, purchasing wines or raiding their existing cellars – which may result in them returning to stock up!

Use this Open That Bottle Night Collateral!

We’ve made it easy to promote OTBN on your own social media platforms. Feel free to use the descriptions above to explain how to get involved to your consumers. The hashtag for the night is #OTBN and the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Openthatbottlenight will continue to feature stories and great products for people to discover.

To make it easy to participate, use this support material. It’s free to download and use.

Margaret River Region Online Auction for Bushfire Relief
Bidding from 11am Friday 24 January until 5pm Friday 7 February AWST
Loaded with rare wines, amazing experiences and breathtaking accommodation.  #HolidayHereThisYear
Funds raised will be split between the Australian Red Cross Bushfire Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund and regional causes recommended by Wine Australia and the Australian Grape & Wine.
To place a bid, visit www.32auctions.com/MargaretRiver4FireRelief

Part IV – Blessed by the weather gods

“Margaret River has the most reliable climate of all the major wine regions – indeed all – of Australia. Its latitude and the ever-present maritime influence of the Indian Ocean combine to give it high winter rainfall and a very even accumulation of heat throughout the growing season” – James Halliday, Wine Companion.

Blessed with deep, well-draining soil, the Margaret River Wine Region also boasts weather designed for growing plenty of grapes.

Did you know that grapevines favour ‘temperate’ climates, which mostly fall within distinct latitudes of 30˚ and 50˚ from the equator? With Margaret River sitting at 33°55’S, it’s no wonder the region is renowned for producing consistent crops of grapes every year.

Team Margaret River’s latitude with its proximity to the ocean and you get high winter rainfall, a dry, warm summer and low risk of frost – a prime environment for all things viticulture.

Send your favourite Margaret River Wines all over the world, thanks to our new international mixed case shipping.

It’s easy to enjoy Margaret River Wine in the comfort of your own home, even if you don’t live in Australia. Want to learn more? Ok.

The Margaret River Wine Association have teamed with 21 Margaret River wineries to bring you international mixed case shipping, which allows you to get your favourite drops delivered straight to your front door.

The Margaret River Box is perfect if you’re travelling home or visiting friends and family overseas. Taste your way around the Margaret River Wine Region, pick your favourite wines and send them almost anywhere in the world.

It’s a great option if you’re trying to avoid the high fees you could attract if you decide to book “additional baggage”, if you simply want to travel light or you want to surprise a wine aficionado friend.

The best bit? Being able to indulge on a drop of world-class wine, long after the holiday’s over.

Here’s how it works:

Step 1. Head to any one of the 21 wineries and ask one of the friendly cellar door staff for a Margaret River Box and invoice.

Step 2. Hit the road and visit your choice of wineries, filling your Margaret River Box with your top picks as you go. Please ensure staff fill in the invoice at each venue that you make a purchase.

Step 3. At the final stop, provide the cellar door staff your Margaret River Box, invoice and your personal details and they will do the rest.

Easy, right?

Rosé , amongst the lovers is a wine generally met with a smile. It speaks of summer sunsets, bright starts to long lunches, and a surprisingly eloquent ‘welcome-home-how-was-your-day’.  Choosing between them comes down to a matter of style, as does everything, and not all rosés (as we know) are created equal. The best are deliberate, focused, poised and generous, and show a bright array of flavours and textures.

Margaret River is making a really exciting variety of rosés, the best of which are scintillatingly layered, engagingly complex, and spicily dry. However, it’s challenging to talk about ‘rosé’ and ‘Margaret River’ in the same sentence, and not mention the winemaker who has sidled up and made himself synonymous with all things pink and see-through: Julian Langworthy. There is, since 2015, a rosé trophy at the Margaret River Wine Show. The winner gets a pink jacket. They’re pre-made funnily enough, in Julian’s measurements. He has won three of the past 5 Rosé trophies, so I suppose it is almost justified.

My TOP 5 of 2019:
Oates Ends Rosé 2019: Super pretty salmon colour… it’s a crushed oyster shell / pastel mandarin hue. I love the colour and would stare at it some more, were it not for the rose petals, strawberry and saffron spices wafting out of the glass. Pretty and generous. Love the texture through the mid-back palate. It’s chalky and fine, littered with fine white pepper. Wilyabrup tempranillo.

La Kooki Rosé Blonde 2019: Perfectly spiced, fine and layered, this has brilliant structure and generosity… Strawberry, hints of pomegranate and other red berries… but this is far from sweet. The Blonde is savoury and textural, driven by red currant, steered by spice, and carried through and over the palate by rippling acidity. My favourite Rosé Blonde yet – this has personality, energy and focus. M.R. Pinot Noir.

Thompson Estate Four Chambers Pinot Rosé 2019: Another Pinot Rosé, showing Goldilocks balance between ripe red berry fruit and fine exotic spice. A lovely, pure wine; ‘pretty’ was used thrice in the original note.

