Although Margaret River wineries produce less than 4% of Australia’s wine output, we account for nearly 25% of the premium wine. Speaks for itself really.
The Principle Grape Varieties
Virtually every winery produces a Cabernet, commonly blended with Merlot – but with the very best as straight premium varietals. We prefer to produce only straight varietal Cabernets in our premium ‘Claw’ and “Small Batch” ranges – believing this to be the purest expression of this great terroir for cabernet. However, in our Rivendell Estate range we tend to lean a little funkier with Bordeaux influenced blends with Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
Or with the classic Australian blend with Shiraz.
In general, the cabernets have a ‘leafiness’ to them, but as the vines mature, these flavours will be only secondary to the riper, darker and luscious, more solid fruit flavours, as is the case at the 30-year-old Rivendell vineyard. The other unique characteristic displayed by the best Margaret River Cabernets is a “mintiness” – often attributed to the vines close proximity to the regions towering Eucalypts and Marri trees.
Forty years on from the first major plantings, Margaret River is developing a wide spectrum of exceptional sub-region flavours. Cabernets from the northern warmer, maritime influenced Willyabrup and Yallingup sub-regions (home to Howling Wolves) are usually rounder, fuller and more mulberry-like, while further south of the river they are leaner, leafier and more elegant. We draw fruit from both to create cornerstone Cabernets showing both full, intense flavours and elegant complexity.
While Margaret River’s glamour title has been clearly the result of her Cabernet Sauvignon, the region’s Chardonnay is now being rated amongst the very best in the world.
They are typically superbly voluptuous, intense and concentrated with lemon, grapefruit and hazelnut flavours.
Semillon Sauvignon Blanc is the quintessential white blend of the region. Here it displays passionfruit flavours in unwooded styles and herbaceous appeal in rarer barrel-fermented styles.
Shiraz from this region is intense, spicy, dark cherry and pepper flavoured, with Howling Wolves’ winemakers now tending to favour majority French oak creating a less fruit forward and more complex style.
Another variety to watch for is the dry-grown Grenache of which there are few plantings in Margaret River, with Howling Wolves using the majority of fruit from one of the finest. This vineyard was originally planted with French sourced rootlings from the Rhone Valley. Most vineyards feature rows of Merlot – often blended with cabernet to create the classic Rhone Valley blend the region is synonymous with. A small, exceptional portion is made into straight Merlots – some of sublime quality.
Great Italian varieties like Sangiovese and Tempranillo are also flourishing; and further south, in the cooler microclimate bordering Karridale, Pinot Noir (defying the sceptics and doomsayers) is producing lovely results, with a distinctive Margaret River Character. Verdelho, Viognier and Chenin Blanc are other white grape varieties sharing increasing popularity in the region.