The Vintage Journal - Margaret River Guide 2022

ANDREW CAILLARD MW

VINTAGE JOURNAL – REGIONAL FOCUS –

MARGARET RIVER

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Discover Margaret River Margaret River Wine Region is known for its world-class Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, unspoiled beaches, towering karri forests, ancient caves and friendly locals. Listen to our Wine Unearthed Podcast on Apple Podcast or Spotify to discover why Lonely Planet named this special place, a three hour drive south of Perth, Western Australia as Asia Pacific 2019 top vacation destination.

www.margaretriver.wine

CONTENTS

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Beginnings

1 3 3 5 6 8

Houghton Clone Gingin Clone Transmission The Way It Was

Ignition Take Off

10 11 13 13 15 20 21 22 22 24 25

Collectability New Standards Sustainability Accountability Authenticity People Power

Scale

Chardonnay

Cabernet Sauvignon / Blends

Shiraz

Tasting Notes

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MARGARET RIVER

Beginnings According to First Nations people, the Margaret River area, the Land of the Saltwater People (Wadandi Boodja), is one of the oldest places of human occupation on the Australian continent. Evidence suggests that people from the Noongar Nation were living at Devil’s Lair cave as far back as 48,000 years ago. The story of European settlement only begins in the early 19th century, and Margaret River first appeared as a place name in 1839, some 10 years after the foundation of the Swan River Colony, the nascent beginning of Western Australia. Cuttings from vines originally given to the Sydney Botanical Gardens by Gregory Blaxland and James and William Macarthur accompanied the first settlers in 1829 and were planted in a makeshift botanical garden. Over the following years, a small cottage wine industry emerged around the Perth township, which gained city status in 1859. The Swan River became an important wine-growing region after the 1860s with the influx of new settlers and wealth. The establishment of Houghton’s (1859), on the banks of the Swan River, began a more serious wine industry, which took advantage of new technologies and ambitions associated with the emergence of the British Empire and the development of the Western Australian economy. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the State’s wine industry centred on the Swan River wine region. Although the modern Margaret River wine industry was only established in 1967 with the planting of the Vasse Felix vineyard by Dr Tom Cullity, the story of Margaret River wine predates this important landmark year. The success of the region is based on colonial vinestock material that can be traced back to the early 19th century. While it is true that some of this material arrived from the Cape Colony (South Africa), notably chenin blanc, vignerons, including Charles Ferguson of Houghton’s, looked at other sources to buy grapevines. During the 1860s, economic botany to sustain communities and create wealth was a major preoccupation for colonial administrations. By this

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time, the science of viticulture was in full swing, with some important books published, notably Jules Guyot’s Culture de la Vigne et Vinification , which was translated into English and published in Melbourne in 1861. Previously, Letters on the Culture of the Vine, Fermentation, and the Management of the Wine in the Cellar (1844) by Maro (the pen name of William Macarthur) was extensively published through the colonial press. Dr AC Kelly’s 1861 The Vine in Australia: Its Culture and Management was considered by many vignerons as a seminal work on growing and making wine in Australia. During the 1860s, Cape Colony wine was regarded by observers, including Kelly, as being inferior, and most vignerons with ambitions to make quality wine looked for better available vinestocks.

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Houghton Clone Among those was Dr John Ferguson of Houghton Vineyard, who reportedly sourced his vinestock from Leschenault and South Australia. In addition to his Swan River vineyard near Perth, his property on the banks of the Preston River, near present day Bunbury, comprised 14 acres and a large fruit garden. The Houghton clone of cabernet sauvignon, which has played a significant impact on the character and identity of Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon; however, it is generally thought to be of South African origin. Although difficult to fully disprove, I think the provenance is quite different. There is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest the first cabernet sauvignon cuttings and Houghton material came to Western Australia from the east coast. There is also further mystery surrounding the original source of cuttings. Although it is certain they derived from 1950s plantings at Houghton Vineyard, Jack Mann said that this vineyard was planted with cuttings from the 1930s Frenchman’s Block vineyard. No one knows its whereabouts, or who the Frenchman was. Although the provenance is challenged, the Houghton clone of cabernet sauvignon has played a massive part in the development of the Margaret River. Every important estate in this wine region possesses this material, much of it sourced and shared between vignerons. Although Western Australia has larger plantings of SA12 6 , and smaller plantings of newer French clones, the Houghton clone stands out as something quite special. I believe that it could derive from vinestock material originally planted by William Macarthur at Camden, via South Australia and Leschenault, or directly. Much like the Reynell Selection of South Australia, the Houghton clone is of low vigour and produces low-yielding fruit with very small berries. This translates to wines of beautiful aromatic complexity, very good density, fine-grained tannins, and tension. Gingin Clone Margaret River’s Gingin clone chardonnay is also steeped in 19th century origins and can be traced back to plantings in Meursault, via California. The Vintage Journal ’s Leeuwin Estate eJournal explores this story in more

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detail. Most winemakers in the region credit Trish and Denis Horgan for sharing their success with the Gingin clone by distributing cuttings to vignerons in the region. It is this type of generosity during the pioneering years, collaboration, and support of newcomers which underpins the regional provenance of Margaret River Chardonnay. The wines, in general, possess a shared expression that has truly shaped Margaret River’s identity. The grapefruit aromatics, wonderful fullness on the palate, al dente textures, and indelible fresh acidities are often easily noticeable in blind tastings; this soaring personality and precision are hallmarks of the regional style. Combined, both of these heritage clones can be traced back to 19th century New World aspirations and contribute significantly to Margaret River’s success as one of Australia’s key ultra- fine wine regions.