Nocturne Rosé 2019: The thing that really got me here, is the intensity of fruit flavour on the palate. This is concentrated. Sure: it looks good, it smells great… but I wasn’t prepared for the sheer volume of flavour on the palate. Big yes. Dry, textural, serious. Carbanup sangiovese, nebbiolo.

Deep Woods Harmony Rosé 2019: Can we even talk about rose from Margaret River without mentioning this little bargain? Unlikely. This is vibrant, fine, dry and knock-out value at under $15 almost everywhere you look. A surprising amount of structure and line for the price. Shiraz, tempranillo, grenache.

At the end of the day, whether you like it dry, lean and textural, generous spicy and layered, sweet, or otherwise (my personal preference is off the back of a boat over at Rotto in Summer, but we’re all different)… it’s a wine we love, and a wine we do pretty damn well here in WA.

As a little side note, since its inaugural trophy at the 2015 Margaret River Wine Show, the past five years of Rosé Trophy winners are:
2019 – Abbey Vale Premium Rosé
2018 – Coward & Black, Lady Margo Rosé
2017- Prevelli Wines, ‘Wild Thing’ Rosé
2016 – Deep Woods Harmony Rosé
2015 – Deep Woods Estate Rosé

Learn about the beautiful marri tree blossom and why it’s so significant to winemakers and viticulturalists during vintage.

Climate and soil are the most important factors when it comes to grape-growing, but did you know that the marri tree blossom plays a big part in Margaret River viticulture, too?

The marri blossom is a beautiful flower featuring fine hairs that fan out like a hat. Every year or two the flower blooms, transforming most of Margaret River’s treescape from green to yellow-white each summer.

While beautiful, there’s more to the marri blossom than meets the eye. A valuable food source for many of the region’s native animals (including the bee, which makes delicious honey from the flower’s nectar), the blossom also helps viticulturalists protect their prized grapes from hungry birds.

Just before vintage, the Margaret River wine industry turns their attention to the marri trees and their tiny flowers. The quantity of marri flowers help them estimate the amount of bird pressure they’ll have on their grapes – the more flowers on the trees, the less birds on the vine, and vice versa.

In 2019, for example, there was very little marri blossom in the region, resulting in high bird pressure. Thanks to plenty of marri blossoms all over Margaret River now, this year’s vintage is looking much more promising.

Alas, not all of the birds can be kept away by the sweet nectar of a marri blossom. To combat the birds from damaging a vineyard’s grapes, winemakers cover each of the vines with nets – a typical sight from February to April. It’s a sure-fire way to keep the birds at bay, and the grapes growing all day.

Two of Margaret River Wine Region’s founding fathers, John Evans and John Tate, are the recipients of Margaret River Wine Association’s 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award, recognising their contribution to the region with a friendship that began over 70 years ago..

The duo, who planted some of the first roots of a now blossoming wine industry, began their foray into winemaking in the 60s, before purchasing and establishing a Margaret River vineyard in 1974. From there, Evans & Tate was born.

Over the next few years the two Johns would go on to plant Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon vines on their property, producing their very first wine in 1978.

In 1983, Tate purchased Evan’s share of the winery and went on to produce the Evans & Tate Margaret River Classic – one of the region’s most successful wines.

Both would go on to play pivotal roles in the West Australian wine industry, and while their priorities may have changed over the years, their friendship has remained the same.

For more read Margaret River Wine Association Chair Greg Wall’s presentation speech.


Part III – An Ancient Land 
We may be a young wine region, but we’re one built on mature foundations. Foundations made, quite literally, of ancient soils.

One of the world’s most geographically isolated wine regions, Margaret River and the South West formed around 120 million years ago, with much of the wider region geologically undisturbed for tens of millions of years.

Over time, the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge, which runs 100km down the middle of the Margaret River region, has created a complex network of gneiss, schist and granite-based soils; some of the oldest soil in the world.

This predominantly deep, well-drained, red gravelly loam is poor in nutrients, resulting in low vigour – the perfect environment to grow high-quality grapes.

Margaret River excelled at the 2019 National Wine Show of Australia with 6 Trophies and 18 Gold Medals.

The National Wine Show of Australia is Australia’s premier national wine show. The Show invites entries from across Australia in premium classes for table, sparkling and fortified wines. The purpose of the Show is to judge and promote the best of the best Australian wines.

Trophy Winners

Xanadu Wines

Miles From Nowhere

Stella Bella Wines

Gold Medals

 

Photo courtesy of Kerrie Brewer.

See Ray Jordan’s Top White Wines from under $40 for some inspo for your summer wine shopping list!  There are so many great Margies wines to try, whatever your mood or budget!

