Western Australia covers the entire western third of the continent. Yet despite its size, it only produces around 5% of Australia’s wine.
Introducing Western Australia
As a wine region, Western Australia, or WA, dates back to 1829 when the Swan Valley was established. The Swan Valley is one of the world's hottest grape growing areas, and it wasn't until the 60s that planting started in the cool-climate south western regions of Margaret River, The Great Southern and Geographe. These new regions have grown steadily in importance since the 80s, and are now WA's most significant producers.
Climate and geography
Vineyards throughout WA have significant variations in terroir. The predominant soil type is gravelly, gritty sandy loam formed from the underlying granite. Western Australia wineries enjoy a variety of climate and wine styles. The Swan Valley is distinctly hot, with harvest usually starting at the beginning of January. Margaret River’s proximity to the Indian Ocean means it enjoys a temperate Mediterranean climate, with cooling influences from the sea.
The Great Southern is the largest area, 200kms east to west, and 100kms north to south. As such, it has significant differences in terroir and climate. It is WA's coolest region, with a maritime Mediterranean climate similar to Margaret River.
Unique characteristics of Western Australia
Western Australia reds, especially those from Margaret River produced from Cabernet Sauvignon and blends, have been crucial in establishing the prestige Western Australia wineries enjoy today. WA red wines are typically elegant, medium bodied, fine in fruit character and age superbly. Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blends, are also important to the region and continue to benchmark local styles. In Swan Valley, there is a focus on Verdelho, examples of which are typically very generous, rich in fruit flavour and higher in alcohol. There is also a strong fortified wine movement in the region. Margaret River is noted for some of Australia's most famous Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnay from Margaret River is typically powerful yet refined. Great Southern wine styles vary greatly due to its size. Its Riesling is intense and fresh, while Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon show good concentration and savouriness
The future of Western Australia Wine
Despite its extreme remoteness – or perhaps because of it – tourism to WA continues to grow, and the wine industry is part of this; WA's high-quality food and beverage offerings attract around 400,000 dedicated gourmet travellers every year. Interestingly, biodynamic wine from Western Australia, especially from Margaret River, is a small yet increasingly important category of wines. With so much going on in Western Australia, it's easy to see why there is still so much more to come.