Margaret River – fabulous wine tasting in Western Australia
A visit to Western Australia would not be complete without heading South to the beautiful Margaret River region. This is a destination famed for its gorgeous coastline, wild surf beaches, and of course its wineries. We were lucky enough to experience a half day gourmet wine tour to some of the finest wineries in the area. Margaret River Tours, our host, is the first and most experienced of the wine tour companies here.
A half day tour is a great option for getting a good overview of what the region has to offer. There is a dazzling choice of over 130 vineyards and 100 cellar doors, so it can be difficult to know where to start. The Margaret River half day gourmet tour picks you up from your accommodation and takes you back there at the end of your trip. Transport is in a comfortable air conditioned bus, with just twelve people in the party, an ideal group number.
The tour includes wine tasting at four top wineries. A stop at the chocolate factory and a cheese tasting at the Margaret River Dairy company are also part of the afternoon. During the tour we even got a gourmet picnic platter served to us on the bus by our friendly guide, Candy.
Margaret River – four premium vineyards
On our tour we visited Cape Mentelle, McHenry Hohnen, Watershed Premium Wines, and Voyager Estate. Margaret River’s association with wine began as a way of developing industry and tourism here. The vineyards here were planted when it transpired that the soil here was perfect for viticulture. In fact, the soil is very similar to the soil in the Bordeaux region of France.
Cape Mentelle was one of the first vineyards here, established in the 1970’s and it is a large and impressive operation. Black and white photographs on the wall show the early harvests at the vineyards. Back then the estate had to use local labour to pick the grapes. These workers often consisted of the local hippy surfers who would only come and work if it wasn’t worth surfing!
We tasted a range of whites and reds here. Most of the grape varieties grown here are the classic French ones like Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. This is because the soil here in Margaret River is similar to that of Bordeaux
Organic wine – the way forward
The founder of Cape Mentelle, is Dave Hohnen. Dave is the mastermind behind Cloudy Bay, one of New Zealand’s most famous wine brands. His latest vineyard is a much smaller boutique venue, McHenry Hohnen. This vineyard produces only organic wine. Vines grow here without the use of pesticides. No preservatives and as few sulphates as possible are used in the production of this wine. This organic wine has another bonus too, because it doesn’t give you a hangover!
We enjoyed some wine tasting here with our amusing host Olivier. Some of the red wines are served paired with delicious mouthfuls of free range smoked meats. These meats are also produced here from livestock on the farm.
The Margaret River Chocolate factory is always a popular stop. Have fun tasting the bowls filled with samples of white, milk and dark chocolate pastelles. There is a huge range of chocolate products here including Chokka the Quokka. They even have chocolate soap and chocolate moisturiser!
Margaret River – wine, chocolate and cheese!
The Margaret River Diary company is also a favourite stop on the itinerary. We did some cheese tasting of lots of different kinds of cheese made here, and I bought some amazing double cream brie. In fact the Margaret River Dairy Company was the site of the record breaking world’s largest cheese tasting event, earlier this year involving 560 cheese tasting fans.
Watershed wines at Margaret River
Our third winery was Watershed wines. This is a stunning vineyard estate. The owner is a big fan of the Fremantle Dockers, the Aussie Rules football team here. The purple packaging and labeling on the wine, reflects his favourite team’s colours. By the third vineyard everyone in our party were getting on like old friends and were sharing our wine tastes and opinions openly.
Summer drinking special
I somehow don’t think we will make the grade as professional someliers.. Our conversation goes something like this:
Me “I like this one – do you?”
Allison (wrinkling her nose) “Mmm, there’s too much going on in the glass.”
Me “That’s why I like it!”
Margaret River – the Voyager estate
Our final winery was the Voyager estate, another rather grand winery with the most beautiful grounds. The main large white building has a very Dutch Colonial vibe (quite South African in style.) Surrounded by perfectly landscaped lawns, the main house also has a stunning rose garden. The winery boasts a grand upscale restaurant too. We enjoyed a sit down wine tasting guided by our host Roger. He guided us through a tasting of the selected vintages and was very informative.
The $50 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon was a particular favourite! Between 92 and 96% of all wines are drunk within 24 hours of purchase. So says a survey conducted by the wine retailer’s association. No one seems surprised by this statistic.
Our local guide for the whole tour was Candy. She was extremely knowledgeable and gave just enough context to our expedition without overdoing it. She was funny, laid back and likeable, an ideal companion for the afternoon. Our fellow trippers were from Australia, the UK New Zealand, and Canada and they were all good company too.
The Margaret River – a wine and food paradise. c
It was the fiftieth anniversary of the Margaret River wine region this year. I can highly recommend this tour both for a first time visitor or anyone coming back for more. A wine tasting tour is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon in this charming region. On a tour you don’t have to worry about driving or where to go either. Get in touch with Margaret River Tours for an afternoon out to remember!