Best Wine
Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2018 ($39) 95 points

Best value wine
Deep Woods Ivory Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($15) 93 points

Under $15
Deep Woods Ivory Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($15) 93 points
Amelia Park Trellis Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2019 ($15) 89 points
Brookland Valley Verse 1 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($14.95) 90 points

$15-$20
Xanadu Exmoor Chardonnay 2018 ($20) 93 points
Flametree Embers Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($18) 89 points
Xanadu Exmoor Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2019 ($20) 92 points
Amberley Secret Lane Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($20)88 points
Vasse Felix Classic Dry White 2019 ($19) 92 points

$20-$25
Xanadu DJL Chardonnay 2018 ($25) 95 points
Domaine Naturaliste Discovery Chardonnay 2018 ($22) 91 points
Forester Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($25) 94 points
Ashbrook Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($24.95) 91 points
Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2018 ($25) 92 points
Voyager Estate Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2018 ($24) 94 points
Hay Shed Hill Block 1 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($23.65) 94 points
Clairault Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2019 ($20) 90 points
Sandalford Estate Reserve Verdelho 2019 ($25) 92 points

$25-$40
Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2018 ($39) 95 points
Xanadu Chardonnay 2017 ($39) 94 points
Evans & Tate Redbrook Estate Chardonnay 2017 ($40) 94 points
Flametree Chardonnay 2018 ($29) 93 points
Voyager Estate Girt by Sea Chardonnay 2018 ($28) 92 points
Moss Wood Ribbon Vale Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2018 ($32)
Thompson Estate Four Chambers Sauv Blanc Semillon 2018 ($25) 91 points
Domaine Naturaliste Sauvage Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($27) 94 points
Howard Park Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($31) 93 points
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($31) 92 points

This list has been taken from Ray Jordan’s Top 100 White Wines & Sparkling, published in The West Australian in November 2019.  The final list was chosen from nearly 600 wines submitted from all over Australia and New Zealand, which sell for $40 or less.

Full list click here

The world’s most widely planted vine and Australia’s third most planted variety, Cabernet Sauvignon, is one of Australian wine’s great success stories.

Home to the world’s oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines, planted in 1886 in the Barossa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon has a long and proud history in Australia.

In its fourth year, the Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge respects this history whilst celebrating the producers of Cabernet Sauvignon, who are striving to make the best possible wines that reflect a sense of place.

Whether that is the sublime subtlety from the Yarra Valley, the elegant and balanced wines from the Coonawarra terra rossa soil, the rich and decadent signature style from Margaret River or the powerful and luscious expressions from McLaren Vale,  the Challenge provides an opportunity for a Cabernet Sauvignon varietal competition of great interest.

Whilst in Margaret River last week, James Halliday recorded the results announcing the 2019 Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge Trophy winner as the 2018 Ringbolt Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon.  View video here.

Scoring 96 points and taking out the top prize from over 350 other entries from 25 regions across the country, the 2018 Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon was made from a selection of sites around Margaret River, in what winemaker Heather Fraser said was “near perfect Cabernet Sauvignon ripening conditions”.

The 2019 Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge Regional Winners are:

Coonawarra Best of Region
Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Great Southern Best of Region
Forest Hill Vineyard Highbury Fields Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Margaret River Best of Region
Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

McLaren Vale Best of Region
Wirra Wirra The Angelus Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Pyrenees Best of Region
Glenlofty Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Yarra Valley Best of Region
Dominique Portet Fontaine Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

The full results are also now available to view at www.australiancabernetchallenge.com.au

Cabernet Sauvignon of all vintages are eligible and judged by region without judges knowing which region they were officiating.  Wines achieving a Gold Medal score (95 points and over) were selected to determine the Best of Region wine, then each Regional Winner was judged again for the Trophy.

The Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge was conducted under the auspices of the Margaret River Wine Association in conjunction with the Langton’s 2019 Margaret River Wine Show.   The 2019 Judges were:

David Brookes – Wine Marketing Labs, Chair of Judges (New South Wales)
Joe Czerwinski – Robert Parker Wine Advocate, International Judge (New York)
Melanie Chester – Sutton Grange Estate (Victoria)
Sandrine Gimon – Wine Rage Consulting (Victoria)
Stuart Hordern – Brokenwood Wines (New South Wales)
Alex Hudak – Pure Wine Co (Victoria)
Lisa Jenkins – Mac Forbes Wines (Victoria)
Kate Laurie – Deviation Road (South Australia)
Robert Mann– Corymbia (Western Australia)
Kate Morgan – Ipso Facto Wines & Byron & Harold Estate (Western Australia)
Sarah Pidgeon – Wynns Coonawarra (South Australia)
Ben Portet – Dominique Portet (Victoria)
Daniel Swincer – Pernod Ricard (South Australia)

CONGRATULATIONS TO THIS YEAR’S TROPHY WINNERS!

