Viticulture has been practised intermittently in the picturesque Perth Hills for more than a century. The first vineyard was planted in Darlington in the 1880s, followed by a second in Glen Forrest in 1896. The earliest of the present day wineries in the region date back to the mid 1970s. The Perth Hills came of age in April 1999, when given official status as a gazetted wine growing region, though by this stage it had already gained a reputation in Western Australia as a producer of fine quality wines. Today it boasts a number of very successful wine producers who have won awards and trophies at Australian and international wine shows.
The region is approximately 30 minutes drive east of Perth.
The region is currently home to around 20 wineries.
Present day viticulture commenced in the 1970s.
The region extends along the Darling Scarp from Chittering in the north to Serpentine in the south.
The climate varies significantly with altitudes of 150-400 metres (492-1312 feet).
Soil ranges from ironstone and gravel sandy loams as well as gravelly loams which overlay clay.
Standout wines include Viognier, Shiraz and Chardonnay.
Annual rainfall is strongly winter-spring dominant.
Boutique wineries dominate the region.
As expected, the climate varies significantly with altitude. The tempering influences which delay ripening for 10 to 21 days (compared to the Swan Valley) are the altitude (generally between 150 and 400 metres), the free air flow and exposure to afternoon sea breezes.
The annual rainfall of 900 to 1200 millimetres (35 to 47 inches), is strongly winter-spring dominant and, given adequate irrigation sites, the climate poses no problems for the vigneron. Rivulets and often dry creek beds, ridges, hills and valleys criss-cross the region in every direction, offering an almost unlimited choice of aspect and slope, but those cut off from the sea breeze influence tend to be warmer rather than cooler.
The valley slopes have ironstone and gravel sandy loams as well as gravelly loams which overlay clay, similar in type to much of south-west Australia, and were once covered with forests. They are well suited to viticulture, being of moderate fertility and producing moderate yields.
Chardonnay: Chardonnay does not disappoint and the best white wines from the Perth Hills region have been made from this variety. The style of these wines is generous, bursting with ripe melon and peach characters.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot: These are frequently blended, sometimes released as straight varietal wines, and produced by the majority of the wineries in the region. The wines are reliable and pleasant; full flavoured, with chocolate, earthy and berry flavours.
Shiraz: The winemakers of the Perth Hills share with their colleagues in many other Australian wine regions an enthusiasm for Shiraz which here, as in other warmer regions, is generously fruit driven.
Map Coordinates: 31° 59'S
Altitude: 150-400 metres (492-1312 feet)
Heat degree days, October - April: 1770 (cut off at 19ºC (66.2ºF) but otherwise not adjusted)
Growing season rainfall, October - April: 220-250 millimetres (8.6-9.4 inches)
Mean January temperature: 23.3°C (74°F)
Relative humidity, October - April, 9 am: Average 61%
Harvest: Late February - April
Ryan Sudano, Senior Winemaker, Western Range Wines, Perth Hills, Western Australia:
Western Range Wines was established in 2000 by a small group of local grape growers with a common vision to create wines that would put Chittering Valley and the Perth Hills region on the map.
Situated up to 300 metres above sea level, the climate and soils of the Chittering Valley are quite different to those of nearby viticulture regions. The soils are predominately sandy brown and red loam over clay, with some granite outcrops. The climate is typically Mediterranean with cold, wet winters and hot, dry summers. These conditions are ideal for grape-growing; winter frosts ensure good fruit set and hot summer days and cool summer nights guarantee grape ripening.
With quality as the primary focus, the growers and Western Range Wines' senior winemaker, Ryan Sudano, work closely together to produce fruit according to clearly set out standards. Coupled with a state-of-the-art winery and innovative winemaking practices, Western Range Wines has been able to consistently deliver on its philosophy of “over-delivering on quality for price".
“Our over-delivering philosophy begins in the vineyard, through the close relationships we have developed with our growers and the use of differing viticultural and harvesting techniques for specific blocks of land," Ryan says.
"This is continued in the winery, where we always aim to produce wines of extra depth and elegance through innovative wine making techniques, designed to maximise the impact of the primary fruit flavours.”
Western Range Wines are now being exported to many countries around the world.