A steady rumble of combi-vans and rusty station wagons with surfboards strapped to the roof suggests that you've hit the lifestyle mecca of the West, Margaret River. It's a region resplendent with natural beauty, keep an eye out for chicks in paisley happy pants and shirtless surfer dudes, that's just the winemakers. Flanked by stretches of some of the most pristine, white sand beaches and peeling, green and glassy surf breaks, Margaret River manages to marry an envious laid back lifestyle with some of Australia's finest, premium wine offerings. How anyone gets anything done when Rabbit's surf break in Yallingup is pumping is mysterious and surprising, but year after year the flagship Cabernets and Chardonnays keep on rolling out.
Though Margaret River is possibly Australia's youngest premium wine region, it has catapulted itself into the highest echelon of esteem for its Bordeaux inspired red and white blends, collectable producers and overall exceeding of quality at all price points. The region was established during the 1960s and early 1970s after recommendations from agronomist John Gladstones and viticulture Professor Harold Olmo. Early pioneers included Vasse Felix, Moss Wood, Chateau Xanadu, Juniper Estate and Cullen Wines, which now sit in the upper tier of producers from the region. Though recent years have seen mass planting to keep up with supply, the prestige wineries retain their mojo. The area is roughly bound by Dunsborough township in the north, Margaret River township in the south and the parallel roadways of the Bussell Highway and Caves Road.
The area is not only known for its radical surfer dudes and combi-van dutch ovens, but as a repository for many of Perth's wealthy, ex-medicos and mining magnates who have sought a life of passion in wine producing and wine related enterprises. With a Mediterranean climate, not too dissimilar to Bordeaux, Margaret River offers exceptional growing conditions for most of the noble grape varieties, with highlights being Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and some hits with Shiraz and Riesling in better vineyard sites. Cabernet blends tend to hit the highlights for the region with seamless texture, herbal/spice/leafy inflections and a cool, reserved power. Semillon Sauvignon Blanc blends have been tagged 'classic whites' and are known for their cool refreshment and lively fruit driven styles at lower price points, and oak/lees complexity at higher price points. These are by no means the limit of success, with quality varietal wine made at varying price points from a raft of grape varieties – the key is excellent climate, soil types and consistency.