Langton’s Trophy for Wine of Show
Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Seguin Moreau Trophy for Red Wine of Show
Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Labelmakers Group Trophy for White Wine of Show
Xanadu Reserve Chardonnay 2017

Vinline Mobile Bottling Trophy for Most Successful Exhibitor
Xanadu Wines

Langton’s Trophy for Wine of Provenance White
Brookland Valley Estate Chardonnay 2008, 2013, 2018

Langton’s Trophy for Wine of Provenance Red
Houghton Gladstones Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, 2013, 2018

Singapore Airlines International Judge’s Trophy
Driftwood Estate Single Site Chardonnay 2018

SWAT Winery Equipment Specialists Trophy for Best Cabernet Sauvignon
Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Multi-Color Trophy for Best Chardonnay
Xanadu Reserve Chardonnay 2017

Tonnellerie de Mercurey Trophy for Best Single Vineyard Red
Brash Vineyard Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Portavin Trophy for Best Single Vineyard White
Xanadu Reserve Chardonnay 2017

Cospak / Saverglass Trophy for Best Cabernet Sauvignon Blend
Deep Woods Estate Single Vineyard Cabernets 2018

VA Filtration / Memstar Trophy for Best Sauvignon Blanc
Millbrook Regional Sauvignon Blanc 2019

BFL Trophy for Best Blend of Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon
Clairault Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2019

Saint Martin Trophy for Best Oaked White other than Chardonnay
Higher Plane Fume Blanc 2019

CHEP Trophy for Best Shiraz/Syrah
Domaine Naturaliste Rachis Margaret River Syrah 2018

Chr. Hansen Trophy for Best Rosé
Abbey Vale Premium Rosé 2019

Laffort Trophy for Best Other Blend or Varietal
Marq Malbec 2018

Happs Wines Viticultural Excellence Award
Ianto Ward, Juniper Estate

MRBTA Wine Tourism Excellence Award
Ulrika Larsson

MRWA Lifetime Achievement Award
John Evans & John Tate

2019 Langton’s Margaret River Wine Show Results Book

Two Margaret River winners announced in New York

On Tuesday 17 September two Margaret River women, Vanya Cullen and Ulrika Larsson, were announced winners of the 2019 Australian Women in Wine Awards (AWIWA). They were both at the Ceremony to receive their awards in person.

It was a hat-trick for Vanya Cullen, winning the AWIWA Winemaker of the Year, sponsored by Tonnellerie Saint Martin, as she celebrates her 30th year of being the Cullen Senior winemaker, as well as receiving the Halliday Winemaker of the Year last month.

Ulrika Larsson from Clairault Streicker Wines was awarded the 2019 AWIWA Cellar Door Person of the Year, sponsored by Purple Giraffe.

The event was attended by nearly 40 Australian female wine producers, and the invitation only guest list also included over 100 trade, media and dignitaries.

‘I feel honoured, humbled and grateful to win the AWIWA Winemaker of the Year 2019 award.  Three generations of women, my maternal grandmother Madeline Grace Smith was a suffragette, my mother Diana Madeline a pioneering woman in Margaret River and it’s my 30th year at Cullens being senior wine maker.  What a year’, Vanya Cullen said.

‘I feel blessed and grateful to the organisers and judges of the Australian Women in Wine Awards for all their work promoting women in wine in Australia and globally and for the award.  Also, to Wine Australia for their contribution.  It’s a love story of nature, the earth, great wine, family, friends and colleagues. And what a great city to be to win. I am over the moon about it’, she said.

After 48 hours of travel to get here, Ulrika Larsson said, ‘Standing here in New York City among all the fabulous, strong and influential wine women still feels surreal.  To win this award and to be mixing with all these awesome ladies gives me confidence and inspiration to continue doing what I love, working in Cellar Door.’

The event was also live streamed to the Australian Women in Wine Facebook page and watched during breakfast and morning-tea by many across Australia, as well a group in Margaret River at the Margaret River Collective.

Amanda Whiteland, MRWA CEO said, ‘It was so fantastic to be here in New York with Vanya, Ulrika and all the other women in wine to celebrate the talent and passion we have in Margaret River’.

‘The AWIWA kicks off Wine Australia’s largest ever promotion in the USA, which also includes a six-city roadshow, which has 17 Margaret River wineries participating and is expected to attract 2,500 American wine trade attendees across the New York, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco events.’

‘This is significant opportunity for Margaret River to increase its position in the USA, the world’s largest and most attractive market, and it is great to be here waving the flag’, she said.

Wine Unearthed is Margaret River region’s new podcast series that explores the people, the extraordinary natural environment and the wineries. Get beneath the region’s skin and understand why Lonely Planet named this special part of Western Australia as its favourite place in the Asia Pacific for 2019.
With rich sounds and even richer characters, Wine Unearthed will allow you to experience the region at a deeper level. Meet an Aboriginal cultural custodian, get inside the head of a big wave surfer, hear from the family that got Sting to sing at their winery and laugh at a story of near-miss love. Oh, and there will be wine to taste too! You might just have to buy a bottle of good Margaret River red while you tune into these local sounds.

Download Wine Unearthed from Apple Podcasts or Spotify!

The podcast series is supported by the International Wine Tourism Grant funded by Wine Australia, Margaret River Wine Association, Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association, South West Development Commission and Australia’s South West.

