WESTERN AUSTRALIAN WINES

By Rose Murray Brown MW   Published in The Scotsman 13 August 2016

‘Western Australia is where it is all going to happen in the next 25 years – as it has the greatest capacity to grow whilst still producing premium wines’. 

This is according to leading Australian critic James Halliday, speaking during the launch of his 2015 Wine Companion in Perth recently.  Halliday clearly believes that Australia’s cooler climates, notably Western Australia and Tasmania, offer the brightest future as warmer parts of Australia become ever more challenged with increasing temperatures and drought conditions.

Rose Murray Brown wine tour to Western AustraliaWestern Australia produces just 5% of Australian wine, but quality is more important than quantity here – and it often produces some of Australia’s best wines.  Never cheap – it is hard to find wines under £10 from here – but you pay for what you get. (Pictured right is one of Western Australia's fabulous beaches taken during Rose's Australian wine tour).

Stylistically, the far west is currently considered as the ‘Bordeaux of Australia’ with its ability to produce the best Aussie white Semillon and Sauvignon blends and red Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends, but varieties are now coming on stream showing great promise from Riesling and Pinot Gris to Shiraz and Grenache.

Cullens vineyard Margaret River Western AustraliaThe warmest and most populated area, Swan valley near Perth, was first planted in 1834, but it took a group of doctors to begin the flush of plantings in the now popular Margaret River area three hours drive south of Perth in the 1970’s, where many of the best wines are now to be found (pictured right is Cullen's vineyard in Margaret River).  

David Hohnen at McHenry Hohnen winery in Margaret River Western AustraliaCooler areas to the far south in the Great Southern’s Frankland River, Albany, Denmark and Mount Barker have also had an invasion of new plantings with potential, particularly for Riesling and Pinot Noir.

What I love about Western Australian wines is their vibrancy and depth of ripe fruit.   The whites have a delightful flintiness and natural tight acidity and the reds are always elegant. 

(Pictured above is Western Australia's most famous winemaker David Hohnen, creator of NZ's Cloudy Bay, in his McHenry Hohnen wine cellar in Margaret River).


RIESLING

Blind Spot Frankland Riesling The Wine SocietyFrankland River, W Australia:  BLIND SPOT FRANKLAND RIVER RIESLING 2015   ***STAR VALUE BUY***
(£9.50 The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com)
Our tasters loved this cool sleek very dry Riesling: very limey aromas, vibrant natural acidity, poised, sleek, citric flavours and good length for price; still a little ‘tight’ so would be interesting to see how it tastes with a little time in bottle: 12.5%


SAUVIGNON BLANC & SEMILLON WHITE BLENDS

Margaret River, W Australia: M&S MARGARET RIVER SEMILLON/SAUVIGNON BLANC 2014 Evans & Tate
(£10.50 Marks & Spencer)
Fresh zippy limey unoaked blend with a slight austere greenness and herby edge – showing the typical elegance of Margaret River whites: 12.5%


Margaret River, W Australia: McHENRY HOHNEN SEMILLON/SAUVIGNON BLANC 2013
(£14.25 Oddbins; £14.95 Berry Bros & Rudd www.bbr.com)
David Hohnen creator of New Zealand’s Cloudy Bay returned home to Western Australia setting up with brother in law Murray McHenry.  Tropical fruit meets zippy fresh grassy flavours – just 10% oaked.  A good classic introduction: 12.5%            


Cullens Mangan White Liberty WinesMargaret River, W Australia: CULLENS ‘MANGAN’ SEMILLON/SAUVIGNON BLANC 2014   ***STAR BUY***
(£19.99 Cornelius Wines; Drinkmonger; Woodwinters in Edinburgh; St Andrews Wine Co; Whole Food Market, Giffnock)
Mangan is Cullen’s dry-farmed biodynamically run vineyard; a lemony cinnamon textural blend (59% Semillon, 39% Sauvignon Blanc & 2% Verdelho) with a tiny proportion aged four months in one year French barriques giving it a biscuity nutty finish: 13%


WHITE BLEND

Pemberton, W Australia: LAISSEZ FAIR BLEND 2014 Larry Cherubino
(£19.15 Berry Bros & Rudd www.bbr.com)           
Alsace meets Australia in this wild fermented ‘field blend’ of Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Gris and Riesling in unknown proportions, picked and fermented together.  Exotically perfumed, lychees, musk and honey with a rich peachy textural palate – very unique – would make a superb Thai food match: 13%


CHARDONNAY

Margaret River, W Australia: PRELUDE CHARDONNAY 2012 Leeuwin
(£23-£29 www.secretcellar.co.uk; www.winedirect.co.uk; www.luvians.com; www.domainedirect.co.uk)
Beautifully structured oaked Chardonnay from leading Leeuwin estate, with lovely creamy depth, ripe citric finish, spicy and impressive length: 14.5%


Margaret River, W Australia: FILIUS CHARDONNAY 2014 Vasse Felix  ***STAR BUY***
(£14.39 Majestic Wine)       
Ripe fresh elegant style so typical of Margaret River’s pioneering estate Vasse Felix, who focus on lighter-weight affordable styles: 12.5%


SHIRAZ

Cowaramup, W Australia: MADFISH SHIRAZ 2014
(£10.79 Valvona & Crolla, Edinburgh)
Named after Madfish bay near Denmark.  Very different take on Aussie Shiraz; dark cherries, spicy, peppery – more in the lightweight, fleshy and elegant style compared to Barossa or Hunter heavyweights – good price: 14.5%


CABERNET SAUVIGNON & RED BLENDS

Margaret River, W Australia: AXIS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2014

(£6.49 Lidl)        

Listed by Lidl, but hard to find in store; they list two Axis Cabernets (one from Coonawarra, one from Margaret River); this is medium bodied with blackcurranty almondy notes, quite tannic, reasonable price: 14.5%

 

Margaret River, W Australia: FILIUS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2014 Vasse Felix
(£12.99 Waitrose; £14.39 Majestic Wine)
During our recent trip downunder, Vasse Felix scored highly with tasters for elegance and affordability.  This delicious minty smoky blend of Cabernet and Merlot has a soft smooth easy-going; a great introduction to Margaret River Cabernet  14%


Amy's blend Moss Wood review by Rose Murray Brown MWMargaret River, W Australia: AMY’S BLEND 2014 Moss Wood   ***STAR BUY***
(£14.99 Waitrose, Ocado, Secret Cellar)
Another pioneer Moss Wood are best known for superb (and pricey) Cabernets, so this blend of four grapes (Cabernet, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot) looks a real steal.  Pure eucalyptus, mint & blackberries with spicy vanilla undertones.  Exceptional for price: 14%


Join Rose’s Western Australia Masterclass in Edinburgh on 2 November £42 www.rosemurraybrown.com

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