Western Australia is HUGE, comprising almost one third of the entire landmass of the country, with a total land area of 2,527,013 square kilometres (975,685 square miles).
It only has around 2.67 million inhabitants, just over 10% of the current Australian population so it’s by far the least densely populated state in Australia. Most of the population live in the south-west corner, in which the capital Perth is located. The reason for this is climatic. Most of the state is arid or semi-arid, an ecosystem not know for abundant vegetation with which to support lush wildlife or agriculture.
In 2019 – 2020 Australia as a whole produced just under 1.1 billion litres of wine from crushing 1.52 million tonnes of grapes. Since the average case of wine is 12 bottles, and the average bottle is 750ml, the average case contains 9 litres. Do the math and that means that Australia produced the equivalent of 121 million cases of wine in that year.
Because of the lay of the land, Western Australia only accounts for less than 5% of the total output of Australian wine. But what it lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality. Western Australian wine frequently wins a disproportionate number of wine industry awards and medals. This quality is recognized internationally as Western Australia accounts for 14% of all Australian wine exports with almost half going to Europe.
1) Central Western Australia – an area of about 600 square kilometres centred around Kalgoorlie which includes only a small number of boutique, family owned vineyards producing a very limited amount of wine. The soils are gravelly, the climate warm. Most of the country is wheatbelt, but the semi-arid climate, hot dry summers and low rainfall still manage to provide excellent conditions for shiraz and cabernet sauvignon grapes resulting in full-bodied reds of exceptional quality. Many people feel that the six-hour road trip from Perth is worth the effort.
2) South West Australia – this large area includes towns as far flung as Albany, Denmark and Pemberton and regions like Mount Barker and Blackwood valley, but most notably Margaret River and the Great Southern. The Great Southern centres roughly around Mount Barker encompassing a region of about 200 km east to west and 100 km north to south (about 20 000 square kilometres) with about 23 square kilometres of planted vineyards. A Mediterranean climate of moist, cool winters with soils ranging from lateritic gravelly to sandy loams to weathered granite allow all manner of grape varieties from Bordeaux-style reds around Mount Barker to Rieslings and Traminers around Porongurup. Margaret River’s temperate climate favours Merlot, Semillon and Chenin Blanc grown in over 150 wineries in the region.
3) The region around Perth, Swan Valley, produced 90% of the state’s wine in 1970. Fifty years later that number is less than 10%. Swan Valley remains Australia’s hottest wine growing region and favours varieties such as Verdelho.
In 1972 Napa Valley winemaker Robert Moldavi mentored cattle farmers Denis and Tricia Horgan and transformed their property into a vineyard, producing the first commercial vintage in 1979. Decanter Magazine turned Leeuwin’s Art Series Chardonnay into a star after a rave review in 1981.
Leeuwin Estate Art Series is described as “White, Buttery and Complex”.
David and Heather Watson were true Margaret River pioneers, establishing one of the first five vineyards in the region in 1973. Their aim was “to create wines to emulate the great vineyards of Bordeaux” – an aim that, judging from the critical acclaim of their Cab Sav and Cabernet blends, they largely succeeded in achieving. Their logo is very nice too.
Woodlands Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon is described as “Red, Bold and Structured.”
The winery was stablished in 1836 when Thomas Yule, Ninian Lowis and Richmond Houghton – three British Army officer friends – decided to make a go of what was then frontier country. The first commercial vintage wasn’t produced until 1859. It was only 25 gallons, but it was the start of something big. During its long history Houghton has only had 14 winemakers, a principle reason for its consistency of style and quality.
Houghton is as close to Western Australian wine royalty as you can get and it’s logo screams “WA” in the very nicest way.
Houghton “Jack Mann” Cabernet Sauvignon is described as “Red, Rich and Intense”.