Terroir is defined as the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced. Factors such as the soil, topography, and climate all feed into what we consider terroir in a region, a sub-region or individual site. From the first studies of Margaret River that identified it as a region ideally suited to viticulture and wine production decades have past. With those decades knowledge has been passed through generations of winemakers and viticulturists building a more detailed picture of the region.
As part of the Margaret River Makers video series we spoke to winemakers about how terroir influences the wine of Margaret River. Here’s a taste of what they had to say.
Andrew Watson, Winemaker, Woodlands
What I love about Margaret River wines is that they taste like where they’ve come from. Every sub region in Margaret River has different characters that come from the subtle soil and climate variations. What I love about a wine like Cabernet is that you can pinpoint it. If you try it from the south it will be a bit more savoury, gravelly, it’s going to have more of those herbal or potpourri characters. In a hot year you drive more towards the north and it’s going to have more of those dark fruits, prune flavours, dark flavours. Then in the middle you’re going to have more of those medium bodied red berry fruits.
Brian Devitt, Co-founder, Ashbrook Estate
The reason we came here in the first place was that the climate studies suggested that Margaret River was as close to Bordeaux as you could get in Australia. Not identical but as close as you could get and so the Bordeaux varieties would do very well here. Early vineyards planted Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon. True to what we believed they did well and they’ve continued to do well year in year out because we have this climate that is so incredibly consistent.
I’ve done thirty eight vintages and I can probably list on one hand the vintages that have been slightly problematic. In the majority of cases they’ve been vintages that most people in other vineyard areas in the world would love to have and we get it most years so we’re very fortunate.
Virginia Willcock, Winemaker, Vasse Felix
Margaret River is effectively surrounded on three sides of ocean. It’s a little cape that pops out into the middle of a big cold ocean. In a Mediterranean climate, we have a warm dry summer but we have a cool wet winter. We have phenomenal rain during the winter months. We recharge the ground. We recharge all the organic matter in the soil. And then spring comes along and we have a beautiful warm dry summer where the grapevines just love it. They grow to a beautiful canopy size. Then as the season tapers off, and the ground dries out, the grapes start to ripen. The breeze cools those grapes and preserves their fruit flavours. So you end up with a vibrancy of fruit here. Every varietal tastes like a distinctive grape. Chardonnay tastes like Chardonnay, Cabernet tastes like Cabernet. It’s phenomenal, the preservation of characteristics.
Also most vineyards are surrounded by beautiful natural forest environments, where you’ve got birds, trees, a recharged natural environment with little vineyards popped amongst them. Margaret River is in a unique place in the world. There is no other place with that incredible Southern Ocean influence where you’ve got the westerlies coming across. We have no land in front of us coming from the west and that’s where all our breezes come from. It’s the freshest, most beautiful breeze coming across a cool ocean and it’s so vibrant. Everything in Margaret River feels so alive.
Passel Estate: A Meeting of Vines and Native Bushland Sanctuary
Passel Estate enjoys a stunning terroir studded with established old vines amidst vast areas of native bushland. Varieties grown include Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Chardonnay; all ideally suited to the gravelly soils and location straddling the renowned Wilyabrup and Wallcliffe sub-regions. Passel Estate owners, Wendy & Barry Stimpson, are equally passionate about conservation as they are about crafting small volumes of the highest quality wines from their estate. They have set aside large areas of native bush to provide sanctuary to the endangered Western Ringtail Possum and other native species. Several groups (or Passels) of these possums have been re-located to the estate, where they’ve adapted well to their new surrounds. Further conservation measures include irrigation of native peppermint trees favoured by the possums, planting of new trees (for food and safe passage), as well as feral animal and weed control.
Discover more with a visit to Passel Estate’s stunning new Tasting Room, where you can gaze out to the vines and native bushland sanctuary whilst enjoying some delicious Margaret River wines.
Discover our natural environment
One of Australia’s biodiversity hotspots, Your Margaret River Region is an enticing mosaic of pristine natural wonders. From the tranquil waters of Geographe Bay in the north, down the ancient cave-carved Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge, through picturesque vineyards and karri forest of the heartland, to the desolate beauty of Cape Leeuwin in the south, this is a place of astounding natural contrasts.
Become a Margaret River Master!
Take our Margaret River region wine masterclass and WIN a holiday to the region!