Gingin Chardonnay

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Transmission The transmission of vine stock during the 19th century forms a pillar of Australia’s fine wine story. Although South Australia’s rich heritage is well known through its ancient surviving plantings, vine cuttings were frequently shipped around the Australian continent throughout the 1800s, before phylloxera arrived on Australia’s east coast, around 1875. Western Australia also initiated strong quarantine regulations and, through luck and good management, has never been exposed to phylloxera. Although it does not have South Australia’s glorious living heritage of ancient vinestock, there are still descendent vineyards which are related to importations of material from South Africa (chenin blanc) and Australia’s east coast. Although Margaret River’s wine industry did not get going until 1967, it should be remembered that vineyards were planted in Western Australia’s South West more than 100 years before. When we talk about modern pioneers, their achievements are built on the work of generations before them. Comparatively, however, wine growing has a short history compared to the existence of the region’s first inhabitants and the traditional owners of the land. The Bussells planted grape vines in the 1830s. Sam Moleri grew grapes, made wine and sold it door-to- door in Margaret River in the 1930s – he lived about five kilometres north of Vasse Felix. Ephraim Clarke, Kevin Cullen’s maternal grandfather, grew grapes and had a commercial winery near Bunbury earlier in the century. The Duces had a vineyard and winery near Boyanup, planted after the First World War, and sold wine in wine shops in Manjimup and Bunbury. I have tasted a beautiful Hermitage, by courtesy of Bill Jamieson, that was made at Houghton’s by Jack Mann in the fifties, from Duce’s Boyanup grapes. Indeed the obvious quality of this wine was a practical support to me in deciding that the effort to make quality wines in the cooler regions of the South West was worthwhile. Tom Cullity, vigneron, Vasse Felix, 1987.

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The Way It Was Ray Jordan and Peter Forrestal’s book The Way It Was is a well-researched narrative of Margaret River’s modern pioneers and winemaking history. I have referenced the authors’ observations in the forthcoming history of Australian wine, The Australian Ark . Vigneron Dr Thomas Cullity, who established the region’s first ‘commercial-scale’ winery Vasse Felix, was modest in assessing his contribution to the early beginnings of Margaret River. Already, by 1965, he had imagined making wine in the South West of Western Australia. And in 1966 he planted a small patch of vines at his brother-in-law’s property, Tynedale, three miles east of Roelands, near Bunbury. But after reading a report by Dr John Gladstones in the same year, and with the encouragement of Bill Jamieson and Jack Mann, he looked for suitable land further south, in Margaret River. In his search for an ideal site, he was greatly assisted by Dr Kevin and Di Cullen, who already owned a cattle property at Wilyabrup and had ambitions to plant a vineyard. They introduced him to their circle of friends and contacts who ‘could tolerate an eccentric idea’. This was largely because they all believed in the potential of Margaret River wine as well. In his memoir, written in 1987, Tom Cullity acknowledged that Bill Minchin had planted a small plot (half an acre) of grapevines at Vasse in 1966 (and made wine in 1970). He also recounted that he and his friend Della Livorno had helped Geoff Juniper to plant a small 1/2-acre vineyard at Wilyabrup. According to Dr John Gladstones, Dr Kevin Cullen had provided ‘intellectual input’ in the early development of viticulture and winemaking in the region, including this project. Dr Bill Pannell, who planted his Moss Wood vineyard in 1969 and produced wine in 1973, was also an important early pioneer and enjoyed prime-time success for his Cabernet Sauvignon, especially during the late 1970s. Although Tom Cullity is recognised for planting Margaret River’s first commercial vineyard in 1967, it is the collective effort that ultimately made the difference. This is an important point to make, because there are quite a lot of people who made significant contributions to the region’s early beginnings, some well known and others barely remembered. Ultimately, the success and reputation of the region have been shaped

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by imagination, collaboration, and visions small and great. The story of Margaret River is much bigger than the detail of who did what, and when. The roll call of family names include the Baxter, Burch, Cullity, Cullen, Devitt, Gherardi, Gregg, Hohnen, Holmes à Court, Horgan, McHenry, Pannell, Peterkin, Tate, Tomlinson, Watson, and Wright families. There are others, of course, including individuals who have made a significant difference to the outlook of Margaret River’s fine wine scene from the 1970s onwards.

Vasse Felix Restaurant

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Ignition Credibility to the cause of Margaret River wine was first achieved at successive Perth Wine Shows, when 1972 Vasse Felix Riesling won a gold medal and 1973 Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon achieved a similar result. Margaret River Riesling, Semillon, and Sauvignon Blanc also made successful appearances in both the Canberra and Perth wine shows during the late 1970s. These achievements, through the prism of hindsight, were commendable for their times, but the references have changed significantly since then. Around 1978, there were only a handful of winemakers with oenology qualifications. Among them were Bill Jamieson and Tony Devitt of the Western Australian Department of Agriculture, Bob Cartwright at Houghton’s (later at Leeuwin Estate), Dorham Mann at Sandalford (who planted vines at Wilyabrup in 1970), and Mike Peterkin at Cullen’s (later at Pierro). Technical expertise was shared, because that’s how pioneering communities work. This pattern of collegial support is one of the foundations of practically all of Australia’s wine regions through the earliest beginnings to the present day.

MARGARET RIVER Warm maritime/Mediterranean climate

Average Rainfall – 850–1200mm, mainly between May and September Latitude – 33º3’S to 34º22’S (Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin) Longitude – 114º58’E to 115º18’E (Cape Clairault to Gladstones Line) Surface Area – 27 x 100 kilometres = 2700 square kilometres Mean January Temperature – 20.6ºC Mean Growing Degree Days (Oct–Apr) – 1939 days Vintage takes place between the end of February and mid-April. A report published by scientist Dr John Gladstones in 1965 found that Margaret River had a similar climate to Pomerol or Saint-Émilion, with low frost risk, plenty of sunshine, and equable temperatures within seasons promoting even ripening.

