Western Australia's Up-and-Coming Wine Region

The stunning Margaret River wine region


The state of Western Australia has just 2.3 million inhabitants, or less than 10% of population of Australia. Needless to say, the whole region is pretty empty, dominated by the endless Outback. Yet Western Australia is home to one of the best up-and-coming wine regions in the world, the fertile Margaret River. 

About three hours’ drive south of the state’s capital, Perth, the Margaret River area produces about 3 percent of Australia's wines, but is responsible for about 20 percent of Australia's ‘premium market’ wines. From its humble beginnings in the late 1960s, over 100 boutique wineries are now nestled here. 

Despite the towering native eucalyptus forests and kangaroo crossing signs, the Margaret River region looks and feels a lot like Northern California. Its temperate Mediterranean climate produces a wide breadth of many varietals of whites and reds – with Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay being the standouts. Explore the region’s rugged coastline, huge caves and historic lighthouses while visiting intimate boutique wineries and overnighting at top-notch lodges. This uncrowded, mellow southwest corner of Australia is worth the trek, and the wines will not disappoint. 

Photo courtesy Steel Wool via Flickr/CC

Get Your Bearings on the Margaret River

 

Your first stop in the area should be the town of Margaret River. More down-home and friendly than the moneyed wine towns found in Napa or Burgundy, the village of Margaret River exudes the sunny optimism and wide smiles the Aussies are known for. 
 
First check out the award-winning Wine Tourism Showroom. Here, you can get your bearings on the entire region and her wines. Featuring sensory displays and fascinating wine making equipment, the showroom is recognized as being amongst the best of its kind with extensive displays and information on the local wine industry, and it also hosts regular wine tastings.
 
Afterwards, head west towards Caves Road, the main wine route through the region. Cruise under a canopy of eucalyptus forests while keeping your eyes out for signs for local wine tastings at open “cellar doors.”
 
100 Bussell Highway, Margaret River, Western Australia, 6285
Tel: +61 08 9780 5911  Fax: +61 08 9757 3287

Book a Room at Cape Lodge

Set on 40 acres with its own vineyards of Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz, the Cape Lodge is one of the best places to stay in the Margaret River, and even in all of Western Australia. It’s the only property in the state listed in the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels of the World portfolio. 

The 22-room, five-star property includes a gourmet lakeside restaurant with both alfresco deck dining and inside tables next to a roaring fire. The restaurant serves tasty dishes like the local freshwater lobster called marron, as well as a French-inspired prix fixe menu of game and beef. Executive Chef Tony Howell places emphasis on using only the freshest local produce, and he changes the menu daily.
 
3341 Caves Road, Yallingup, Western Australia, 6282
Tel: +61 8 9755 6311

Vasse Felix Winery - Where it All Began

The Margaret River can thank its wine legacy to a cardiologist from Perth. It was 1967 when Dr. Tom Cullity, after a year searching and scouring endless sites, finally found what he believed to be his ideal land of “red gravel in redgum country, with clay about 18 inches below the surface.” 

 
The plot was $75 an acre and with the acquisition of eight acres, he began the first vineyard in the region, called Vasse Felix. Now Vasse Felix is one of Margaret River’s most acclaimed wineries and one of its most welcoming and sophisticated estates. You’ll know the minute you park and view the striking modern art sculptures installed around the property. The original underground cellar is open to the public, with an archive of Vasse Felix and Margaret River wine history. Taste the winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon (and Cabernet blends), Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blends in its elegant windowed tasting room, or stay for lunch in its fine dining restaurant. 
 