The 2020 Halliday Wine Companion Awards were presented in Melbourne on 7 August 2019 and Margaret River dominated the night winning Winemaker of the Year, Best Value Winery of the Year and the largest number of Best of Varietal Awards.

Organic and bio-dynamic winemaker, Vanya Cullen was named Winemaker of the Year at the 2020 Halliday Wine Companion Awards.

I am really happy for all of Cullen Wines.  I am the face, if you like, but it is a whole team of people including the vineyard guys Matt Dermody, Andy Barrett-Lennard and everyone” she said.

This is the second year in a row that a Margaret River Winemaker has received Winemaker of the Year, with Julian Langworthy of Deep Woods Estate bringing home the award last year.

Domaine Naturaliste was named the Best Value Winery of the Year recognising the wines as both great quality and great value.

Bruce Dukes, Domaine Naturaliste’s Winemaker, emotionally said “It is an honour that out of around 2,600 produces in Australia that Domaine Naturaliste of Margaret River has been chosen by Australia’s greatest and most experienced wine expert for this award.  Margaret River has a set of natural conditions which suit the farming of grapes very well.  I feel blessed to be able to live and work in in such a wonderful region.”

The awards also saw masses of Margaret River winemakers make the trip to Melbourne to collect five Best of Varietal Awards for Best Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet and family, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon Sauvignon Blanc.

Australia’s Best of Varietal winners were:

Amanda Whiteland, Margaret River Wine Association CEO said “James Halliday is Australia’s most influential and respected wine critic and having James and his tasting team award Margaret River wines, winemakers and wineries as the best in Australia is wonderful recognition for our region’s world-class quality, talent and unique grape growing conditions.

More major results for Margaret River wines can be found here.

The full results are published in the 2020 Halliday Wine Companion, or see www.winecompanion.com.au/resources/awards/2020

Previous Margaret River Halliday Wine Companion Award Winners:

Winemaker of the Year and Best Value Winery of the Year were first awarded in the 2015 edition.

Congratulations to Settlers Tavern!

Gourmet Traveller WINE Australia’s 2019 Wine List of the Year Awards
2019 Best Wine List WA
2019, 2018 & 2017 Best Listing of WA Wines
2019 Hall of Fame

The Gourmet Traveller WINE Judges review:

Settlers Tavern was the state winner for Western Australia in the 2019 Wine list of the Year Awards.

Settlers Tavern continues to resist any easy definition. Its heart belongs to the producers and the wines of Margaret River, its home.  It offers the best listing of Margaret River wines of any restaurant anywhere, this year adding aged lovelies such as the 2005 Leeuwin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon by 100ml pour via the magic of the Coravin preservation system.

Vintage. Arguably the most important date on any vignerons’ calendar, it’s when the culmination of a whole year’s worth of decision making gets picked and turned into the fine drops of wine we’ve come to know and love.

There’s certain things that producers can control every year, but it’s the things they can’t – vintners are at the mercy of the weather gods, who effect everything from grape ripening to vine health – that makes winemaking so complex and challenging.

As this year’s vintage starts to hit the shelves, let’s reflect on this year’s harvest.

A late start to harvest

The Margaret River Wine Region kicked off the year with a late harvest, starting in early March and continuing on into late April-early May – two to three weeks later than previous years.

A drop in temperature

So why the late harvest? It’s due to the drop in average temperature recorded during the months prior to vintage. Since August 2018, temperatures in the Margaret River region have been slightly cooler than annual averages logged in the region between 2010 and 2018. This is in stark contrast to weather patterns in other states’ wine regions, most of which experienced warmer climates/heat waves at the beginning of this year.

A cool advantage
“The mild, cooler weather experienced during late 2018 has been quite beneficial for ripening, while the heavy rain incident in January 2019 had no negative effect on the vines, but instead recharged the soil water for the later ripening varieties,” says Margaret River Wine Association Chief Executive Officer Amanda Whiteland. Vignerons have noted parallels with the region’s 2017 vintage, with white varieties exhibiting natural acidity and varietal characteristics well preserved by cool, extended ripening conditions.

A lower yield, but strong consistency
There was a complete absence of Marri blossom in the region, which saw pressure on crops from hungry bees, silver eyes, red cheeked honey eaters and parrots. Along with mild summer temperatures, this resulted in grape yields lower than last year, but harvested crops are showing a consistent quality that the region has long been renowned for.

A strong vintage for white varieties

Thanks to unseasonable rains in January, which helped freshen up white grapes during their final ripening phase, a strong Chardonnay vintage has been recorded by most producers, with good fruit intensity and ferments looking promising. Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc are also showing great flavour for producers that braved the region’s weather events.

A long stint for red

Red varieties were set up for a long stint of tannin ripening, with vine canopies in great shape. Winemakers were thankful for beautiful weather until the end of April that allowed their red varieties to grow and develop a full ripeness prior to picking.

See the Margaret River 2019 Vintage Report here.

