Blackwood Valley is one of Western Australia’s most picturesque wine regions. Since 1976 this region has increasingly taken advantage of its favourable soils and climactic conditions to produce wines of class and distinction. Complementing the wine is the special environment - bush walks are favourite activities for tourists, who also enjoy local restaurants, art and antiques. Lush green pastures, forests of tall trees, gently flowing rivers that wind through the valleys among undulating hills, peaceful rural towns, fertile farmlands, orchards and vineyards make the area one of Western Australia’s most picturesque.
- First vine plantings in 1976, and gazetted as a wine region in 1998.
- The region is currently home to 16 wine producers and over 10 cellar doors.
- Elevation of 100 metres in the west to 340 in the east.
- Dry summers, cold wet winters – winter frosts sometimes extending into the spring.
- Overall, well-drained gravely loam soils.
- Major varietals are Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. A picturesque region with lush pastures, forest of tall trees and meandering rivers.
- Named after the Blackwood River that flows through the region.
- Situated on the same latitude as Margaret River.
The region is situated on the same latitude as Margaret River and shares many of the same basic climatic characteristics. Most notable of these are wet and relatively cool winters and proportionately warm, dry summers. Typically the variation between summer and winter daytime temperatures is little more than 10°C. The points of difference stem from the more Continental climate, with winter frosts sometimes extending into spring (with consequent crop losses) and a slightly higher summer temperature range than that of Margaret River.
The soils are part of the Darling Plateau system, with moderately incised valleys providing gravel and gravelly soils on the divides and yellow soils and red earths on valley slopes. Overall, the result is well-drained, gravelly loam soils perfectly suited to viticulture.
Chardonnay: A considerable part of the production is sold to wineries outside the region. As in the Margaret River region, the style is generous and rich, with ripe melon and peach fruit flavours.
Sauvignon Blanc: The cooler climate suits this popular varietal well. The wines show well the grassy, vegetal flavours that are typical of the variety.
Cabernet Sauvignon: This is the most widely planted red grape and shows blackcurrant and dark chocolate characters. These are supported by long, fine tannins, giving the wines excellent aging potential.
Shiraz: Plantings here are increasing rapidly from a small base and have produced wines with a mix of sweet, round fruit and touches of pepper and spice.
Map Coordinates: 34° 00'S
Altitude: 100-340 metres (326 – 1115 feet)
Heat degree days, October - April: 1578 (cut off at 19ºC (66.2ºF) but otherwise not adjusted)
Growing season rainfall, October - April: 219 millimetres (8.6 inches)
Mean January temperature: 20.7°C (69 °F)
Relative humidity, October - April, 3 pm: Average 45%
Harvest: Late February - early April
Brian Walker, Owner, Scotts Brook, Blackwood Valley, Western Australia
Teachers Brian and Kerry Walker returned to Boyup Brook in 1984 to follow through on a dream to make wine. A suitable site was selected and, in partnership with a local farmer, planting began in 1987.
The Walkers experimented with seven different varieties; while Riesling and Chardonnay developed very elegant flavours, it was reds that got the first serious runs on the board.
“The Scotts Brook 1993 Cabernet Sauvignon was the highest scoring WA Cabernet at the 1995 Perth Royal Show, and the region was starting to get on the map. Scotts Brook is now a prominent producer, with its fruit highly sought after – but sufficient is retained for its own label,” Brian says.
“It soon became obvious that excellent wines could come from the region, and that land was less expensive than in Margaret River – it made good business sense. Many local farmers planted grapes to diversify their enterprizes and some investors also came in. There are now 60-plus growers and about 14 wine producers in the region. However, it is not unusual at tastings with producers from other regions for surprise to be expressed at how little the region is known, and how outstanding the wine is.
“Cabernet Sauvignon is the most awarded variety from the region, with numerous gold medals and a couple of trophies, but many winemakers believe the greatest potential lies with Shiraz, which exhibits Rhone-like characters. Cabernet has the runs on the board because it was planted much earlier than Shiraz.
“Full flavour ripeness doesn’t normally come into reds until around 14 Baumé, although some lovely elegant Shiraz has been produced from 12.5 Baumé fruit. Very dense colour is a feature of Blackwood Valley reds. The best Chardonnay comes in at around 13 Baumé and Sauvignon Blanc between 11.5 and 12.5 Baumé.”