Wineries in Western Australia
Western Australian wine refers to wine produced in Australia’s largest state, Western Australia. Although the state extends across the western third of the continent, its wine regions are almost entirely situated in the cooler climate of its south-western tip. Western Australia produces less than 5% of the country’s wine output, but in quality terms it is very much near the top – winning 30 percent of the countries’ medals.
The Swan Valley established in 1829 by Thomas Waters is the historical centre for wine production in Western Australia. However, the state’s cooler climate south-western wine regions such as Margaret River, and The Great Southern are considered to be more significant due to the Swan Valley being noted as one of the hottest viticultural regions in the world. Partly because of this, and as a reaction to the emergence of the Margaret River and Great Southern regions spanning the far south western corner of the state a large number of producers have deserted the area with the numbers of vineyards shrinking.
In the year 1970, 90 percent of the state’s wine was made from grapes grown in the Swan Valley; by 1980 the figure was 59 percent; by 1996 it was 15 percent and still falling. In the late 1960s, winemaking grew in the southern regions of Western Australia with the influence of Antarctic currents and onshore westerlies offering a more temperate climate for grape production. Despite having only around 7 percent of Australia’s vineyards and a mere 3 percent of grapes crushed, the winemaking regions of the South-West of the state attract a large amount of media attention.
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Here are some of the top 3 Must Visit Wineries in Western Australia
1. Cloudburst Winery
The biodynamic approach considers the whole farm as an integrated, living system, with its foundation in the soil. A healthy soil retains moisture, is nutrient rich and alive with beneficial organisms supporting the vitality of the plants. We use homeopathic preparations, fish and seaweed emulsions, biodynamic composts, rock dusts, mulches and cover crops. Each vine is the purest expression of its particular variety. Because our grapes are grown on their own roots, developed from cuttings of the finest specimens available in our region, they have varietal purity and natural vigor.
The Margaret River region, in the southwest corner of Australia, is a biodiversity paradise. Our farm is located on rich bushland connecting to the Leeuwin-Naturalist National Park, which extends down to the edge of the Indian Ocean. We work within the sound of the sea whose influence on the grapes is tangible. Cooling maritime breezes mitigate warm daytime temperatures, allowing our grapes to ripen slowly and to gather flavor. Animals of all kinds live in or visit the vines. Our practices consciously integrate the wild into what we cultivate. Everything we do is interrelated with the cycles of nature.
Utilizing wild ferments and intervening as little as possible, we let the grapes fully express themselves.
We prune and trellis by hand and do not employ machinery. Our vines are on vertical shoot-positioned trellises and are closely planted in short rows. The vigor of an entire plant concentrated in a tiny space allows for a finite low volume of intensely flavored fruit. We believe this close-planted arrangement best brings out the inherent flavor of the land. We pick by hand to prevent damage to the fruit, and transport small quantities at a time to the winery to insure freshness and viability.
Our practices of careful observation, working with nature and offering only minimal interference with natural processes, begins in the vineyard and continues in the winery.
Discover more about one of Cloudburst’s best wines: 2018 Cloudburst Chardonnay
2. Cullen Winery
It is the aim of Cullen Wines to minimise the impact of our activities on the global environment. To compensate for our emissions created from vehicles, tractors, forklifts, LPG use and air travel, Cullen Wines engages the Carbon Neutral Men of Trees programme to measure, reduce and offset our climate change impacts.
In early 1965 Kevin and Diana started considering other uses for their land and they came up with the idea of lupins. They decided to get in touch with Dr John Gladstones whom they had known for some time, who was at the time senior lecturer at the University of Western Australia and had studied lupins in his post graduate research.
More recently however, Dr Gladstones had put considerable work and research into his 1965 paper titled ‘The climate and soils of southwestern Australia in relation to vine growing’, which was closely followed by his 1966 paper titled ‘Soil and climate of the Margaret River – Busselton area; their suitability for wine grape production’, where he identified the Margaret River region as having similar characteristics to the best wine regions in the world.
At the invitation of Kevin and Diana, Dr Gladstones visited their property in Wilyabrup in the spring of 1965, when his first paper was not yet printed. According to Diana, Dr Gladstones upon seeing their land said “Oh, you’re mad growing cattle and sheep, why don’t you grow grapes?” Diana and Kevin had thought about this idea since 1956, but this was the push they needed to go ahead and were quick to spring into action. In July of 1966 Kevin rallied support for a local meeting of interested parties in Busselton, inviting Bill Jamieson from the Agricultural Department to attend and Dr John Gladstones to speak. With Kevin’s encouragement and enthusiasm, this initial meeting garnered a good deal of support, with over 100 people in attendance.
Despite Kevin’s strong work commitment to the Busselton Community, he and Diana were keen to undertake a test planting with the vine cuttings they had requested from the Swan River Research Station. In 1966, they initiated and coordinated the planting of the first vines in collaboration with friends and colleagues. Unfortunately however, whilst Kevin and Di were away, due to a misunderstanding, these fledgling vines were sprayed with a poison and subsequently pulled out of the ground without their knowledge.
Discover more about one of Cullen’s best wines: 2017 Cullen
3. Leeuwin Estate
Leeuwin Estate was established in 1973 by Denis and Tricia Horgan. The land was previously used as a cattle station and after having been purchased as part of a deal to buy a plumbing business by Denis Horgan in 1969, the land was converted to vineyards based on the advice of the Western Australian Department of Agriculture. Robert Mondavi provided significant advice during the planning and setup stages of the estate after contacting the Horgans in 1972 to promote the potential that Margaret River had as a wine region and to look for investment opportunities. Initial plantings consisted of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Pinot noir.
Family owned, Leeuwin Estate, one of the five founding wineries of the now famous Margaret River district of Western Australia, is under the direction of two generations who work with a team of highly skilled winemakers to consistently produce wines ranking alongside the world’s finest. In 1972, legendary Napa Valley winemaker, Robert Mondavi, identified the future site of the Leeuwin vineyard as being ideal for the production of premium wine and provided early mentorship to Denis and Tricia Horgan in the transformation of their cattle farm into Leeuwin Estate. Enjoying its first commercial vintage in 1979, Leeuwin was thrust into the international spotlight when Decanter Magazine gave its highest recommendation to the 1981 “Art Series” Chardonnay. The international accolades have continued and Leeuwin now exports to 30 markets. Celebrating the combination of fine wine, food, art and music, Leeuwin features an award winning restaurant, cellardoor and art gallery. The Estate is renowned for staging spectacular events and welcoming visitors from around the world.
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