Lonely Planet has named Margaret River & Southern WA as the Best in Asian-Pacific 2019. It is the first time an Australian destination has taken out the top spot since Lonely Planet’s Best In lists started 15 years ago!
“Take one look at Meelup Beach and you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life: the West Australian bush parts to reveal ocean the hue of a Bombay Sapphire bottle, which is typical of the coastline stretching from Margaret River to the state’s south. Beyond the sand, some of the country’s slickest wineries, breweries and restaurants lie between tracts of tall-tree forest and kangaroo-dotted farmland.” 

We are thrilled to announce Joe Czerwinski Managing Editor, Robert Parker Wine Advocate as this year’s International Judge at the Langton’s Margaret River Wine Show and Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge, which will take place  from 28th to 31st October 2019.

“I’m looking forward to my fourth visit to Margaret River. I know from past experience that the Cabernets and Chardonnays are world class, but one of the great things about judging regional shows is that you often get to see the full gamut of what’s being produced there.” said Joe.

Joe will be joining a team of exceptional judges from around Australia led by David Brookes in his first year as Chair of Judges.

David Brookes said “Margaret River is in fine form at the moment with a wonderful run of quality vintages and uniformly excellent wines across the region. It is a great honour to step in as chair of the Margaret River Wine Show after the fantastic show results of departing chair, Corrina Wright and the wonderful job she has done for the past three years. I’m also very much looking forward to working with the cracking team of judges who have been assembled for the 2019 Margaret River Wine Show including the renown palate of our visiting international judge, Joe Czerwinski from the U.S.A.”

Margaret River winemakers took home 3 out of 5 Young Gun of Wine 2019 awards.

The PEOPLE’S CHOICE, as decided by the public at tasting events in Melbourne and Sydney, was given to Liv Maiorana and Mijan Patterson of South by South West. “Winning People’s Choice for us is epic, making wine to share is what the South West is all about, but ultimately we make it for people who are going to drink it and it’s so humbling that they enjoy it,” said Liv.

The WINEMAKER’S CHOICE, decided by the Final 12 winemakers, was taken out by Remi Guise of tripe.Iscariot. Remi was naturally honoured to get the nod form his peers: “Winemakers Choice is one of those furiously coveted awards, it is the respect of your peers, all of whom are as critical and exacting as you are. To have the caliber of winemakers, who all make wines of such esteem and sense of place, elect me as a favourite is truly amazing and humbling.”

The BEST NEW ACT went to winemaking duo, Rhys Parker and Paul Hoffman from Vallée du Venom, who make wines in the Margaret River and Swan Valley. Rhys Parker enthused on their win, “Hoffy and I are very humbled to be amongst so many talented winemakers and bloody good wines! We’re stoked!”

younggunofwine.com

Gourmet Traveller WINE has recently announced their Australian Cellar Door Awards, with seven Margaret River wineries included. Be sure to add these to the list for your next visit!

Star Winery/Best Cellar Door
Amelia Park (pictured above)

Best Large Cellar Door
Juniper Estate

Best Small Cellar Door
Victory Point

Cellar Door with the Best Food
Vasse Felix

Best Tasting Experience
Voyager Estate

Best Additional Experience (Tours)
Evoi

Our Favourite Places to Stay
Cape Lodge

Visit the full list at Gourmet Traveller WINE or plan your wine trail here.

 

Part II – Risky business 

When it comes to history, Margaret River pales in comparison to other wine regions in Australia. But what it lacks in age it makes up in originality. And it’s all thanks to a handful of risk takers who became the pioneers of a young, dynamic wine region that’s since withstood the test of time.

Dr Tom Cullity
Renowned for planting Margaret River’s first commercial vineyard, Dr Tom Cullity was first a respected cardiologist. While in Britain, he discovered European wines, and upon returning home, set himself a mission to make fine wines in WA. Establishing an 8-acre vineyard in Cowaramup called Vasse Felix, he went on to plant the vineyard’s first vines – Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec plantings – which still grow at the site today.

Dr Kevin Cullen & Diana Cullen
Western Australia’s first recipient of a Doctorate of Medicine, Dr Kevin Cullen, moved to Busselton in 1947 to run his own practice. During this time, Dr Cullen and his wife Diana purchased land in Wilyabrup, where they tried their hand at farming. In 1971, they made the decision to plant vines on their land. Diana started producing wine, and it wasn’t long before she was turning heads with her award-winning drops.

Dr Bill Pannell
While doing his residency at Royal Perth Hospital and King Edward Maternity Hospital, Dr Bill Pannell found a site on Metricup Road for Moss Wood – one of the region’s founding wineries. After finishing his residency, Bill and wife Sandra moved to Busselton in 1970.  Their 1975 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon, from six-year-old vines adn the winery’s third vintage, was unquestionably the outstanding wine of the region’s first decade.

