The Great Southern a premium wine region approx. 100 x 150-kilometre square in Western Australia consists of five sub regions Albany, Denmark, Mount Barker, Porongurup and Frankland River. Situated around 360 km from Perth.
This region, with its ancient rock formations of the Porongurup ranges, scenic coast line at Albany and Denmark. Mount Barker magnificent old growth forest of ancient Karri and Marri trees. Frankland River a star gazer paradise with it dark black skies, illuminated by the stars. Since the mid 1980s this region is producing premium wines that are capturing not only the attention of wine lovers in Australia, but across the globe.
Dominated by fields of grain, sheep, cattle and forest. Vineyards in this premium pristine corner of WA are spread across elevated sites on some of the world’s oldest soils. Climate is Mediterranean thru to Continental. Hot during the day, yet blessed with cooling ocean breezes known as the Albany doctor that past through the vineyards most afternoons allowing the vines to cool in the evenings, grapes grown ripen evenly to produce world class wines that have texture, flavour, elegance and cellaring potential. Riesling, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon production are hallmark of the region. Other varietals of Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer are also eagerly sought out by food lovers on release.
Recently I hosted a wine dinner in Perth with 6 Great Southern wine producers.
Burch Family Wines: Western Australia’s largest family owned 5-star winery where different members of the Burch family are involved in the running of vineyards, marketing and sales of wines from The Great Southern and Margaret River. I have been a fan of there Howard Park wines since the early 1990s when only two wines where in production of only 400 cases. Today the portfolio comprises the Howard Park, Madfish & Marchand and Burch brands.
Jeff and Amy Burch reflect on how they visited the region on holidays in the 1980s to experience the surfing and the beautiful scenery on offer. 30 years later the 2nd generation of the Burch family are now involved in the running of the winery. Wines are appreciated throughout Australia with a healthy export market to Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Dubai and the UK. When visiting the Howard Margaret River cellar door at Wilyabrup, you will notice the Feng Shui designed tasting rooms, that possess no harsh corners, well balance lighting with a sense of spaciousness and calmness. One never leaves the cellar door empty handed when visiting Howard Park. If you have friends or family who are serious about wines do book them in for the bespoke wine session at their wine chapel.
The Howard Park Jeté Chardonnay Pinot Noir NV method tradtionalle bubbly was awarded best Australian Sparkling wine award at 2017 London’s annual Champagne and Sparkling wine awards, testament to the excellent viticulture and quality of fruit grown by the Burchs. Showing how WA’s sparkling wines quality can produce sparkling wines equal to offerings from the eastern Australian states. Although the Asian markets enjoy the Cabernet and Shiraz from this estate, the superb quality of their Riesling and Chardonnay produced are highly sought after by food and wine lovers and collectors.
3 drops Mount Barker name denotes wine, olive oil production and the wetlands that surround this 22-hectare vineyard of owners Joanne & John Bradbury. Their olive groves produce superb oils that grace the best restaurants and is available from good providores. Their wines are made by Rob Diletti at Castle Rock Estate. Hallmark of 3 drops wines, is their drinkability and the bang for the buck they offer. The Riesling with is lime zest and citrus blossom notes balanced acidity is delicious, while the Cabernet blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc punches above its weight is a wine that is flavoursome, full of black berry fruits, chun pei moi (dry Chinese plum) is smooth, possessing fine tannins, a wine that’s drinking well, will reward time in the cellar.
Castelli Estate Great Southern established 2004 purchase some of the best fruit in the region to make their wines. The range comprise the Castelli Estate range and small production Castelli Empirica experimental selection of interesting varietals, that includes a Gewürztraminer with addition of Riesling in the mix, is partially barrel fermented, offering up a wine with texture and flavour. Full of aromas of honey suckle, orange blossom, notes of lychee, a delicious wine to enjoy with seafood. Other wines in the range include Tempranillo, ice Viognier, Pinot Gris.
Castle Rock Estate Porongurup from the Diletti family first made a name with their exceptional Riesling offerings. Producing 4 Rieslings with different flavour profiles, all food friendly. Castle Rock top cuvees will reward extended cellaring for those who enjoy bottled aged Riesling. The Diletti Chardonnay tasted at a recent dinner is another revelation, grapefruit, white stone fruits, oat meal characters, a wine packed with flavour and elegance. Reds from this estate shouldn’t be ignored. Many smaller producers in the region use Castle Rock contract wine making facilities to produce their wines that are far from looking homogenised. They all reflect individual personalities of the many vineyards and owners in the region that Rob makes wine for, a testament to Rob’s wine making talent.
The Lake House Denmark owned by Garry Capelli and Leanne Rogers vineyards are cultivated to biodynamic principles. Offering up three levels in their range. We tasted their barrel fermented Reserve Premium Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, is a wine packed full of white fruits, citrus, herbs of lemon grass and thyme. The Lake House has a cellar door, restaurant and food emporium.
Zarephath Porongurup is a cellar door, café that is reached by driving down a 5.5-kilometre path past a nature reserve. Wines are extremely food friendly. Visit the cellar door and owner Rosie Singer will be more than happy to show her selection of wines. Their 2016 Zarephath Pinot Noir tasted at our dinner was just awarded a gold medal at the 2017 WA Wine Awards 2017 displays lovely note of cherries, raspberries leading on to a savoury palate. Try with charcuterie.
This is only a brief look at some of the exciting wines and producers from the Great Southern Region. It’s testament to the quality of grapes grown from these pristine vineyard sites that the wineries understand that, they are just merely custodians of these lands for future generations.
Author: Alain H Lee, Founder, Maison Alainh Fine Wine Consultancy