By Fergal Gleeson
The Australian wine drinker has become more adventurous. Alternative grape varietals are en trend! They want to drink the style of wines that they’ve tried on holidays in Europe. They want exotic. They want food friendly. They want to be surprised.
The Geographe region, in Western Australia, is less than 20 years old as a recognised wine region and is well placed to capitalise on a trend that isn’t going away. It has built a reputation for Shiraz, Chardonnay and Semillon/Sauvignon blends. But the region is becoming increasingly recognised for the diversity of alternative varietals on offer.
I spoke to some of Geographe’s leading alternative producers to get their story.
Capel Vale planted the first commercial vines in Geographe in 1974 and it is the region’s largest producer. It is still owned and operated by the Pratten family.
Unlike other Geographe producers Capel Vale has expanded beyond the region and now owns additional vineyards in Margaret River, Pemberton and Mount Barker. The logic of the expansion has been to be able to produce varietals in the regions to which they are best suited.
Their Malbec plantings are now 8 years old and were originally grown for blending with Cabernet. The 2016 Malbec is the third single varietal release and reflects the growing popularity of the wine.
Jonathan Loxton from Capel Vale describes the wine as “rich, inky and dark in colour. It’s a more robust and gutsy style than what people might be familiar with from Argentinian Malbec’s. It’s a great food wine.”
“Geographe’s Mediterranean climate is well suited to growing many alternative European varieties. It has 20 hours more sunshine on average each month than Margaret River. Because it’s not as established as Margaret River we are still educating people at the cellar door and at wine shows because it’s not as well-known.”
Talisman has only been producing wine for 8 years, but has already picked up accolades such as a 5 star rating in the Halliday Wine companion and was voted ‘Small Producer of the Year’ in the West Australian Wine Guide 2017.
Anne Robinson, from Talisman says “Geographe has gone from being comprised of mainly backyard winemakers to major competitive wineries, producing recognised, quality wines.”
“We are not bound by expectations and iconic wines like some of the more established wine regions around Australia. We have had the flexibility to explore different grape varieties and so nearly all of us have taken a chance and planted alternative grape varieties, with many of us only producing alternative wines.“
Talisman make two alternative grapes – Malbec and Zinfandel. These varieties were planted in the initial planting of the vineyard in 1999. Anne says “As with all of our varieties there were plated because of a wine that Dad loved and we were able to find a suitable site on the block to plant them.”
“One of the things I love about the Geographe is, for the most part, if you go to a cellar door, you will meet the people behind the wines. The people of own the vineyard, who pick the grapes, who make the wine. We are a region of boutique wineries. You will also get to taste different wine varieties at each cellar door and encounter some spectacular scenery.”
Talisman Wines operate a tasting room at Evedon Park Bush Retreat, where lunch, dinner and accommodation are also available.
This is an excerpt from an article in the autumn/winter edition of Found magazine.