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The climate is warm and maritime. The daily sea breezes during summer work like an air-conditioner and moderate temperatures. Extreme heat is very rare. An ancient crystalline bedrock formation sweeps down from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin, and is known as the Leeuwin Block. It is believed that this geological feature could be as old as 1,600 million years old. After the supercontinent Gondwanaland broke up through continental drift during the Cretaceous period (145–160 million years ago), an iron-enriched lateritic plateau formed over the bedrock, and the landforms were further shaped by weathering.

Soils Source Voyager Estate

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Take Off Interestingly, some wine producers from South Australia looked at possibly buying land in Margaret River in the 1970s and early 1980s. While researching material for Penfolds: The Rewards of Patience , I found correspondence and paperwork relating to the possible acquisition of land in the vicinity. Wolf Blass also famously investigated the region’s potential, after Cape Mentelle won the Jimmy Watson Trophy twice in a row. The region is, however, dominated by Western Australian family companies. That said, there is significant corporate interest in Margaret River, including LVMH’s acquisition of Cape Mentelle, and Treasury Wine Estate’s purchase of Devil’s Lair. Yalumba, no stranger to being involved in Western Australia – it established a winery in the Swan Valley during the 1930s – and Accolade Wines also produce Margaret River wines. The development of the region has been like a rolling stone. But it was during the 1980s that the fortunes of Margaret River Chardonnay In 1999 Dr John Gladstones proposed six sub-regions: Yallingup & Carbunup in the north, Wilyabrup and Treeton in the centre, Wallcliffe, which ribbons across the south, and Karridale in the far south. Vignerons and winemakers generally describe their vineyard locations in these terms. The well-draining soils derive primarily from granitic and gneissic ironstone, over which laterite has formed. Only 3% (6,000 hectares) of the 213,000 hectares of land that represent the Margaret River wine region is planted with vines. Around 46% is covered with native forest and the rest is mostly farmland and a few townships. Most of Margaret River’s vineyards lie on Forrest Grove type soils (with predominating iron stone gravels) or a combination of Forrest Grove and Mungite (sandy loams and gravels). The soils in Margaret River tend to merge, creating various transitional profiles and, as a consequence, vineyard sites all have their own individual characteristics. Vineyard elevations in the region range from around 3m to 140m. Most are found at elevations between 40m and 140m.

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and Cabernet Sauvignon truly gathered momentum. Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, the Jimmy Watson-winning Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon wines, and Moss Wood’s cult presence on the fledgling Australian secondary wine market established Margaret River as a new and exciting classic wine region. Much of this cut-through happened while I was working as a young wine auctioneer at Rushton’s, and then at Langton’s during the mid 1980s. The stock market crash of 1987, the weakening Australian dollar, and punitive import taxes also quarantined the wine industry from serious outside competition. More and more Australian collectors turned towards buying fine Australian wine. Trade in the secondary or re-sell markets, a very good indication of fine wine currency, showed consumer preferences. Although there were many emerging wineries (Tom Cullity suggests there were around 30 wineries in Margaret River in 1987), a few were beginning to attract significant attention. Collectability When we released our first Classification of Australian Wine in 1989, published in the 1990 Langton’s Wine Investment Guide , Margaret River featured quite prominently. (This was the prequel to the poster format, comprising 34 wines, that was released in 1991.) Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon, Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon, and Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay [ sic ] were listed Grade A (later Outstanding). The first Classification listed ‘The Performers’ and included Leeuwin Estate reds as well, which highlights the secondary market popularity of Margaret River wines post 1986. Today, the first Classification looks imprecise, but it gives a very good idea of the sentiment at the time. Of course, while the market has changed over the last 30 years or more, these wines remain in the Classification, with Cullen Diane Madeline Cabernet (which became recognised in the 1990s), Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, and Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon sharing top ranking with Penfolds Grange, Mount Mary Quintet Cabernet Sauvignon, and others. In addition to these wines, other producers, including Cape Mentelle, Deep Woods, Howard Park (Lower Great Southern & Margaret River), Pierro, Vasse Felix, Voyager Estate, Woodlands, and Xanadu, are included in this

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Pierro 2020 Harvest Photo Credit Mark Boskell

benchmark listing of collectible Australian wines. There are also a few highly regarded Margaret River wines that probably have the potential for future listing or higher ratings. In this tasting review, I was impressed by many Margaret River wines that do not feature strongly on the secondary market. Larry Cherubino and Grayln Estate are very good examples of brands that have been successful in building their reputations elsewhere. Cloudburst recently launched its Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay on the prestigious La Place de Bordeaux and is one of a handful of Australian wines that are traded in the ‘Beyond Bordeaux’ category. This has not come unnoticed by collectors and observers of the secondary wine market. This type of positioning, pricing, and perceived success give significant brand momentum.

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New Standards All the same, we are now living in a period of tremendous change, where provenance has become more complicated. It is no longer just associated with bloodlines, ownership, and place. Sustainability, regenerative farming, and environmental accountability are becoming vastly important in Australia’s fine wine category. Although there is some flexibility today, consumers seem to be aligning to the values of sustainability and circularity at a rapid rate. Nearly 20 years ago, it was predicted that low-input (at a minimum), organic, and biodynamic principles would become defining features of Australian fine wine. Now, I think the fine wine community anticipates more. The anxieties associated with climate change, inheritance, living standards, and wellness have filtered into consumer decision making. Sustainability is the number one issue right now and, consequently, consumer expectations for a green future will almost certainly frame the fine wine agenda for years to come. Margaret River has been at the forefront of environmental awareness and sustainable agricultural practices for a long time though. The local population, comprising a large proportion of alternative lifestyle and greenie types, has played an important role in evolving ways of thinking. Traditional farmers in the region were slow off the mark, but the wine industry, which typically employs young people, was, at first, more enlightened and imaginative. Margaret River’s benign growing season, often free of disease pressure, also lends itself to low-input vineyard management. Netting, to protect the crop from bird damage, however, is a necessity, especially when it is a poor year for karri and marri blossoms. Sustainability Typically, approaches to viticulture and winemaking differ, but there is an increasingly strong focus on sustainable practices across Margaret River. The use of chemicals is declining considerably, as more and more vignerons adapt their ways of managing vineyards. The Margaret River Wine Association describes this movement as ‘light touch viticulture’. For some observers this trend is not going fast enough, but, realistically, the transition towards meaningful sustainable practices is happening.

