Located approximately three hours' drive south of Perth, the region was ‘discovered’ in the early 1970s after various pieces of research from Professor Harold Olmo and Dr John Gladstones identified it as a potentially great grape growing region. The Margaret River area includes the rolling hills of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge, extending 90 kilometres north-south between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin, and is bounded to the west by the Indian Ocean. Highly regarded as a producer of powerful yet elegant Cabernet Sauvignon, the region has also forged a great reputation for its white wines notably Chardonnay and Semillon Sauvignon Blanc blends. However, it is capable of producing all the classic varietal wines. The region is a vibrant and popular wine destination for visitors from around the world.
The Margaret River wine region first saw European settlement as late as the 1830’s and has evolved from pioneer ‘outstation’, forestry, dairy, alternative life stylers who enjoyed the unique coast and its surfing to an area dedicated to the pursuit of great vines and fine wine.
- Margaret River is located in the far south-west corner of Western Australia and is one of the most geographically isolated and pure wine regions in the world.
- The region is currently home to around 155 wineries.
- Viticulture was firmly established by the 1970s and is a very young wine region particularly internationally, only just over 40 years old, and one built upon science
- Margaret River gained early fame for its powerful yet elegant Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
- Other principal grape varieties include Shiraz as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blends.
- The region has a strong maritime climate and a marked Mediterranean climate in terms of rainfall whose seasonal consistency has allowed Margaret River’s international reputation to flourish
- The principal soil type is gravelly sandy loam that has formed directly from the underlying granite and gneissic rock.
- The region is a vibrant and popular wine destination blessed with true rugged natural with its accompanying lifestyle so is very attractive to visitors.
Margaret River 's climate is strongly maritime-influenced, as might be expected in a region surrounded by the ocean on three sides. With a mean annual temperature range of only 7.6°C (45.68°F), it has less than 25% of its annual rain falling between October and April. The low diurnal and seasonal temperature range means an unusually even accumulation of warmth. While spring frosts are very rare and highly localised, the lack of winter dormancy for the vines can cause problems that are unique to this region.
The varied landscape has an abundance of small creeks and gentle valleys, as well as a profusion of native trees, shrubs and flowers. This flora provides a degree of protection from winds blowing in from the ocean. The principal soil type is that of the ridge which runs from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin; it is predominantly gravelly or gritty sandy loam that has formed directly from the underlying granite and gneissic rock. The soils are highly permeable when moist but moisture is quickly shed from sloping sites.
Chardonnay: Chardonnay seems to acquire a unique extra dimension in the Margaret River region. It is more concentrated, more complex, more viscous and tangy, yet does not become overly cloying or heavy. The voluptuous fruit lends itself to the full range of winemaking techniques and the region's winemakers do not shirk from using them.
Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon: In most vintages the region welds the two varieties together in a way which no other area does, with the Semillon acquiring a pleasantly herbal cut grass character which can blend seamlessly with the Sauvignon Blanc. Intensity and elegance are hallmarks of these blends from the Margaret River.
Cabernet Sauvignon: Wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon were the first to win acclaim in Margaret River for their consistently high quality. Virtually every winery produces a Cabernet although Merlot is an increasingly common blend component. The style has evolved over the decades - the common threads are ripe grapes that provide a sweet core to all the wines, which are never leafy or herbal, and often with slightly earthy or gravelly tannins. These latter characteristics are very much a product of the local terroir, which provides complexity, authority and structure.
Shiraz: There was some conjecture within the Australian wine industry about the future of Shiraz in the Margaret River wine region with results of late solidly indicating it has a true home here. Various styles can be present with everything from medium bodied spice and pepper to rich full bodied fruit driven wines available.
Map coordinates: 33°57'S
Altitude: 40 metres (131 feet)
Heat degree days, October - April: 1690 (cut off at 19°C (66.2°F) but otherwise not adjusted
Growing season rainfall, October - April: 200 millimetres (7.9inches)
Mean January temperature: 20.4°C (68.7°F)
Relative humidity, October - April, 3 pm: Average 59%
Harvest: End February - mid April
Roly Egerton-Warburton, Sales Manager, Vasse Felix, Margaret River, Western Australia:
Ancient soils and cooling sea breezes from the Southern and Indian Oceans provide the Margaret River wine region with ideal viticultural conditions to craft wines of exceptional concentration and intensity whilst retaining elegance and finesse.
Planted by Dr Tom Cullity in 1967, Vasse Felix was the first vineyard and winery to be established in the Margaret River region says Roly Egerton-Warburton.
“Situated in the sub-region of Willyabrup, Vasse Felix is one of the most highly visited wine destinations in the country. A unique underground cellar, a spectacular restaurant overlooking the original 1967 plantings and an exquisite art gallery make Vasse Felix one of the great drawcards of the Margaret River region.
"Our wines are handled by Chief Winemaker Virginia Willcock, whose understanding and contagious excitement for the region complement the Vasse Felix belief that wines should be unique, distinctive and expressive of their surroundings. In many ways they are tangible reflections of the ancient soils and unique climate in which the vineyards grow.
"Virginia's 16 Margaret River vintages and vast international winemaking experience, coupled with a determination to craft wines of the highest calibre, set Vasse Felix in very good stead to release varietally distinct and internationally exciting wines for many years to come."