Denis & Trish Horgan
Denis and Trish Horgan bought a plumbing business in 1969, and with it, a Margaret River grazing property. In 1973, US-based wine world legend, Robert Mondavi, expressed interest in purchasing the property – today’s Leeuwin Estate. On Robert’s advice, Denis and Trish started planting vines, including Chardonnay, which led to Leeuwin Estate’s most iconic wine, the ‘Art Series’ Chardonnay.

Part I – Young love

Established in the late 1960s, the Margaret River Wine Region has a relatively short history in wine production compared to other Australian wine regions, and is arguably the first wine region in Australia to be selected on the basis of good science.

It started with University of California Viticulture Professor Harold Olmo, who recommended the planting of wine grapes in Western Australia in 1955.  University of Western Australia agronomist Dr John Gladstones then published a research paper in 1966 that 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 that had good drainage.

This paper had a significant influence on the Margaret River Wine Region pioneers.  The following year, in 1967, the region’s first modern commercial vineyard was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec at Vasse Felix, by Dr Tom Cullity (pictured above). The first Chardonnay vines were then planted at Leeuwin Estate, Cullen Wines, Ashbrook Estate and Moss Wood in 1976.

Fast forward 50 years, and Margaret River Wine has built an international reputation as a fine wine stalwart, renowned world-round for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Semillon Sauvignon Blanc blends. And although the industry is made up of just over 160 boutique wine producers who make less than 2% of Australia’s wine, it is heavily regarded as one of the world’s – not just Australia’s – finest wine regions. We think that’s a pretty impressive feat for an industry bred on science, and grown from love.

It has been a late start to harvest in the Margaret River Wine Region, due to cooler spring and summer weather conditions. 

Since August 2018, temperatures in the Margaret River region have been slightly cooler than annual averages recorded in the region between 2010 and 2018. This is in stark contrast to weather patterns recorded in other states’ wine regions, most of which experienced warmer climates/heat waves at the beginning of this year. 

Due to this temperature decrease, the 2019 vintage has started in late February, two to three weeks later than normal for most wineries in the Margaret River region. 

Margaret River Wine Association Chief Executive Officer Amanda Whiteland says it is expected the 2019 Margaret River Wine Region harvest would end in late April-early May. 

“The climate differential emulates similar circumstances experienced during the 2017 vintage, when harvest began late February and ended late April,” Ms Whiteland says. “The mild, cooler weather experienced during late 2018 has been quite beneficial for ripening, and the heavy rain incident in January 2019 was very timely due to the later season, recharging the soil water and setting the vineyards up nicely. 

“Yields are looking lower than last year but with diligent vineyard management, such as green thinning, Margaret River’s ability to produce a consistent high-quality vintage can be assured.” 

Voyager Estate Winemaking and Viticulture Manager Steve James says: “We are very happy with the Chardonnay fruit that we are currently harvesting.” 

“This recent spell of nice warm weather has really moved things along quite significantly. The temperatures, whilst not hot, have been very conducive to high functioning of the grapevine and, I believe we are on track for another excellent season.” 

Fogarty Group Head Viticulturist John Fogarty says: “We have seen great quality in whites so far, with flavour building in most varieties quite early due to the mild longer ripening season. Chardonnay has had great sugar and acid balance this season, while reds are building flavour and ripening with some pace behind the whites.” 

(Image – Voyager Estate Vineyard)

Margaret River Nocturne Cabernet Sauvignon continues a dream run from Julian and Alana Langworthy, winning the third Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge.

Alana Langworthy said “We are super excited to be recognised as this year’s pinnacle of Australian Cabernet Sauvignon. Winning the Halliday Cabernet Challenge is a dream come true and an amazing triumph for our single vineyard Nocturne wine.

The Cabernet Challenge provides an opportunity for Australian producers of Cabernet Sauvignon to participate in a varietal competition of great national and international interest.”

The 2018 challenge was judged in conjunction with the Langton’s Margaret River Wine Show last month. Cabernet Sauvignon of all vintages are eligible and judged by region without judges knowing which region they were officiating.

Wines achieving a Gold Medal score (95 points and over) were selected to determine the Best of Region wine, then each Regional Winner was judged again for the Trophy.

Chair of Judges, Corrina Wright said “To be able to taste the best of the best in Cabernet around the country is quite an honour. It was a super hard fought battle to choose the winning wine, a lot of discussion and a number of worthy cabernets from across the country vying for the title. Cabernet in Australia is in a good place, and seems to be getting better and better every year. I commend to you the regional finalists and winners.”

 The Stella Bella team celebrated last night after taking home five Trophies from the 2018 Langton’s Margaret River Wine Show, including Most Successful Exhibitor and Langton’s Trophy for Wine of Show. 

The 2018 Langton’s Margaret River Wine Show attracted 112 exhibitors and 723 entries to the 17th Margaret River Wine Show, with judging at Ramada Resort Dunsborough and the Wine Show Gala Dinner at Leeuwin Estate. 

