Australia ♯10 Great Southern
Great Southern is a wine region in South West Australia. It is genuinely remote and felt a long way from the UK. We had a planes, planes and minibus day, leaving Clare for Adelaide airport, then a three hour(!) internal flight to Perth. The airport there was full of young vigorous men in day-glo reflective working clothes off to build the Australian mining boom. Apparently it’s two weeks on, a week off, and the pay is incredible. They give the place an amazing frontier feeling. From a sweltering 35 degree Perth, Great Southern is a long way South; an hour on a Bombardier turbo prob, many hours by car. The trip was cloudy and one of the strangest sensations of the trip was dropping out of the low grey mizzle at Albany to see a Devon lookalike landscape of pastures, small lakes and grazing cows. Surreal. Apparently it has been a hot summer but the rain came a couple of weeks back and the land greens up pretty quickly. It does feel different here though. It feels remote, empty and far away. There are few cars on the roads, towns are a long way apart and tiny when you get there. The wineries too are mostly small and family run, with veranda’s, fly netting and wood burners, clearly it does get cool in winter. We’ve had great home cooked food. I’ve loved it, perhaps because it feels a bit like a quieter Cornwall! We’ve had cloud but with one night left I’m desperately hoping for a clear sky. We’ve been told the stars here are like something else, ultra clear skies and no light pollution. Sounds incredible. So k what about the wines and wineries? Well here is a summary of the places we visited and the wines we’ve tasted: 1. Frankland Estate – good Riesling and lovely bright Shiraz 2. Arcadia – very small producer, 3. Trevelan Farm – small too, good Cabernet Sauvignon from here 4. Ferngrove – a bigger winery this one and some lovely Chardonnay and Carbernet Sauvignon, they do a lower level called Leaping Lizard, (sensibly) experimenting with richer Sauvignon styles rather than copy NZ 5. Galafrey – really small and boutique, named after the home planet of Dr Who! Particularly enjoyed their Shiraz. 6. Alkoomi – one of the stars of the region to me, making a big range and some great Bordeaux blends. My special favourite was the 2005 Wandoo Semillon which had developed beautifully. Currently not represented in the UK – though that may be temporary on this showing. 7. Plantagenet – one of the oldest wineries in the region. I’ve sold these for a few years and it was great to see where they come from. Tasted as good as ever, especially the bright, fruity, balanced and excellent value Omrah Pinot Noir. The new winemaker replacing John Durham is Cath Oates. 8. Harewood Estate – another absolute gem, wide range of wines with a common thread of elegance, a couple of Chardonnays really close to a Chablis style. 9. Howard Park – quite large for here, successful and making some lovely wines. There is a clear and over-arching style here shared by all the estates. It is the, oft mentioned, finally found, cool climate. It is noticeably cooler here and it shows in the wines. There is great riesling and chardonnay both with bright acidity and poise. But the best showcase for me has been the reds; medium bodied, lower alcohol and with a lovely vibrancy and brightness. They are food friendly wines and never tiring. We tasted a couple of Pinot Noirs and on their evidence more should be planted, really good. The wines too are great value, perhaps reflecting the relatively unknown nature of the area. So, Great Southern. It does exactly what is says on the tin, great wines from a long way South. We just need to see a bit more of them in the UK.
Translation - a barrel of very good sauvignon blanc grapes fermenting on their skins, which is unusual