A booming tourist industry and a reputation for being one of the great wine-producing regions in the world create the robust Margaret River brand. Susan Kirk reports.
The Margaret River region is in the South West of Western Australia, approximately three hours south of Perth and includes the Shires of Augusta, Margaret River and Busselton.
Prior to the planting of grape vines, the main economy was through dairy farms. In the mid 1960’s agronomist, Dr John Gladstones researched the soils and climate and found them to be similar to the famed French Bordeaux region. Releasing his findings in 1966, he set the wine enthusiasts on the path to developing the first vineyards.
Since the first planting of vines in 1967, there are now more than 120 wine producers and 80 dedicated grape growers. Margaret River only contributes about three percent of the country’s wine grapes. However, it commands over twenty percent of today’s premium wine market.
Iconic wine brands – Leeuwin Estate, Cullen Wines, Cape Mentelle and Vasse Felix, continue to lead the way, but, they are well supported by a host of developing wineries making statements of their own locally and internationally.
Margaret River is a ‘cool climate’ producer so viticultural practice focuses on smaller yields that lead to increased concentration of fruit flavour and quality, as opposed to bulk or commodity wine production.
Despite, or, perhaps because of, its youth in comparison to centuries-old wine regions around the world, Margaret River has a vibrant and innovative industry that promotes progressive attitudes and trends in viticulture and winemaking.
A thriving local industry is producing organic fruit, vegetables, cheeses, condiments and jams and specialist meats like Venison, Emu and Wagyu beef. The Margaret River Regional Producers Association was formed in 2001 to represent the interests of this expanding trade.
Over the past few years there has also been a number of micro-breweries established within the region.
While the climatic conditions are ideally suited to grapes, topography and soil profiles vary, allowing for a range of agricultural pursuits including dairy, eggs, fruit and vegetables, olives and oil, cattle and sheep farming. At this stage these are generally small scale with most adding value post farm gate.
Wine and wine tourism are a focal point of the region and this together with the food, surfing and an unspoiled natural environment draws well over a million visitors a year. When combined with day visitors, nearly two million people a year taste and enjoy the wine and food and relax in the ambience of the region.
Regional planning and development is happening at state and local government levels through different associations and by individuals. Development of new wineries, food establishments and tourism infrastructure is growing steadily. The WA Department of Agriculture and Food and the Margaret River Regional Producers Association are working on a number of initiatives including logistics and supply chain operations.
There is also discussion about the development of a Margaret River Farmers Co-operative to encourage non-viticulture pursuits in the region and utilise the tremendous marketing pull of the Margaret River brand.
Margaret River is recognised internationally for its premium products and producers, and both the Margaret River Wine Industry Association and the Food Producers Association work hard to protect and maintain the integrity of the name. Local food products can also be seen in international department stores such as Harvey Nicholls, Fortnum and Masons and Harrods.
The strength of the Margaret River brand has led to the establishment of specialist “Margaret River” food and wine outlets in Europe, Asia and the United States.
For more information: www.margaretriver.com