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Ultimately, nature conservation, land care, and sustainable living have become a community issue, where people of all ages and walks of life are encouraged to participate. There are many wine producers who are demonstrating amazing leadership and foresight. Vanya Cullen is a leading pioneer and protagonist of biodynamic viticulture. She was early to adopt these practices developed by Rudolf Steiner. Her commitment to this way of growing grapes, once seen as extreme, could now be described as visionary. There seems to be a correlation between life in the vineyard and energy in Cullen wines. Although this cannot be proven by science (yet), the wines emit a feeling of place. But care of the land and ways of working towards sustainability cannot be defined by a single philosophy. The nature of learning and innovation promotes adaptation and new ways of thinking. Vasse Felix is on the way to becoming wholly organic, and the Lilliputian Cloudburst has taken its own hands-on approach to sustainability, borrowing from almost every book on the subject.

Cape Mentelle Photo Credit Russell Ord

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Cape Mentelle has taken another approach by embracing science, technology, and AI machine learning. Laser sensors are attached to machinery to chart biomass in the vineyard and ascertain bud numbers, potential canopy growth, and grape crop weight. Soil mapping, climatic data, ‘Growing Degree Days’, and block-by-block analysis are all overlain to establish patterns of vine growth. Data is run through an algorithm to provide a vineyard performance dashboard. It can be accessed by iPhone or iPad in the field and used to plan or direct vineyard operations throughout the vineyard cycle. Areas of poor vitality can be composted, while more vigorous vines can carry a heavier crop load. Vineyard blocks with low soil moistures can be given supplementary water while preserving this limited resource. Herbicides are not needed, and compaction of soils is limited through less vineyard pass-throughs. This also leads to a significant reduction in diesel fuel costs and increased attention to biodiversity and regenerative practices. Voyager Estate is also trialling similar technologies and practices, including the use of Go- Pro cameras and machine learning to predict yields and identify growing patterns in their vineyards. At Leeuwin Estate, regenerative agriculture is a strong focus. Of note, also, is its commitment to sustainability and conservation. The previously neatly managed vineyards have become a ‘mess’ of vine health, biodiversity, and energy, but the quality of fruit, as the wines attest, has progressed. Similar regenerative work at Howard Park has also led to positive results. Accountability Many producers are members of Margaret River Organic Wine or Sustainable Winegrowing Australia. The latter is supported by industry bodies Australian Grape and Wine, Wine Australia, and The Australian Wine Research Institute. Certification is a means of monitoring practices, ensuring fidelity of nurture and guaranteeing the integrity of the final product. Ultimately, membership or participation in these organisations is about accountability, but it does not mean that others are not taking a sustainable approach. Some vignerons may prefer to avoid certification because it doesn’t suit their ways of working. All the same, accreditation will eventually become an obligatory compliance in the fine wine

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market. Supermarkets and chain stores around the world are already moving in this direction and community expectations will continue this momentum. Many vignerons are transitioning towards certification through Sustainable Winegrowing Australia. At present, certified members account for 17% of the region’s vineyards, and this is expected to increase significantly over the next few years. SUSTAINABLE WINEMAKING AUSTRALIA – MEMBERS AND CERTIFIED MEMBERS – JUNE 2022 Alan Rock Vineyard Member 2020 Bantry Bay Vineyard Certified Member 2012 Brash Vineyard Member 2020 Brushwood Brook Vineyard Member 2020 Calneggia Family Vineyards Certified Member 2009 Cape Mentelle Vineyard Certified Member 2010 Cape Mentelle Winery Member 2010 Carpe Diem Vineyard Member 2021 Celestial Bay Vineyard Member 2021 Dawson Wines Member 2012 Deep Woods Estate Vineyard Member 2020 Deep Woods Estate Winery Member 2021 Devil’s Lair Winery Certified Member 2010 Devil’s Lair Vineyard Certified Member 2010 Domaine Naturaliste Wine ry Certified Member 2010 Domaine Naturaliste Wines Vineyard Member 2021 Edinger Estate Vineyard Member 2020 Flametree Wines Winery Member 2020 Forrest Vineyard Member 2020 Georgettes Vineyard Member 2020 Gibindee Vineyard Member 2020 Harmony Forest Vineyard Member 2020 Howard Park Winery Certified Member 2010 Idee Fixe Winery Member 2021

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Island Brook Estate Vineyard

Member Member Member Member Member Member Member

2020 2021 2017 2020 2020 2020 2021 2011 2011 2020 2010 2021 2021 2020 2020 2020 2020 2020 2020 2021 2014 2020 2020 2013

Jilyara (Willyabrup Estate) Vineyard

Juniper Estate Vineyard Juniper Estate Winery

Kaards Vineyard Karridale Vineyard

La Kooki Wines

Leeuwin Estate Vineyard Leeuwin Estate Winery Maggie’s Farm Vineyard Margaret River Vineyards Margaret River Vintners Montgomery Vineyard Oakfield Estate Vineyard Oates Ends Winery Passel Estate Vineyard Peccavi Wines Vineyard Ridge Farm Vineyard Rivenleigh Vineyard Roje Estates Vineyard Rosa Park Vineyard

