When the depth, consistency, range and quality of the wines Western Australia is producing these days is considered, there is strong evidence and justifiable claim that this state is making Australia’s best wines. For me the evidence is compelling, based on the 600odd wines submitted for this year’s Guide.
It seems these days quality and consistency of WA wines are almost taken for granted given the succession of excellent vintages – although 2016 did present some challenges (see the Vintage Report on page 16), the maturing vines and the attention to detail in the vineyard and wineries.
While that may be true, there are subtle things happening which point to an exciting future for the industry.
Much of this has to do with the styles of wines being produced these days. To illustrate this, it is best to highlight a few varieties and the changes.
Chardonnay, especially coming from Margaret River, has for some time shown a lightening off in weight, but at the same time it has not compromised the intensity and power of these wines. There has been a definite trend around Australia in recent years towards finer and more delicate chardonnays. Unfortunately, many of these wines have been so stripped back in palate weight and structure, they have appeared sour and insipid.
It is almost impossible to do that with Margaret River chardonnays, so winemakers have simply tweaked things to refine and modernise the style, while maintaining the integrity of the style. The great names are producing great wines but even more encouraging is the emergence of new names, which simply adds to the depth of the region and provides so much wonderful expression of this great white variety.
Cabernet is another variety that has seen some changes and this was clearly evident this year in the tastings for the Guide.
The power and awesome richness of the cabernets of Margaret River is well documented. But there has been a refinement and polish that has taken these to another level. Winemakers and vignerons are continuing to push these great wines to another level.
But further south exciting things are happening, particularly in Frankland River and Mount Barker where some exceptional cabernets are being made. The Frankland region as a whole has come of age with the benefit of mature vines, and I suspect changes to winemaking that have captured the terroirs and