Western Australia is a remarkable wine region, more than 1,000 miles from the main wine growing areas of Australia to the east. Margaret River is its most famous sub-region. Though planted only in the 1960s, it has carved a reputation for its Bordeaux blends – red and white – and Chardonnay. Margaret River produces only ‘premium’ level wines commanding high prices; there is no bulk wine production here.
While Margaret River is the west’s flagship, other regions have been developing their reputation too, particularly in the genuinely cooler climates of Great Southern. Within it, appellations like Frankland River, Mount Barker and Porongurup are producing excellent Cabernet, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but the ‘hero’ variety is Riesling.
Though Great Southern’s climate is cooler overall than the more Mediterranean Margaret River, the predominant soils are similar: gravel-rich sandy loam.
This tasting would focus on Riesling from two of Great Southern’s sub-regions, Mount Barker and Frankland River, and Sauvignon/Semillon blends from Margaret River. The latter is a category that constitutes over 35% of Margaret River’s total wine production.
The six wines chosen for this tasting were billed as showing Western Australia’s ability to produce “Crisp summer whites,” which they did successfully.
(2022) From producer Larry Cherubino, 100% Riesling from 20-year-old vineyards, it is dry with only 2g/l of residual sugar. Almost clear as water with a touch of green. The nose is quite subdued, just a little salty and gently waxed lemon note. Very dry, with apple cores and lemon pith, so mouth-watering, a leafy green herb note too. The finish is chalky and talcumy, but bone-dry. You will see this listed as coming from Mount Barker, where Larry Cherubino used to source fruit, but the wine is now 100% from Frankland River.
(2022) Again, less than 2g/l of residual sugar in a dry style, vines are over 30 years old. Much waxier and even a touch towards the paraffin spectrum of aromas, the wine one year older of course and from a warmer vintage. Bone-dry on the palate, this is all lemon juice and lime, a pithy, mouth-watering quality again, but still fresh as a daisy with pristine acidity.
(2022) Frankland River fruit again, the vines are more than 20 years old and with a touch more residual sugar at 4.91g/l. There's a delicate lemon jelly character here, and again small green herb and floral aromatics, a touch of stony/flinty character. The sugar just adds a softening edge to the copious acidity, giving this lovely and quaffable balance. The finish is dry and talcumy, the juiciness of fruit, touch of sweetness and acid in balance.
(2022) Semillon just in the majority here at 52%, the 30-year-old vineyards planted on gravel over limestone at just 4 - 6 kilometres from the coast. Relatively subtle given the Semillon dominance, a touch of elderflower and gooseberry, but lemon and a delicate buttery nuance just discernable. In the mouth really dry and salty/savoury, the fruit very cool and clean, a mouth-watering style with a bit of strictness and stony dryness.
(2022) Vineyards here are 20 kilometres from the coast and 20 years old. Sauvignon makes up 84% of the blend, partial fermentation in barrel, and partially with wild yeast. 24% of the wine also spends some several months on the lees in oak barrels. There's a little sprinkle of crushed oatmeal over vivacious Sauvignon aromas, hinting at tropical but with plenty of citrus too. There's more of the vegetal/herbaceous character coming through on the palate. Tangy, textured and balanced.
(2022) From two vineyard areas, Wallcliffe at 15km from the coast, and Wilyabrup at 4km from the coast. Vines are up to 37 years old, planted on decomposed granit, 83% Sauvignon. 100% fermented in French oak: 15% in new barriques, 85% on larger, older puncheons. Here we are in to much more pungent, vivacious Sauvignin characters, lots of elderflower thiols, the oak barely discernable as a little nutty breadth beneath. The palate is delicious, it has the raciness and punch, and plenty of lime-fresh acidity, but it has texture and creaminess too. No UK listing for this wine at time of review.