King of Cabernet Sauvignon | Margaret River
By Teresa MacDonald, Sommelier, MBA
Only in Margaret River, one of the newest (and smallest) fine wine regions in the world, can you go surfing before you start work at a winery.
Situated on the coastline of one of the greatest surfing beaches in the world, known for its gigantic, even hypnotic waves, lies this world class wine region.
Known as “little Bordeaux”, Margaret River has unusually close climatic conditions to Bordeaux, but with more reliable summer sunshine, less spring frost and hail and a long dry ripening season.
It is this warm maritime climate, cooled by ocean breezes and the unique combination of climate and soil that produces grapes of purity and finesse. They have the luxury of strong seasonal consistency between vintages with perfect ripeness most years. The vines are on original rootstocks not impaired by phylloxera. They use unique heritage clones which create world-class vineyards requiring minimal intervention and a distinctive Margaret River style of Cabernet Sauvignon. The average price of grapes across Australia is $664/ton, however, Margaret River grapes command an average of $1465/ton.
Vines were planted as early as 1829 but the areas isolation and limited population stifled the industries growth until as late as the 1980’s. Today, they produce excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot. You will also find classic Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Chardonnay with some Chenin Blanc
and Verdelho available as well.
While Margaret River has only 2% of Australia’s total crush, they boast having 20% of the country’s fine wines. There is no doubt that this region produces much more than their fair share of top-quality wines, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon. The style is medium bodied, perfumed, elegant, with fine tannins and crisp acidity. Beautifully fruit forward flavours of cassis/black currant, dark berries, red currants, cedar, and bay leaf shine through with finesse, elegance, and longevity.
For many years, Coonawarra has been the undisputed King of Cabernet in Australia. Now, many argue that Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon is even better – the new King. In just 50 years, Margaret River has become one of the top wine regions, not only in Australia but the world. Their Cabernet Sauvignon will rival not only those of Coonawarra but the best of Bordeaux. Warm days, cool nights, oceanic breezes produce fine wines of defined varietal characteristics and balanced acidity.
In my 20 + visits to Australia, Margaret River is the only major wine region in Oz that I have not yet been to. It is closer to Singapore, Bangkok, and Hong Kong than any of the rest of Australia. From my sister’s home in Brisbane it is 4500 kilometres away and it is about 3000 kilometers from the main wine regions in South Australia. It is one of the most geographically isolated wine regions in the world, with ancient soils and a unique biodiversity, with 80% of its plant species found nowhere else in the world.
In Cellar Offering 280 we have wines from Chapman Grove Wines, founded by Ron Fraser in 1997. The winemaker understands the unique soils and climate and believes strongly in sustainable farming practices. Absolutely anything from this winery is well worth a try. Enjoy their Cabernet Sauvignon with steak or lamb, robust roasted vegetables, strong cheeses, or dark chocolate. These wines are best with good quality food, simply prepared. Let Margaret River wine shine and it will enhance the food.