“What a proud week for western Australian wines.” That was my first thought as we embarked upon an epic week of wine tasting and regional exploration through the Geographe region, Margaret River, Pemberton and Frankland River.
We had the distinct pleasure of tasting our way through 184 wines, and talking with charismatic and knowledgable winemakers who shed invaluable insight into their vineyards and the differences in growing areas and subregions – precious information that would have taken weeks to dig out of books and articles.
It’s easy as pie to get excited about Margaret River cabernets and chardonnays: the quality is predictably high and the range of producers and styles is impressive.
We began day two with sixteen Margaret River chardonnays. All of them bar none, displayed good fruit concentration and very good length of flavour. The best wines displayed a seamless flavour journey across the palate, and the oak influence (whilst evident) was restrained and served to enhance the fruit, not smother it. From one extreme to the other, this bracket of wines showed an array of styles. My top picks were the 2012 Cullen ‘Kevin John’ (19.1), 2013 Thompson Est (18.6) and the 2011 Fraser Gallop ‘Parterre’ (18.7).
After lunch we moved into cabernet territory. 24 of them. What a thoroughly impressive afternoon. All of the greats were there. The best wines were an exercise in chewy supple tannins, ripe sweet fruit, balance and the majority were medium bodied. My top picks here were: 2011 Xanadu Stevens Road (18.9), 2012 Deep Woods Reserve (18.8) and the 2012 Woodlands ‘Thomas’ (18.9).
We experienced Margaret River as a region rich in living history, and in the midst of vibrantly debating the merits of sub-regionality, laid out by the visionary John Gladstones in his 1999 paper. This is a region in its infancy (the first vines were planted in 1967) and some of its pioneers are still alive today. I will continue to watch Margaret River with bated breath, for its future will be dynamic.
Wines of the week:
2012 Mandoon Estate “Old Vine Grenache”, Swan Valley.“
Ah geez. I do love grenache. Ripe raspberries, balsamic, black pepper and lovely charr-y oak. The palate isspectacular. The flavour development through to the finish is intensely engaging and the aftertaste is veryappealing. For now or cellar. 18.5 pts”
2005 Houghton Cellar Release ‘White Classic’
“OK now we’re talking. There is complexity and life in the aromas of this wine. Suggestions of orange blossom, fresh apricots, star anise, white nectarine, unripe Nashi pears, and elderflower. The palate has a lovely racy acidity and freshness but also a wonderful element of worked complexity as it travels over the palate and develops into a long and textured finish. 18 pts.”
John Kosovic Rare Muscat, Swan Valley
“Cocoa, fennel, star anise, cedar, liquorice, raisin, quince, christmas cake and fig. The length is extraordinary, the flavour consistent and sure, and the intensity unwavering. Yes please. What a treat. 18.7 pts”