Geographe is a compact region unified by its warm to hot and mostly maritime-influenced climate. More than 1,600 hectares are under vine, some 10% of Western Australia’s vineyards. The Harvey River meanders through the northern boundary on its way to the coast.
Overall, this is an area of considerable beauty with a varied topography that results in an impressive landscape. The rapid expansion of boutique producers in the region is an extra magnet for visitors attracted by breathtaking scenery and beaches on popular tourism routes. Nearby attractions includes the Busselton Jetty, Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse and museum. Geographe Bay is also home to world-class food and wine. The region is best known for its Chardonnay and Shiraz, and is gaining prominence for Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blends.
- Formally established as a region in 1999.
- The region is currently home to more than 40 wineries.
- A compact region unified by its warm to hot and mostly maritime-influenced climate – summers are dry but rainfall is generous during winter and relative humidity is quite high.
- More than 1,600 hectares are under vine, some 10% of Western Australia’s vineyards.
- The coastal tuart sands have limestone as their parent material and overlie limestone.
- The region is most known for its Shiraz, and is gaining prominence for Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blends.
- The region is a magnet for visitors attracted to breathtaking scenery and beaches on popular tourism routes.
In this region, excessively warm temperatures are modified by the prevailing south-west sea breezes coming off the Indian Ocean. Summers are dry but rainfall is generous during winter and relative humidity is quite high.
The coastal tuart sands have limestone as their parent material. A permanent water table at a depth of between three and 15 metres (10 to 49 feet) is a further aid to viticulture. However, low natural fertility means that care has to be taken to achieve the best results. The soils of the traditional farming and orchard land at Donnybrook are richer, being either gravelly sandy loams or heavier soils derived from the gneissic country rock in the valleys.
Shiraz: The Shiraz is the most important grape, usually presented as a varietal wine but also used in blends. The styles vary substantially, from the robust to softer and more elegant styles, but each with a core of cherry and mint fruit.
Cabernet Sauvignon: Whether blended with Merlot or not, Cabernet Sauvignon tends to be finer and more elegant than that of either the Margaret River or the Mount Barker regions, with lingering, soft fine-grained tannins. However, the spread of plantings inland from the coast has resulted in more diverse styles.
Sauvignon Blanc: Sauvignon Blanc is propagated everywhere in the region, producing wines which reflect the varying site climate. The cooler sites produce wines with intense citrus and grass characters, while the warmer sites veer through melon and guava fruits. All are great now drinking wines.
Semillon: It comes as no surprise to find that Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon tie as the second most widely planted varieties in this region, a tribute to the popularity of this crisp white. It produces a tangy wine with grassy herbal overtones; a light touch of oak is an optional extra.
Map Coordinates: 33° 18'S
Altitude: 5-70 metres (16 - 230 feet)
Heat degree days, October –April: 1700 (cut off at 19º C but otherwise not adjusted)
Growing season rainfall, October –April: 185-220 millimetres (7.3-8.6 inches)
Mean January temperature: 22°C (71.6°F)
Relative humidity, October - April, 3 pm: Average 60%
Harvest: Early February - Mid March
Jeff Dewar, Willow Bridge Estate, Geographe, Western Australia:
Willow Bridge vineyard is situated high on the western watershed (280 metres) of the Ferguson River, with spectacular views over the coastal plains. The vineyard is 25 kilometres from the coast as the crow flies, and receives the cooling afternoon sea breeze during summer. Due to its elevation, the warm days are moderate and more forgiving than others in the area.
Jeff Dewar from Willow Bridge Estate says the vines are planted on the top of the ridge line, which helps to avoid the likelihood of spring frosts. Importantly, the region is phylloxera free and this has enabled the vineyard to be planted on its own roots.
“Deep red clay loams with granite gravels form the basis of soil composition. In places, the vineyards actually have granite stones protruding through the surface. To maximize the wine growing potential of this distinct terrain, specific varieties have been selected for planting. These include Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
“The vineyard is a family-owned business operated by my wife Vicki and I. We bought the picturesque 180-hectare hillside property in 1996. From day one, we have shared a vision to produce premium quality varietal wines for both domestic and international markets.
“Willow Bridge Estate is an exciting and significant new addition to the world wine industry. In less than a decade, it has produced an impressive array of outstanding wines, most notably the classic Black Dog Shiraz.”