Naming Rights Partner, Langton’s Head of Sales Alex Jenkins said “Langton’s is again proud to be the Major sponsor of the 2018 Margaret River Wine Show. The Margaret River Wine Association is doing a tremendous job shining a light on this unique and important Australian wine region. Though our support we hope to help recognise and reward the many men and women who work tirelessly in the pursuit of excellence. We congratulate not only all the winners of the awards, but the community as a whole, who’s constant drive for excellence as a region deserves to be recognised” 

Third-time Chair of Judges, Corrina Wright from Oliver’s Taranga said “Again, Margaret River showed that it is a quadruple-threat region, with Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon leading the charge, Semillon/Sauvignon blends & Rose fast picking up speed.” 

Corrina led the team of 21 judges and associate judges who awarded 368 medals, 54 Gold, 83 Silver and 231 Bronze, in addition to following major trophies and awards: 

Langton’s Trophy for Wine of Show 

Stella Bella Suckfizzle Chardonnay 2017 

Seguin Moreau Trophy for Red Wine of Show 

Nocturne Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 

 Labelmakers Group Trophy for White Wine of Show 

Stella Bella Suckfizzle Chardonnay 2017 

Vinline Mobile Bottling Trophy for Most Successful Exhibitor 

Stella Bella 

Langton’s Trophy for Wine of Provenance 

Xanadu Stevens Road Chardonnay 2009, 2012, 2017 

Singapore Airlines International Judge’s Trophy 

Xanadu Stevens Road Chardonnay 2017 

SWAT Winery Equipment Specialists Trophy for Best Cabernet Sauvignon 

Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 

Capel Storage & Transport Trophy for Best Chardonnay 

Stella Bella Suckfizzle Chardonnay 2017 

Tonnellerie de Mercurey Trophy for Best Single Vineyard Red 

Nocturne Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 

Portavin Trophy for Best Single Vineyard White 

Xanadu Stevens Road Chardonnay 2017 

Cospak / Saverglass Trophy for Best Cabernet Sauvignon Blend 

Stella Bella Cabernet Merlot 2017 

VA Filtration / Memstar Trophy for Best Sauvignon Blanc 

Deep Woods Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2018 

BFL Trophy for Best Blend of Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon 

Watershed Premium Wines The Farm Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2018 

Nadalie Trophy for Best Oaked White other than Chardonnay 

Higher Plane Fume Blanc 2018 

CHEP Trophy for Best Shiraz 

Juniper Crossing Shiraz 2017 

Chr. Hansen Trophy for Best Rosé 

Coward & Black Lady Margo Rosé 2018 

Laffort Trophy for Best Other Blend or Varietal 

Marq Malbec 2017 

Lifetime Achievement Awards 

Dr Tom Cullity (Posthumously) 

John Brocksopp 

Bob Cartwright 

Clairault | Streicker Viticultural Excellence Award 

Steve Martin, Stella Bella 

Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association Wine Tourism Excellence Award Winner 

Emily Bromell, Howard Park Wines 

MRWA Chair, Barry House presented three Lifetime Achievement Awards, Clairault | Streiker presented the Viticulture Excellence Award and Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association (MRBTA) presented the inaugural Wine Tourism Excellence Award. 

Margaret River Wine Association CEO, Amanda Whiteland said “It is great to see all facets of the wine industry acknowledged at our Gala night and the Wine Tourism Excellence Award was a great new addition to the celebrations last night.” 

Wine Show Chairman Cliff Royle said, “Corrina Wright did a great job sharing her insights and leading the strong group of judges from around Australia, as well as Eddie McDougall, international judge from Hong Kong, and Madeline Stenwreth MW from Sweden. As Corrina’s last year as Chair of Judges, we look forward to welcoming Dave Brooks in 2019.” 

TV personality behind the Discovery Channel and Netflix series, ‘The Flying Winemaker’, Eddie McDougall joined as this year’s International Judge, supported by Singapore Airlines, to provide an important international perspective to Margaret River’s regional wine show. 

Eddie said “There is not a shadow of a doubt that the Margaret River Wine Show is an incredible forum for highlighting some of Australia’s most noble wine interpretations. Witnessing first-hand the region’s capability to produce global benchmarks for Chardonnay and Cabernet blends is a testament I am excited to share amongst the international wine community.” 

Langton’s 2018 Margaret River Wine Show Judges were: 

Corina Wright – Oliver’s Taranga Chair of Judges 

Eddie McDougall – International Judge 

Glenn Barry – Tonic Wines 

Dave Brooks – Wine Marketing Labs 

Melanie Chester – Sutton Grange Estate 

Sandrine Gimon Winemaker – Wine Rage Consulting 

Alex Hudak – Pure Wine Co 

Robert Mann Winemaker – Corymbia 

Kate Morgan Winemaker – Ipso Facto Wines & Byron & Harold Est 

Sarah Pidgeon – Wynns Coonawarra Estate 

Ben Portet Senior Winemaker – Dominique Portet 

Simon Steele Chief Winemaker – Medhurst Wines 

Adam Wadewitz – Shaw + Smith