Certified Member Certified Member

Member Member Member Member Member Member Member

Certified Member

Member Member

Certified Member Certified Member Vineyard Member

Saracen Estate

Septimus Vineyard Sewards Vineyard

Member Member

Simpson Estate Vineyard 2020 Starcastle Investments (Ironstone, Yallingup & Bridgeland Vineyard) Certified Member 2009 Stormflower Vineyard Member 2020 Stormflower Vineyard Member 2020 Swings & Roundabouts Vineyard Member 2021 The Gravels Vineyard Member 2020 Thompson Estate Vineyard Member 2020 Thompson Estate Winery Member 2021 Certified Member

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Timber Creek Vineyard Treasury Wine Estates Vasse Felix Vineyards Vasse Felix Winery

Member

2013 2010 2021 2021 2010 2020 2010 2010 2022 2012 2020 2012 2012 2011 2011

Certified Member

Member Member

Certified Member

Victory Point Wines Vineyard

VINO Vineyard

Member

Certified Member Certified Member

Voyager Estate Winery Voyager Estate Vineyard Wayfinder Vineyard Were Estate Vineyard Wildberry Farm Vineyard

Member

Certified Member

Member Member

Wilyabrup Vineyard Contractors

Certified Member Certified Member Certified Member

Woodman Vineyard Xanadu Vineyard Xanadu Wines Winery

Burnside Organics Photo Credit Russell Ord

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Biodynamic – ACO12066 Biodynamic – Demeter 743 Organic – ACO12758 Biodynamic – ACO10864

Organic – SXC6115P Organic – S XC19021

PUNCHING ABOVE ITS WEIGHT Only 12.3% of the vineyard area (720 hectares out of 5,840 hectares) in Margaret River is certified as organic or biodynamic. Many producers are in transition, and this percentage is expected to increase at an exponential rate. Also, there are other wineries employing initiatives to reduce their carbon emissions and improve their environmental footprint. Landcare and environmental stewardship are increasingly becoming an important

Jimmy Watson Trophy Winners Photo Credit Lauren Trickett

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feature of Australia’s fine wine agenda, and Margaret River is a leading protagonist for a sustainable future. This also includes recognition, collaboration, and support of local Wadandi people. Despite all of this, Margaret River is a small cog in the wheel, and only accounts for roughly 2% of the Australian grape crush, yet it punches well above its weight with the amount of show awards and trophies it achieves on the national wine circuit. According to wine merchant John Jens, one of Western Australia’s most distinguished wine experts, ‘Since 2014, the West has won 41 of the past 51 Best Cabernet Trophies. From memory only one of these Cabernet Trophies was from Great Southern – the rest being from Margaret River.’ Margaret River Chardonnay, up against a wealth of outstanding styles from eastern States, has also notched up some impressive results, accounting for almost half (49%) of trophies at national wine shows since 2014. In addition, there have been six (Melbourne Royal Wine Show/Awards) Jimmy Watson Trophy winners, all based on Cabernet Sauvignon.

JIMMY WATSON WINNERS 1982 Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River 1983 Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River 1997 Flametree Cabernet Merlot, Margaret River

Authenticity Margaret River’s reputation ultimately hinges on Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Although there are various selections and clones planted in the region, by far the most plentiful are based on Gingin chardonnay and Houghton Selection cabernet sauvignon. These special selections, based on 19th-century provenance, lead to wines of exceptional authenticity and an easily recognisable identity. The ripe grapefruit aromatics, generous mid palate, al dente textures, and precise fresh acidity are common features found in Margaret River Chardonnay. 2009 Joseph River Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River 2014 Deep Woods Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River 2016 Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River

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Equally, Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon evokes a keen scent of place. The fresh pure blackcurrant aromas, superb inky density, and vigorous structure are typical. Although medium-bodied, the flavours fill out the mid palate with varying levels of new oak, bringing nuanced complexity. Sub regional differences also bring further interest, particularly from a tannin structure point of view. (The cooler sites tend to be more vigorous in style.) People Power Individual viticulturalists and winemakers also play an important part in the Margaret River story. Although it is impossible to mention everyone, there are some prominent identities leading the fine wine agenda. Tim Lovett and David Winstanley, at Leeuwin Estate, are successfully building on the work of previous teams. Vanya Cullen sets a very high standard at Cullen, with her staunch biodynamic philosophies and green ambitions. Paula Holmes à Court, at Vasse Felix, has empowered Virginia Willcock to take Vasse Felix to the next level, and is also pushing forward his Idée Fixe project with the highly capable Mick Langridge. Julian Langworthy has been immensely effective in building the Deep Woods brand with his superb winemaking skills and uncanny success at wine shows. Glenn Goodall, at Xanadu, has also enjoyed astonishing success. In this forum, Will Berliner, at Cloudburst, is the classic disrupter, and is taking his own pathway of nurture and winemaking. Recently, his wines were launched through La Place de Bordeaux, highlighting the strength of his personality, purpose, and wines. In this tasting review, I was impressed by the consistency of Larry Cherubino wines, which are perfectly pitched for the fine wine market. The team at Cape Mentelle are harnessing technology and sustainability with great effect. The 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon, which was not in this particular review, as it is not yet released, looks magnificent as a barrel sample. Voyager’s Estate wines have also come up a notch, highlighting leadership in vineyard management and sustainability. Although not everyone is mentioned, the blend of vignerons and ambitions in Margaret River is remarkable. The special can-do attitude and collaborative spirit give the region exceptional potential.

