The Australian wine industry is a veritable perpetual motion machine. Fuelled by decades of intense research, investment and international market focus, the Aussies just keep moving from strength to strength. Great wine making land has been the starting point. But from there it has been acumen and ambition that have allowed the country to conquer the world. With well-organized education and research programs driving quality, and quality driving international success, and international success driving more investment, and investment driving interest in new winegrowing regions - well the Australian wine scene just grows more vibrant. Established wine regions are the primary beneficiaries of their own hard work in pushing into international markets but there is tremendous excitement in new areas as well. And it seems as though Australia has a practically endless supply of exciting wine frontiers.
Western Australia has been one of the most attractive destinations for wine lovers and travellers for many years. The Margaret River area, about a 3-4 hour drive down the stunning coast from Perth, is one of the world’s great culinary, wine and beach meccas. But there are other, less well-known wine regions both along the way to Margaret River and just beyond. One of the most exciting is Geographe. Slightly closer to Perth, Geographe is an area of verdant rolling hills, dairy farms, steams and orchards. The wineries are developing reputations for both the quality of their wines and the friendliness of their cellar doors.
Why Geographe For Wine?
The distinctly French name for the region comes from the name of the ship captained by the Frenchman Nicholas Baudain who explored the region in the early 1800’s. It is lost to history as to whether he thought about planting vines here - as a Frenchman there is a strong chance it crossed his mind. In any event, the Australians certainly saw the potential and winegrowing has been going on this region since it was settled. In recent years the wines are gaining international attention, both for some of the Aussie standbys such as Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay but also for some interesting varietals such as Tempranillo, Viognier and Dolcetto. The region encompasses 4 subregions created by river valleys: Harvey, Donnybrook, Capel and Ferguson (although the area around the town of Busselton is referenced as a region to itself). Each of these areas has a distinct climate but without a doubt they are all warm and humid maritime microclimates. The sea breezes do help to moderate but this is a place that produces wines of depth, power and character.
Where Is Geographe?
Located just 200km south of Perth along the sweep of Geographe Bay extending from Yalgorup National Park to Cape Naturaliste, the area is right on the doorstep of Margaret River. It’s location so close to Margaret River means that it has a symbiotic relationship with its much better known and more developed neighbour. For a place that is such a long way from just about anywhere in the world, Margaret River attracts an immense number of visitors. The remarkable beauty of the place, the incredible hospitality industry that has evolved, the amazing wine and food all combine to make the area a global destination. And Geographe, with it sought after wines and laid back charm, is becoming its own significant part of the tourism mix.
Who Are The Winemakers?
While the number of winemakers is small compared to Margaret River, there are a few dozen in Geographe and more starting up. Ferguson Valley and Donnybrook contain the highest proportion but the wine roads of Geographe will allow you to experience the friendly cellar doors throughout the region. Here are a sample of the wineries:
Willow Bridge Estate - Ferguson Valley
Whicher Ridge Winery - Busselton
Iron Cloud Wines - Ferguson Valley
Green Door Winery - Ferguson Valley
Capel Vale Winery - Capel
Talisman Wines - Ferguson Valley
Mandalay Road Wines - Donnybrook
When Is The Best Time To Visit Geographe and Western Australia?
There is absolutely no bad time to visit this region. Although Margaret River is more crowded during the school holiday months of December and January, Geographe remains a little less crowded. Perth is gorgeous year round but a little hotter in January and February and a bit rainy in June-August. Whatever you do, make sure you give yourself enough time to drive through the area including to the wine roads and beaches beyond Margaret River.
Map and photo credits: www.wineaustralia.com; Whicher Ridge Winery; Iron Cloud Winery; Willow Bridge Estate