Thursday, February 7, 2013

Wine Region - Margaret River

Appellation/Region - Margaret River
Sub-region(s) - Carbunup, Karridale, Treeton, Wallcliffe, Wilyabrup, and Yallingup
Location
- Australia (South West Australia Zone; 34th south parallel)
Size -  5,500 hectares planted to vineyards
Rainfall - 1,130 mm/yr (44 in/yr)
Growing Degree Days - 1,597° C
Varietals- Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Malbec, Merlot, Mourvedre, Petit Verdot, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Shiraz, Tempranillo, Verdelho.
Claim to Fame - World-class Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varietal red blends, not to mention stunning Chardonnays.

Margaret River is a relatively small region, located in Southwest Australia and running just over 100 kilometers from north to south and reaching 40 kilometers wide in parts. It is bounded to the north by Cape Naturaliste, the west by the Indian Ocean, the east by the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge, and the south by Cape Leeuwin. The region is named after the town of Margaret River, founded in 1831 and situated almost exactly in the middle of the region. Its past economy was based on agriculture and hardwood, though now relies primarily on tourism and the wine industry.
The potential of Margaret River as a world-class wine region was first noted in a Journal of the Australian Institute for Agricultural Science article written by John Gladstone in 1961. Six years later, Tom Cullity planted the region's first vines on eight acres located on Harman's Road; the property, which he named Vasse Felix, has since grown into one of the region's top wineries. Today, the region is home to over 140 wineries producing wines from 5,500 hectares of vineyards. Primarily boutique producers, the largest may crush only 4,000 tonnes in a given vintage. Providing just three percent of Australia's total grape tonnage, Margaret River wines represents approximately thirty percent of the country's premium wine market.
Surrounded by ocean on three sides, Margaret River enjoys a Mediterranean climate due to the strong maritime influence from the Indian Ocean. Its average rainfall of 1,130 millimeters (44 inches) falls almost exclusively between May and August (winter). Summertime weather is rather warm, though sea breezes help moderate temperatures and provide perfect humidity throughout the growing season. It is home to a wide array of interesting native flora and fauna, not to mention a quickly growing wine industry.
Often compared to Bordeaux during a dry vintage, Margaret River is an ideal grape growing region that delivers consistently high quality wines. Its run of vintages over the past seven years has not been matched anywhere in the world, and Margaret River wines have increasingly been recognized as benchmarks. The region is best known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-style blends, Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc blends, and Chardonnay.

Margaret River's grape varietals, wine styles, and sub-regional distinctions will be discussed in a following post so check back.

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