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Scale There are now 200 wine producers crushing Margaret River fruit and 75 wineries in operation. Although the average crush is 158 tonnes, over 60% of producers crush less than 50 tonnes. Some are extremely small family- owned businesses, producing less than 1,000 cases per year. Interestingly, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot only make up around 41% of plantings, (17.3%, 19.5%, and 4%, respectively), yet dominate the fine wines scene. Shiraz (14.5%) tantalisingly shows promise with a few very successful wines, but the styles are still variable. Semillon (16.5%) and sauvignon blanc (18.2%) are often blended. Mike Peterkin at Cullen, and then Pierro, probably made the region’s first classic dry white style. This Vintage Journal review, however, focuses primarily on chardonnay, cabernet, and shiraz. Chardonnay The stature of the Gingin clone is fully on display in this tasting review. While Leeuwin Estate, Cullen, and Vasse Felix and such have a commanding position within the ultra-fine wine scene, there are other producers also making high-quality, precise Chardonnays with compelling regional identity. Cloudburst, Deep Woods, Howard Park, Juniper, McHenry, Hohnen, Voyager Estate, and Xanadu are making exquisite examples. Larry Cherubino’s portfolio of Chardonnays is bewildering, but there is an impressive and highly appealing consistency of character. There are other marques also worth following, notably Bruce Duke’s Domaine Naturaliste, Driftwood, Evans and Tate, Fraser Gallop, Flowstone, Joseph River, Hutton, La Kooki, Peccavi, and Robert Oatley. There are, of course, other producers who preferred not to submit their wines, and so there are gaps in these tasting notes. Pierro and Woodlands are the most obvious and, while not reviewed, are well respected in the collectible market. Nonetheless, the fidelity of fruit definition and regional character across this group of wines is extremely compelling. Although styles and attitudes differ, there is a common thread of authenticity and voice of place that weaves through Margaret River Chardonnay. The consistency, diversity, and creativity that bring these qualities into focus are hallmarks of a classic modern wine region.

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Margaret River Fraser Gallop Estate

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Cabernet Sauvignon / Blends Margaret River Cabernet has been an important Australian ultra-fine wine style, almost from the very beginning. Moss Wood, Cullen, and Vasse Felix are reference styles, each bringing a different slant on the Wilyabrup terroir. Increasingly, Leeuwin Estate, Xanadu, Cape Mentelle, and Voyager Estate are becoming important, reflecting extraordinary investment in viticulture and winemaking on the southern fringes of Margaret River township. Ten years ago, the styles around here were quite sinewy, but tannin management and more intuitive winemaking have improved the quality to a much higher level. Deep Woods and Cloudburst have also added diversity and interest through their ground- breaking and high-profile successes. Howard Park’s impressive flagship Abercrombie Cabernet is increasingly based on its Leston Vineyard at Wilyabrup. Also, there are other producers making Cabernet at an extremely high level, particularly Amelia Park, Robert Mann’s Corymbia, Graylyn, Flametree, Forester Estate, Flowstone, Jilyara, Juniper, Lenton Brae, Moss Brothers, Oates Ends, Rosabrook, Thompson Estate, Robert

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The Vintage Journal – Regional Focus Amelia Park

Oatley, Passel Estate, the unusually named UMAMU, and Wills Domain. (Again, Woodlands and Pierro are not present here, but they both have very good reputations.) Although I am only newly acquainted with some of these producers, the tasting reviews reveal the strength and diversity of Margaret River Cabernet. The quality of the wines suggests significant investment in vineyards and winemaking. The increasing interest in sub- regional differences is bound to take centre stage in the coming years. Shiraz Margaret River Shiraz is less definable than Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Cape Mentelle, Vasse Felix, and Leeuwin Estate have been working with the variety for a long time and are achieving very good results. Windance, Forrester Estate, and Deep Woods are also achieving some good outcomes. SOURCES The Australian Ark Project (2022) Margaret River Wine Association (2022)

Margaret River

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The Vintage Journal – Regional Focus

Tasting Notes

Cabernet Sauvignon and Blends

Leeuwin Estate

G 99

Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 The foundation vineyard of Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet is the 1975-planted Block 8. The vineyard is meticulously managed to promote the development of high-intensity fruit and fine, classical grainy tannins. Although the growing season and maritime climate are similar to Bordeaux, the atmospheric conditions, lateritic soils, Karri forests and bush garrigue bring a very different and highly particular set of challenges. The region also has an astonishing diversity of bird life, which presents difficulties. Most vineyards are nowadays netted after veraison to stave off the squadrons of Australian ringneck 28ers (Twenty- Eight Parrots ). Deep crimson. Classical blackcurrant, cedar aromas with lifted espresso, roasted chestnut notes. Inky deep and beautifully concentrated wine with dense blackcurrant, dark plum, dark chocolate flavours, fine grainy/chocolaty tannins and perfectly integrated cedar oak. A superb grainy firm finish and mineral length. A great Leeuwin Estate Cabernet. 2022–2040 Cloudburst G 98 Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 Medium-deep crimson. Beautiful intense violet, pure cassis aromas with espresso, herb garden notes. Classical cabernet wine with lovely pure blackcurrant, blackberry, dark plum flavours, flowing fine- grained textures and underlying roasted chestnut, vanilla oak. Finishes velvety firm, and minerally with superb inky length. All the elements are perfectly integrated. The perfumed notes, inky textures, buoyancy of fruit and gentle vigour make it surprisingly delicious to drink now, but some extra bottle age will bring more complexity. Fascinating and fabulous. The grapes are destemmed, and hand sorted prior to open-top fermentation. The wine is pressed to barrel without extended maceration or extra skin contact. Matured primarily in new French oak for 18–21 months. Only 2,888 bottles made. 2022–2032+

