“Cape Mentelle is firing on all cylinders, with the winemaking team
fully capitalising on the extensive and largely mature vineyards,
which obviate the need for contract-grown fruit.
Cape Mentelle is one of those knocking on the door of
the Winery of the Year Award.”
James Halliday, Australian Wine Companion 2018 edition
Since the first vineyards were planted in 1967 this prestigious wine region has been receiving international recognition for wines of exceptional quality. From idyllic forests to pristine surf beaches, award winning wines and fresh regional produce, Margaret River has much to offer.
The brilliant idea of Margaret River as a wine growing region started as a “gut feeling”. Agriculturalist Dr John Gladstones knew the district well. He saw undulating, well-drained ironstone gravel soils carrying healthy marri trees (Eucalyptus callophylla) which were regarded in Western Australia as an indication of prime vineyard soils. Climate data suggested strong growing-season similarities to Bordeaux but warm, sunny Margaret River promised to be even better. The likely ripening period was drier, despite higher annual rainfall.
Temperatures were tempered by the maritime location and sea breezes from the Indian and Southern oceans. There was only a minimal risk of spring frost.
Gladstones recognised that the region possessed all the elements for growing Bordeaux grape varieties. Cape Mentelle, the Margaret River pathfinder, was one of the founding vineyards with planting beginning in 1970.
Some 50 years since the first vines were planted, the Margaret River wine region is recognised as one of the world’s finest. Today this thriving industry produces consistently high quality cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and semillon to delight connoisseurs around the world.
Margaret River wineries have a reputation for producing wines with delightful individual fruit character that conjure up the sense of place for one of the most spectacular environments on earth.
After a sunny and mild September 2014, Margaret River experienced a cool spring all the way to the years-end. 2015 brought the driest January on record, on par with 2008 and concluded with some hot days in the mid 30’s during the last week. The nights remained cool through summer, favouring delicate floral and white fruit flavours especially in the Chardonnays and Sauvignons. The 2015 Sauvignons show intense varietal characters and honeysuckle notes; the Semillons have beautiful weight and texture.
Margaret River experienced amongst the warmest vintages on record and on a par with the very warm 2011 vintage. Whites were all harvested in a rush and look fantastic. Flavours are bright and fresh with natural acidity high and in good balance. The red harvest benefitted from mild conditions throughout March and April which enabled tannin and flavour maturity to catch up to the high sugars prior to harvest. Cabernet Sauvignon is again expected to be the star with outstanding depth of flavour and the characteristic fine gravelly tannin structure for which the region is famed.
The lead up to harvest experienced a wild, cool and windy November which interrupted flowering and fruit set and ultimately resulted in the lowest yields for a decade. The summer leading into the 2013 vintage recorded temperatures well above average with perfect ripening conditions with white fruit harvested quickly and early in February and red fruit benefiting from a cool and mild March allowing extended ripening and full tannin maturity. Another great vintage for Margaret River.
What resulted was a steady ripening period leading up to a hot January and an early start to the harvest. Mild temperatures throughout February and March ensured fruit harvested in perfect condition and completed by early April prior to heavy late April rains.
The 2011 harvest in Margaret River was warm, dry and early and continues an excellent run of recent vintages. Warm nights and above average daily temperatures throughout the growing season led to very early ripening across all varieties with harvest commencing earlier than any of the last 5 vintages. Bright acidity and abundant flavour are the result of an outstanding early and warm vintage.
The 2010 harvest in Margaret River continues a run of excellent vintages again marked by a very dry and mild summer with below average rainfall and cooler than average night time temperatures.
The only significant rainfall for the vintage period was not until mid April after all the fruit had been harvested ensuring an excellent ripening period with fruit retaining pristine varietal flavours with great concentration and intensity.
A cool, wet and windy spring extended into the flowering period around November, setting up the season for low yields for all varieties. The sun came out on cue in December and perfect ripening conditions continued through harvest, interrupted only by a spot of rain at the start of March - enough to give the vines a drink and see all varieties harvested in optimal condition.
A wet winter and warm spring encouraged uniform growth in all varieties. An ideal flowering period in November with warm dry weather marked the beginning of a long dry spell lasting until mid-February setting up the vintage ripening period in near perfect mild and dry conditions. A standout vintage for Margaret River with white and red varieties both excelling.
The 2007 vintage was one of the earliest recorded vintages in Margaret River as a result of above average October to December temperatures in 2006 which promoted early and fast development of the vines. The ripening period from January onwards was mild however, which combined with excellent vine health, produced full flavoured, concentrated white wines with great aromatic intensity and lively fresh palates and solidly built reds with depth and structure.
The 2006 vintage in Margaret River was a challenging vintage for many reasons. In general it was a very cool vintage with a late budburst and restricted shoot growth early due to a very cool and dry 2005 spring. When some warm weather arrived in November shoot growth accelerated producing strong healthy canopies with moderate crops. The summer months proved to be unseasonally mild with occasional light rain. The result of the mild conditions was a harvest delayed by up to four weeks across all varieties the latest vintage recorded in the regions forty years of viticultural experience.
The preceding spring of the 2005 vintage began with enough rain in the soil to ensure that the vines got off to a good start with optimal vegetative growth. Generally dry and sunny conditions prevailed through a season of below average temperatures until March following completion of the white harvest when a sustained heatwave was relieved by two late bouts of rain which slowed things down nicely, allowing the remaining red fruit to successfully ripen in perfect Autumnal conditions.
With temperature and rainfall almost exactly on average for the growing season. A long warm and dry summer produced moderate yields with healthy canopies. The fruit ripened fully with rich tannins and great depth producing amongst the best quality across the region with the standout being the Cabernet Sauvignon which relishes a season free of extremes.
With two bouts of heat the first in December of 2002 and the second in March. Rainfall was below average and between the heat events temperatures were mild with a cool February enabling whites to be harvested to very good condition while the March heat pushed sugars up on reds resulting in big ripe wines with firm structures with harvest finishing earlier than average.
The 2002 vintage following on from a very warm 2001 harvest and by contrast was very cool and dry. The cool conditions particularly with cold night time temperatures resulted din high natural acid retention and fruit harvested with great flavour at lower than average potential alcohol. A great vintage for white wines with the reds more elegant and spicy than is typical.