Corner of Tom Cullity Drive & Caves Road, Cowaramup, Western Australia, 6284
Tel:  +61 8 9756 5000  Fax: +61 8 9755 5425

Paddle the River

One excellent way to enjoy the great Australian outdoors is by canoe. Bushtucker Tours run a full-day cave and canoe tour beginning at the mouth of the Margaret River, near where it empties out into the Indian Ocean. With a local guide, you paddle in 2-to-5 person canoes into the deep “bush,” where you learn about Aboriginal medicine plants and wild food products, and have a chance to get up close and personal with wildflowers, native forest and wildlife (don’t worry – no crocs in these parts!). You also get to explore the many caves the area is known for. Bushtucker Tours has been owned by the same local family for over two decades. 

20 Auger Way (West), Margaret River, Western Australia, 6284
Tel: +61 8 9757 9084

Watch the Waves at Surfers Point

Home to the Margaret River Pro surf tournament, Surfers Point is an internationally renowned surf spot. It’s the main surf break along the area’s southwestern coastline and it nearly always has great waves – often up to twelve feet or more. Some pro surfers opt for a Hawaiian style tow-in by jet ski to get the biggest breaking waves. The parking lot here is nearly always full with surfers and onlookers gasping at the riders getting perfectly “tubed” before the waves crash on to a shallow reef. The waters are electric blue and green, and kept a toasty warm thanks to the current coming southward from the Tropics. Unless you’re a title-holder, you may want to safely stay on dry ground at Surfers Point. 

Located near the town of Prevelly, near the mouth of the Margaret River, off Caves Road
 
Photo courtesy chriggy1 via Flickr/CC

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Comments

  • Snooth User: Caroline Henry
    Hand of Snooth
    332026 8,251

    Hi Matthew,
    great article but after reading the title on Twitter (WESTERN AUSTRALIA'S UP-AND-COMING WINE REGION) I was thinking of some obscure new trendy region rather than Margaret River - which is in my opinion pretty established both in WA and as one of Australia's premium wine regions:-) Together w the Barossa and the Hunter Valley I would even say that it is one of Australia's best known wine regions:-)

    May 07, 2012 at 2:01 PM


  • Snooth User: Bill427
    1017605 2

    Any news about Amadio wines becoming available in America ?

    May 07, 2012 at 4:48 PM


  • Snooth User: hugh27
    Hand of Snooth
    253137 65

    Arlewood Estates is one of the most scored and premium wines from the region at great price points- worth a try- one of the first of the WA greats
    Hugh

    May 07, 2012 at 5:29 PM


  • Snooth User: jennym
    183722 9

    Having our daughter living in Perth has meant five trips Down Under...and several to the Margaret River region. Have done a Bushtucker canoe trip (but took a pass on the witchetty grubs!), visited Cape Leeuwin...and walked for miles through the Kerri forest when our car died! Great memories...and truly great wines!

    May 07, 2012 at 5:43 PM


  • Snooth User: Bobby Boy
    219559 22

    My wife and I spent a very enjoyable 7 days there including Christmas Day last year.
    Wine highlights are the superlative Cabernet Sauvignon and blends (Moss Wood, Woodlands, Vasse Felix, Houghton Gladstones, Cape Mentelle, Gralyn, Lenton Brae etc.). Shiraz does not show as well here in my opinion. Some very good examples of Tempranillo - too hot for consistently good Pinot - maybe at Pemberton. With whites, Chardonnay is excellent (Leeuwin Estate, Vasse Felix, Pierro, Cullen etc) also Semillon Sauvignon Blanc blends do very well, some see oak, others do not. Also some great winery Restaurants NB. Leeuwin Estate, Voyager etc)

    May 07, 2012 at 9:17 PM


  • Interesting introduction to what is, to my mind, a very well-established wine region. Only thing is that I find it hard to consider WA to be termed a cool-climate area. Sure the maritime proximity cools it but this seems generally one of the warmer areas of viticulture around the world. William B.

    May 08, 2012 at 10:10 AM


  • Snooth User: Gunny
    71994 1

    I have had the distinct pleasure of tasting Devil's Lair Reds. Big, superb wines. Give them a try.

    May 08, 2012 at 3:58 PM


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