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Moss Wood

G 98

Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Deep crimson.Classical blackcurrant, blackberry, cedar aromas with mocha, hint sage notes. Beautifully balanced and concentrated palate with fresh pure blackcurrant, blackberry, mulberry fruits, fine loose-knit grainy tannins and weil integrated roasted almond, vanilla oak. Builds up cedar firm with an inky long plume. Let it develop for a few years at least. 96% cabernet sauvignon, 2% cabernet franc, 2% petit verdot. 2026–2040 Vasse Felix G 98 Tom Cullity 2018 Medium-deep crimson. Fragrant cassis, dark plum, chinotto aromas with herb garden, aniseed notes. Voluminous blackcurrant, dark plum, blackberry fruits, lovely persistent fine chocolaty textures, superb mid- palate density, fresh juicy acidity and plentiful mocha, espresso oak notes. Finishes chocolaty with plentiful sweet dark fruits and attractive mineral length. Lovely concentration, definition and torque. Should last some distance and keep for a while to let the elements further integrate. An impressive landmark vintage. 78% cabernet sauvignon, 17.5% malbec 4.5%, petit verdot. Matured in new (59%) and seasoned French oak for 18 months. 2024–2040 2019 Cullen Vanya Full Moon G 97 Fruit Day Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River – Western Australia Medium deep colour. Fragrant cassis, blackberry vanilla/ roasted walnut aromas with quartz-like notes. Ample pure blackcurrant, blackberry, sweet fruit flavours, fine grainy textures, lovely mid-palate generosity and some black olive/ roasted walnut notes. Builds up gravelly/ claret firm and minerally. Beautifully balanced wine with lovely energy and impact. 13% alc Drink now – 2030+ Forester Estate G 97 Yelverton Reserve Cabernet 2014 Deep crimson. Very classic blackcurrant, cedar, tobacco leaf aromas with developed mocha, espresso notes. Superbly concentrated and supple with deep-set dark berry fruits, fine persistent cedar firm tannins, lovely mid-palate viscosity/density and well integrated roasted chestnut notes. Finishes leafy firm with an inky plume. Probably at its peak, but should hold for many years. 100% cabernet sauvignon. 2022–2030

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The Vintage Journal – Regional Focus

Gralyn Estate

G 97

Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Medium-deep crimson. Fresh developed blackcurrant, roasted walnut, vanilla, marzipan aromas with subtle bush-garrigue notes. Inky deep and gravelly in structure with lovely cassis, dark plum fruits, fine cedar, firm tannins and integrated mocha oak notes. Finishes claret firm, sweet- fruited and minerally. Nearly 10 years old, but still youthful, buoyant, and fresh, with a touch of cigar-box complexity. Impressively balanced and preserved. What a surprise! 2022–2035 Vasse Felix G 97 Tom Cullity 2015 Medium-deep crimson. Fresh blackcurrant, graphite, inky aromas with mocha, vanilla notes. Ample pure blackcurrant, cedarwood flavours, plentiful fine loose-knit gravelly/al dente tannins, and lovely mocha, roasted chestnut oak complexity. Finishes chocolaty firm with chinotto, dark fruits. A very attractive claret-style with the volume, density, and structure for long-term cellaring. 82% cabernet sauvignon, 17% malbec, 1% petit verdot. Matured in new (51%) and seasoned French oak for 16 months. 2022–2040 Xanadu Wines G 97 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Deep crimson. Intense blackcurrant, cedar with roasted chestnut, mocha, herb garden notes. Very well concentrated and beautifully structured with pure blackcurrant pastille, inky flavours, fine graphite, al dente tannins and integrated roasted chestnut, mocha oak. Chalky, hint oaky firm with seductive dark berry fruits at the finish. Brilliantly composed and refined with all the elements in symmetry. 92% cabernet sauvignon, 4% petit verdot, 4% malbec. 2024–2036 Cape Mentelle G 96 Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 Deep crimson. Attractive blackcurrant, mulberry aromas with praline, herb garden notes. Supple and well concentrated with blackcurrant pastille, mulberry fruits, fine slinky tannins and underlying roasted chestnut, mocha notes. Finishes velvety with very good mineral length. Impressive definition and precision. 90% cabernet sauvignon, 5% petit verdot, 5% merlot. 2022–2032

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Corymbia

G 96

Calgardup Vineyard 2020 Medium-deep crimson. Intense dark chocolate, blackberry fruits with earthy, black olive, sage notes. Supple palate with ample choco–berry fruits, fine plentiful silky textures and layered roasted walnut/panforte complexity. Finishes chalky firm with toasty notes. Gentle and complex with lovely vinosity, fruit sweetness and tannin quality. 100% cabernet sauvignon. 2022–2030 Deep Woods Estate G 96 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Medium-deep crimson. Black olive, blackcurrant, mocha aromas with bush-garrigue notes. Fresh pure blackcurrant, blackberry, liquorice flavours, fine grainy, hint leafy tannins and underlying chocolaty, espresso oak notes. Finishes firm with juicy dark fruits. Classical structure with lovely definition and complexity. 100% cabernet sauvignon. 2022–2036 Howard Park G 96 Abercrombie 2018 Deep colour. Very expressive blackcurrant, mulberry, vanilla aromas with graphite, herb garden notes. Beautifully concentrated wine with pure blackcurrant pastille, blackberry fruits, fine grainy and a hint brambly textures and integrated vanilla/roasted chestnut notes. Gathers power across the palate, finishing cedar firm with plentiful sweet glacé fruits and mineral length. Very well-balanced wine with lovely presence, suppleness and vinosity. 2022–2032 Jilyara G 96 The Williams’ Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 Deep crimson. Fragrant and expressive with blackcurrant, mocha, roasted chestnut aromas with spicy notes. Supple and inky deep with lovely blackcurrant, mocha, espresso flavours, fine loose-knit grainy/ touch al dente tannins, beautifully integrated new oak. Finishes firm with seductive dark fruits and some cedar complexity. Impressively balanced wine with very good density, definition and torque. 91% cabernet sauvignon, 5% petit verdot, 4% malbec. 2022–2035 Peccavi Wines G 96 Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Deep crimson. Appealing blackcurrant, dark cherry, mocha aromas with herb garden notes. Richly concentrated with deep-set blackcurrant, sweet dark cherry fruits, fine chocolaty tannins, and plentiful new dark chocolate, cedarwood notes. Very chocolaty at the finish. An atypical Margaret River style, but brilliantly composed with a Penfoldsian richness and complexity. 95% cabernet sauvignon, 5% petit verdot. 2022–2038

