Renowned wine writer, Peter Forrestal, sings accolades for the Margaret River wine region in the November edition of the Qantas magazine. His article Take me to the river boasts ‘One of Australia’s top wine producing regions, Margaret River, proves life really is a cabernet… or perhaps a chardonnay.’

It’s known for its picturesque landscape of undulating bush and beautiful beaches, but Margaret River’s reputation is built on wine. The first vineyard was established at Vasse Felix in 1967 and the first wave of plantings took place over the next decade, with Cape Mentelle, Cullen, Leeuwin Estate, Moss Wood and Vasse Felix quickly gain a reputation for outstanding wines.

By the mid 1980’s, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay were established as the varieties most likely to produce world-class wines from the Margaret River region. Nothing has happened since then that would alter that view.

To win a second trophy at the Decanter World Wine Awards, newcomer Fraser Gallop had to beat trophy winners from Bordeaux, the Napa, South Africa, Chile and new Zealand. Certainly in blind tastings and wine shows, Margaret River cabernets have performed extremely well. Few would deny a world ranking to Cape mentelle, Cullen Diana Madeline, Moss Wood, Sandalford Prendiville, Vasse Felix Heytesbury and Woodlands.

The situation with chardonnay is even tighter, although few would challenge Leeuwin’s pre-eminence and its ability to look very good alongside the best of Burgundy. The established order gives top rating to Brookland Valley, Cape Mentelle, Cullen, Devils Lair, Pierro, Vasse Felix Heytesbury, Voyager and Woodlands. I suspect Xanadu will force its way into that group from the 2008 vintage.

In the past 5 years or so, many of the newish wineries in the Margaret River region have drawn attention to themselves, including Chapman Grove for its Atticus chardonnay, Fraser Gallop, and Flametree for its cabernet merlot.

David Honen at Cape Mentelle and Mike Peterkin at Cullen and Pierro made blends from semillon and sauvignon blanc in the early 1980’s, and by the mid 1990s they were firmly established as a regional style. Although these will never be world class wines, a small coterie of winemakers is crafting a wooded style of semillon sauvignon blanc with the intent of making serious whites. Try Pierro, Cape Mentelle Wallcliffe, Cullen Mangan, Fraser Gallop and Stella Bella Suckfizzle.

Because they;re quite new to the region, you should try the opulent end of the region’s cellar doors at Laurance and Saracen. The latter incorporates the Duckstein Brewery and a family restaurant. McHenry Hohnen is opening its cellar door west of town in December, and more modest family cellar doors to visit include Pierro, Clairault, Lenton Brae, Edwards and Cape Grace.

Margaret River also has a fine collection of winery restaurants. At Vasse Felix, chef Aaron Carr shows longevity and cutting-edge food are not mutually exclusive. Don’t miss young Kiwi chef Brad Hornby’s degustation at the new Knee Deep, or Matt Egan’s organic, bio-dynamic, gluten free and free range produce at Cullen Wines, where the philosophy of winery is also apparent in its restaurant.

Renowned wine writer, Peter Forrestal, sings accolades for the Margaret River wine region in the November edition of the Qantas magazine. His article Take me to the river boasts ‘One of Australia’s top wine producing regions, Margaret River, proves life really is a cabernet… or perhaps a chardonnay.’

It’s known for its picturesque landscape of undulating bush and beautiful beaches, but Margaret River’s reputation is built on wine. The first vineyard was established at Vasse Felix in 1967 and the first wave of plantings took place over the next decade, with Cape Mentelle, Cullen, Leeuwin Estate, Moss Wood and Vasse Felix quickly gain a reputation for outstanding wines.

By the mid 1980’s, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay were established as the varieties most likely to produce world-class wines from the Margaret River region. Nothing has happened since then that would alter that view.

To win a second trophy at the Decanter World Wine Awards, newcomer Fraser Gallop had to beat trophy winners from Bordeaux, the Napa, South Africa, Chile and new Zealand. Certainly in blind tastings and wine shows, Margaret River cabernets have performed extremely well. Few would deny a world ranking to Cape mentelle, Cullen Diana Madeline, Moss Wood, Sandalford Prendiville, Vasse Felix Heytesbury and Woodlands.

The situation with chardonnay is even tighter, although few would challenge Leeuwin’s pre-eminence and its ability to look very good alongside the best of Burgundy. The established order gives top rating to Brookland Valley, Cape Mentelle, Cullen, Devils Lair, Pierro, Vasse Felix Heytesbury, Voyager and Woodlands. I suspect Xanadu will force its way into that group from the 2008 vintage.

In the past 5 years or so, many of the newish wineries in the Margaret River region have drawn attention to themselves, including Chapman Grove for its Atticus chardonnay, Fraser Gallop, and Flametree for its cabernet merlot.

David Honen at Cape Mentelle and Mike Peterkin at Cullen and Pierro made blends from semillon and sauvignon blanc in the early 1980’s, and by the mid 1990s they were firmly established as a regional style. Although these will never be world class wines, a small coterie of winemakers is crafting a wooded style of semillon sauvignon blanc with the intent of making serious whites. Try Pierro, Cape Mentelle Wallcliffe, Cullen Mangan, Fraser Gallop and Stella Bella Suckfizzle.

Because they’re quite new to the region, you should try the opulent end of the region’s cellar doors at Laurance and Saracen. The latter incorporates the Duckstein Brewery and a family restaurant. McHenry Hohnen is opening its cellar door west of town in December, and more modest family cellar doors to visit include Pierro, Clairault, Lenton Brae, Edwards and Cape Grace.

Margaret River also has a fine collection of winery restaurants. At Vasse Felix, chef Aaron Carr shows longevity and cutting-edge food are not mutually exclusive. Don’t miss young Kiwi chef Brad Hornby’s degustation at the new Knee Deep, or Matt Egan’s organic, bio-dynamic, gluten free and free range produce at Cullen Wines, where the philosophy of winery is also apparent in its restaurant.