The Wines of Western Australia

Western Australia, the largest state in the Land of Oz, has always been a major agricultural center. Up until about thirty years ago, its major crops centered around orchards and cereal grains. Things are a little bit different today. Now, there are the vineyards.

Over 400 wineries currently call Western Australia home. Its eight established wine regions are located mainly in the southwestern corner, and these regions, taken together, account for over 26,150 acres currently "under vine." On this vast acreage, the state of Western Australia currently produces over 4,000 varieties of wine.

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The wines of Western Australia differ dramatically from wines produced in other Australian regions. The latter have been compared to California wines, but Western Australian wines possess a unique character all their own, one which is said to have a leaner, more European style. The area's weather conditions could be the reason why.

Western Australia enjoys a temperate climate, courtesy of the breezes off the Indian Ocean. The growing conditions afforded by this climate are particularly well-suited to Cabernet Sauvignon. Other red varieties which do especially well in these conditions are Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Grenache and Pinot Noir. Some of the more exceptional white varietals produced in Western Australia include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon and Riesling.

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The largest of Western Australia's eight major wine-production regions is the Great Southern, and its vineyards cover 5,775 acres. The outstanding varietal styles produced in this region include Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. Great Southern's three main white varieties are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and an extraordinary Riesling.

Margaret River is another major wine-producing region in Western Australia. Margaret River's award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon wines have acquired a world-wide reputation for excellence. Other outstanding reds of the region include Merlot and Shiraz.

Margaret River's white wines, the Chardonnay in particular, are famous for their full-bodied qualities, while the dry styles of Margaret River's Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc boast a distinctive regional character. Other good wines produced in this region include the excellent Marsanne, Rousanne and Viognier, as well as a fine Riesling.

The oldest and most northerly wine-producing region in Western Australia is the Swan Valley District. Thanks to its rich alluvial soil, it is also the region with the biggest output. The Swan District's grape harvest usually begins in January, due to its more northerly geographical location

The Swan Valley produces a wide variety of highy-esteemed fortified wines; its Ports, Tokays and Liqueur Muscats have earned the region an international reputation. The Swan District is also a major producer of Shiraz and Cabernet, and the quality of its white wines, particularly the Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Verdelho, is undisputed.

The wines of Western Australia are unique and distinctive, and could be unlike any you've tasted before. Why not give them a try? See for yourself why Western Australia has become such an important region for wine production in the Land Down Under.

Copyright David Carr 2008