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The Vintage Journal – Regional Focus

Vasse Felix

G 96

Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 Medium-deep crimson. Intense blackcurrant, blackberry, leafy aromas with hints of dark chocolate. Well balanced blackcurrant, blackberry, mulberry fruits, fine loose-knit slinky textures and underlying savoury, espresso notes. Finishes grippy firm with attractive inky length. A classic cabernet sauvignon style with beautiful definition, richness and vigour. 90% cabernet sauvignon, 8% petit verdot, 2% malbec. Matured in a combination of 44% (new) and seasoned (56% 1–4yo) French oak barriques for 18 months. 2028-2040 Vasse Felix G 96 Tom Cullity 2014 Medium-deep crimson. Intense blackcurrant, chinotto, leafy aromas with underlying mocha oak. Generous and sweet-fruited with plentiful blackcurrant, blackberry fruits, fine slinky/grainy tannins, integrated linear acidity and mocha, vanilla oak. Finishes chocolaty firm with bittersweet notes. More density, volume and torque than 2013. 80% cabernet sauvignon, 16% malbec, 4% petit verdot. Matured in new (62%) and seasoned French oak for 18 months. 2022–2035 Vasse Felix G 96 Tom Cullity 2013 Medium-deep crimson. Fresh cassis, plum, vanilla aromas with bush- garrigue notes. Beautifully concentrated and inky textured with plentiful blackcurrant, dark plum fruits, fine loose-knit cedary tannins, attractive mid-palate viscosity and underlying vanilla marzipan, roasted chestnut notes. Finishes claret firm with some leafy notes. A classical cabernet with lovely definition, balance, and mineral length. 76% cabernet sauvignon, 20% malbec, 4% petit verdot. Matured in new (61%) and seasoned French oak for 19 months. 2022–2032 Voyager Estate G 96 The Modern Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Medium-deep crimson. Lovely blackcurrant, mocha, roasted chestnut, vanilla aromas with earthy elements. Supple, fresh and well concentrated with pure blackcurrant, blackberry fruits, fine lacy/filigreed tannins and underlying roasted chestnut, vanilla notes. FInishes grainy firm. A classical claret style with superb tannin ripeness and texture. 88% cabernet sauvignon, 12% merlot. 2022–2032

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Buy from wineries.

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The Vintage Journal – Regional Focus

Lenton Brae

Wilyabrup WA 6280 Cellar Door

View

Passel Estate

Cowaramup WA 6284 Cellar Door

View

Leeuwin Estate

Margaret River WA 6285 Cellar Door

View

Arlewood Estate

Forest Grove WA 6285 Cellar Door

View

Margaret River

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Voyager Estate

G 96

MJW Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 Deep crimson. Very appealing cassis, mulberry, mocha aromas with graphite, herb garden aromas. Fresh smooth cassis, mulberry, blackberry fruits, fine chalky/grainy textures, lovely mid-palate richness, crunchy freshness and integrated mocha/vanilla oak. Finishes cedar firm with pure dark berry fruits/chinotto notes. Very attractive wine with lovely bittersweet notes. 100% cabernet sauvignon. 2022–2032 Capel Vale G 95 Scholar 2020 Medium-deep crimson. Lovely blackcurrant, roasted chestnut, tobacco leaf aromas. Inky deep blackcurrant, blackberry fruits, fine grainy leafy textures and integrated roasted chestnut/vanilla notes. Finishes claret firm with ample dark fruits. Lovely density, volume, and vinosity. Should develop very well. 100% cabernet sauvignon. 2022–2032 Cherubino G 95 Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Medium-deep crimson. Fresh dark chocolate, dark cherry, mocha, espresso aromas with chinotto notes. Very well made wine with fresh blackcurant, dark cherry, mocha, espresso flavours, fine loose-knit chocolaty textures, and lovely fine mineral acidity. Finishes velvety firm. Impressively balanced wine with lovely plushness of fruit and supple structure. 100% cabernet sauvignon. 2022–2030 Deep Woods Estate G 95 Single Vineyard Cabernet Malbec 2020 Deep crimson. Plush dark berry, dark chocolate aromas with roasted coffee notes. Beuatifully balanced with blackcurrant, dark plum fruits, lovely chocolaty complexity, persistent grainy tannins and sweet vanilla oak notes. Becomes more savoury towards the back palate, finish firm and minerally. Extremely well composed with excellent freshness, fruit density, and structure. 90% cabernet sauvignon, 10% malbec. 2022– 2032 Domaine Naturaliste G 95 Rebus Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Deep crimson. Fresh blackcurrant, blackberry, dark plum, violet aromas with praline notes. Blackcurrant, blackberry, Parma violet flavours, fine loose-knit grainy/al dente tannins and underlying savoury oak complexity. Very good density, mid-palate richness and definition. Firm and bittersweet at the finish. Very attractive wine. 100% cabernet sauvignon. 2022–2032

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The Vintage Journal – Regional Focus

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