Updated: Aug 2, 2020
I have been to Australia three times and covered a lot of territory, but Western Australia (WA) gets repeat visits because it is one of the most idyllic destinations I have ever traveled to. I would liken it to the casualness of the wine region outside Santa Barbara, with a touch of coastal Portugal, and exotic wildlife with names you couldn’t dream up (kangaroo, emu and kookaburra, for example). I really would consider living there, except it is so far from anywhere else, and not just relative to the rest of the world, but also relative to other parts of Australia!
The first visit to WA encompassed Perth and its surroundings, including the Swan Valley wine region about 20 minutes to the north. The Swan Valley is known as the oldest wine region in WA and is characterized by crisp white wines, still and sparkling, and full-bodied reds. On a recent trip we ventured south to Margaret River, which is characterized by a Bordeaux-like climate and similar grape varieties.
What interests me most among the wines produced in Margaret River are the whites, particularly Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and a blend that doesn’t get much attention in the US, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.
Most vineyards will have their rendition of an SSB or SBS – the difference being the balance between Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, with SSB being more Semillon and SBS being more Sauvignon Blanc. Many of the vintners will also do their “house style” of Chardonnay, which is the fastest growing varietal in the region.
While researching vineyards in WA, I came across another Australian peculiarity (although I suppose peculiar ceases to be peculiar when everything about your culture is wildly different), and that is the “cellar door”. Many reviews of the wineries remarked on the quality of the cellar door, which I thought an odd motivation to visit a winery because of its unique “cellar door”. Turns out that is synonymous for “tasting room” and Australia is the only place I have encountered that terminology.
Wine is meant to pair with food, and a highlight of a visit to the region is to explore the gastronomy via a tour of the dining establishments of the town of Margaret River. A unique in-town walking tour that highlights the local produce of the area is expertly delivered by Walk Talk Taste Margaret River (https://www.walktalktaste.com).
Everything that Margaret River contributes in culinary and viticulture terms is on display on this full-day walking tour presented by Kellie Tannock and encompassing tasting rooms and tables, coffee houses, ice cream parlors, and barbeque joints. The experience culminates with a visit to a legendary establishment - “The Tav” (Settlers Tavern) – which serves as watering hole, concert venue and barbeque pit. We were lucky to receive first rate hospitality from proprietor, Rob Goff.
It is a long WAy out West to get to WA and well worth it in food and wine dividends.
I am not being compensated by my mention of any of the featured wineries, Walk Talk Taste or Settlers Tavern. I am simply a happy client.