Margaret River: Quality Wines From Australia's Extreme Southwest

The Margaret River area is one of Australia's best-known wine regions.  Although Margaret River produces only about three percent of Australia's wines, the region's wine producers make about 20 percent of Australia's "premium market" wines, according to the Margaret River Wine Association.

view counter

The First Fleet sailors brought vines to Australia on their 1788 journey to Botany Bay.  This modest beginning has exploded in recent decades into a true wine boom.  Australia's 62 regions export wines to dozens of countries around the world.  Australia is the world's fourth-largest wine producer and exports more wines to the U.K. than any other country.

Margaret River History
Dr. Tom Cullity, founder of the Vasse Felix winery, is credited with creating Margaret River's modern wine industry.  Dr. Cullity began planting vines in 1967 after investigating the possibilities for making quality wines in the area.  He based his enterprise on information published by Dr. John Gladstones and Professor Harold Olmo, who studied the Margaret River region and determined that the weather and soil conditions there resembled those of Burgundy, France.  Dr. Cullity began with just a half-acre vineyard; today, Vasse Felix is one of the most popular wine destinations in the Margaret River region.

Other entrepreneurs, many of them also doctors, began to plant vines shortly after Dr. Cullity began growing wine grapes at Vasse Felix.  These early Margaret River wineries, including Cullen Wines, Moss Wood, Xanadu and Leeuwin Estate, still make some of the area's best-known quality wines.  Today there are over 120 wineries in the Margaret River wine region.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

Winery owners quickly realized that they could tie wine tourism into their business models and designed their wineries with visitors in mind.  Margaret River is one of Australia's top wine tourism destinations.  The area is known not only for its fine wines but also for gourmet foods, wonderful beaches and a thriving art scene.  Wineries regularly host concerts, festivals and other special events.

Geography, Soils and Climate
The Margaret River wine region is officially defined on its eastern side by the 115 18 E line of longitude, which passes north to south near the town of Busselton.  The rest of the region, north, west and south, is surrounded by water.  The wine region is located on a peninsula in extreme southwestern Australia, bordered by the Southern and Indian Oceans to the south and north.  The west coast is tipped by two capes, Cape Naturaliste to the north and Cape Leeuwin to the south.

Because it is surrounded by water on three sides, the Margaret River region has a relatively mild climate, sometimes described as "maritime" and sometimes called "Mediterranean."  Winters are mild and summers are warm and dry.  The average temperatures are cooler than those in a typical Mediterranean country – the average January (summer) temperature is 68 degrees Fahrenheit – but the rainfall amounts are definitely more Mediterranean than maritime.  Average rainfall ranges from 43 to 47 inches per year in the Margaret River region.

Frosts are fairly rare, but the region's wine growers do have to contend with winds during the spring months.  Some of these winds blow off the ocean and are salty, a unique issue Margaret River growers must deal with each year.