Woody Nook: A Genuinely ‘Boutique’ Margaret River Winery In Their Own Words
Here at MWH Wines we’re pretty big fans of the Woody Nook wines. Our founder Mike Hall discovered them whilst dining out with his wife in their favourite restaurant, and they quickly became their supper sipper of choice. Such was his love of these exceptional Margaret River wines that when the opportunity came up to represent them in the UK to our trade and private customers, he jumped at the chance and the rest is MWH history…
So, what is it that makes these wines so good? Is it that they hail from Australia’s undisputed fine wine region, Western Australia’s Margaret River? Is it that this family-owned and run winery is still small enough to put the pursuit of perfection above all else? And, where did they come by that wonderfully quirky name? To find out we spoke to Woody Nook’s co-founder Jane Bailey and got the low down on one of Australian wine’s hidden gems.
First things first: So Jane, Woody Nook, where did the name come from?
The name was given to the property by the previous owners, the Gallagher family (from which we get the name for their premium wines, the ‘Gallagher’s Choice’) forty years ago. It is appropriate as we are indeed a 'nook in the woods', the vineyard having a magnificent backdrop of mostly jarrah and marri forest. It isn't a 'virgin' forest as the area was a timber-cutting one in the late 19th century and many of the larger trees were taken away and exported to England to be made into railway sleepers.
Margaret River is often referred to as Australia's fine wine capital. What is it do you think that makes it so special and such a perfect site for noble varieties?
With the south west corner of Western Australia having ocean on three sides, Margaret River has a markedly maritime climate. Our rainfall is concentrated in the winter months, ensuring a warm, dry growing season, with consistency of temperature during the ripening season. With our climate, gravelly loam soil and the dry farming of the older vines that produce a low yield of around 5 tonnes/hectare and intense varietal fruit flavours, we do indeed have ideal conditions for the noble varieties.
Climate change is a hot topic in Australian wine with many saying 'Go up or go south'. Is it something that's affecting Western Australia or is the oceanic influence keeping things under control?
The oceanic influence will certainly help ameliorate the effects of climate change in comparison with other regions, although we do expect that winter rainfall will decrease and summer temperatures will increase, bringing harvest dates forward. We have yet to experience a noticeable change, however, the past three years having been unusually cool.
Although there might be a regional focus elsewhere towards moving production further south or to higher elevations, this will not be a strategy employed by many in Margaret River as this region is based upon small producers. However, we may face increased competition from other regions over time and many producers are hedging their bets by trialling new(er) Spanish and Italian varieties that suit a warmer climate.
Your wines tend toward the classical - Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz etc - so where does Nook Delight come in? Is it from a love of Australia's fortified wine tradition or is there another reason?
Woody Nook's first vines were planted in 1982 and we opened our doors in 1987, near the beginning of the 'boutique boom' which eventually saw a major change in people's drinking habits. At that time most Australians still drank beer or fortifieds, so having a 'Tawny' in the range was almost mandatory. Over the years, others have stopped producing fortifieds and new producers have arrived into an established table wine - meaning 'not European' - wine market and not felt the need to include one in their range.
Winemaking is changing fast in Australia - a couple of years back I visited Adelaide Hills and all the talk was of low vineyard intervention, biodynamic methods and the use of amphorae and other classically-inspired fermentation methods. How would you describe your approach? Is it in the classic tradition of the region?
There are lots of ‘eggs’ and amphorae for sale second hand at big markdowns now! We do practise 'minimal interference’ though.
That’s interesting. On my last tour of Australia, I heard many winemakers talk about a minimalist approach both in the vineyard and the winery. The aim is clearly to let sites speak for themselves, something that follows in the classical tradition – even if no ceramic egg amphorae are required these days.
There's a growing interest in 'alternative' varieties in Australia - I've had Malbec, Pinot Nero and (less joyously) Sangiovese - do you have any plans to expand your range of these 'new' varieties beyond your Tempranillo?
We planted Graciano at the same time as the Tempranillo in 2006, the intention being to make a typical Rioja blend. Apart from one vintage, however, we have bottled them separately, the 100% Tempranillo proving to be a very popular product for us. The Graciano has actually struggled to ripen adequately during a couple of cooler than normal summers in recent years, so we are considering replacing those vines with another 'new' variety.
I am a huge fan of both your Chardonnay and Shiraz. Could you give me the perfect food match for these wines?
There are many suggestions to make but we would always recommend the Chardonnay be served with a cheese course and the Shiraz with a main (meat) course, especially lamb dishes. In our own Nookery Café one of our all-time favourites is our Shiraz lamb pie.
That sounds like a recipe for success. Thank you, Jane.
MWH Wines are proud to be the UK distributors for Woody Nook’s wines and you can see our entire list here. If you would like to list Woody Nook’s wines as part of your on-trade offering, then please contact Mike by calling him on (0118) 984 4654 or by emailing MWH Wine here.