If you are looking for genuinely fine wines at everyday drinking wine prices, then look no further than Margaret River Australia, Australia’s fine wine capital. Home to a host of outstanding wineries including the brilliant and affordable, Woody Nook wines, it offers wine lovers a treasure trove of delights.
The Rise, Fall and Rise of Australian Wine in the UK
Australian wine has come a long way in the way last 40 years. Since exploding onto the UK scene in the 1980s, it has become our most popular wine producing nation – stealing France’s long-held crown in the process. It’s been far from plain sailing, however, and the wines’ reputation has ridden both the crest of a wave and languished in the doldrums as market tastes have changed.
While quality-conscious areas such Margaret River and the Barossa have consistently showed the self-discipline and self-belief to shy away from the quick buck of commercial mass production, other Australian regions have been less disciplined. As the market grew thirstier and demand reached new highs, so some wineries saw an opportunity to cut corners. They began engineering wines that were ever more fruit driven and oak chip soaked, which, while pleasing in their way, soon became cloying and insipid. All too soon, the initial public enthusiasm for their fun, fruity, affordable offerings faded and gave rise to a millennial backlash as wine lovers looked for something more subtly satisfying.
This gave rise to a slump in exports and a crisis for the Australian wine industry. The ABC (Anything but Chardonnay) brigade sought new, more complex wines from a rejuvenated France and the emerging New Zealand, Argentinean and Chilean markets. It was a decisive moment. Producers could have simply tried to shift their export focus to other markets – notably the U.S. and the emerging Asian markets – or they could take the much more difficult and ambitious decision to realise their natural potential and focus on creating premium wines. Happily, for all concerned, they took the hard way out.
In the following years the industry looked to quality over quantity. Winemakers became much more interested in terroir and sought out exceptional cool climate sites. They also experimented with vine and clone selections and even used classical Greek and Roman methods such as egg-shaped amphorae to make their wines in.
The result has been nothing less than a transformation in the perception of Australian wines. Quality has soared at all levels, with everyday wines offering a combination of excellence and value that have proved hard to match, while the finest wines from regions such as Western Australia, the Barossa and Coonwarra now rank with the finest in the world.
When it comes to quality and consistency, one region has always enjoyed a fantastically high reputation; Margaret River. Although barely 40 years old, this western outpost has always pursued the goal of quality and today produces some of the most exciting wines in Australia.
Margaret River Wines: 40 Years of Excellence
The Margaret River wine region lies in the far south-western corner of Western Australia. Despite its isolated location, since its establishment in the mid 1970s following the pioneering work of Professor Harry Olmo and Dr John Gladstones, it has become renowned for the excellent quality of its classically styled wines.
With its relatively cool, maritime temperatures and moderate rainfall, the climate is often compared to that of the Mediterranean. Combine this with soils which are predominantly gravelly or gritty sandy loam that are naturally free draining and you have the ideal conditions for growing noble varieties of world-beating quality. And this is just what Margaret River does. It is famed for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Semillon – especially its Semillon/Sauvignon blends – and increasingly for its lovely Pinot Noir.
The region is renowned as a centre of gastronomy and the quality of life here is something for which it was famed for long before local wines hit the scene. Once they did start producing, the emphasis was firmly on quality and that, in part, explains the continuing brilliance of the region’s production.
Margaret River was an early adopter of organic and biodynamic production methods with the likes of Vanya Cullen showing that great wines didn’t need chemical intervention. Today, their wines are fit to rank amongst the world’s greatest as our feature winery, Woody Nook, clearly shows.
Woody Nook: Affordable Australian Brilliance
Woody Nook is a boutique winery, situated in Wilyabrup, Margaret River which was established in 1982. Producing just 7,500 cases a year - making it a true boutique producer - new plantings in 2007 doubled the size of Woody Nook’s single vineyard to 15 hectares. Their older vines are un-irrigated, resulting in low yields, full fruit flavours and distinctive varietal characteristics.
As you might expect from a top-flight Margaret River winery, Woody Nook cultivate a range of noble varieties including Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc alongside more innovative selections such as Tempranillo. They also produce a limited release super-premium varietal Cabernet, ‘Gallagher’s Choice’. Every release of Gallagher’s Choice thus far has collected a clutch of medals, with the 2013 scooping the coveted ‘Australian Red Wine’ at the International Wine Challenge.
Below is a selection of recent tasting notes from this jewel in Margaret River’s crown.
Woody Nook Sauvignon Blanc
Let’s face it, Australian Sauvignon Blanc can be disappointing. Grown in climes that are too warm or where its vigour goes unchecked, they can be flabby, insipid or just plain dull. In Margaret River, with its cool climate and its commitment to quality, wineries such as Woody Nook craft Sauvignons that are fresh and fragrant, with just the right balance between citrus and riper notes of peach and honeydew melon. Throw in a dash of minerality and you have a Sauvignon that has more than a passing resemblance to a great dry white Bordeaux.
Woody Nook Chardonnay
Margaret River Chardonnays are revered around the globe. The finest have a glorious combination of pure fruit – notably apples, pears and melons – with an underlying firm, yet rounded acidity, well integrated oak and minerality on the finish. This is typical of Woody Nook’s Chardonnay. The wines are never heavy, but rely on complexity and persistence of flavour to impress and are capable of being cellared for a number of years.
Woody Nook Cabernet-Merlot
This classic Bordeaux blend works exceptionally well in Margaret River and at Woody Nook with their free draining, gravel-based soils, it thrives. A typical vintage reveals glorious fragrance of raw currants, menthol, eucalyptus, smoke and chocolate, notes that flow onto the palate where they are joined by tones of blackberry and sweet spices. Eminently age worthy, this is a wine to buy by the case and enjoy over many years as it reveals new layers of flavour.
Woody Nook Cabernet ‘Gallagher’s Choice’
Woody Nook’s flagship wine, this is a classic, full-bodied Margaret River style of Cabernet. Vibrant and complex, with a nose of ripe, mulberry-scented fruit with dusty oak overtones, the palate is well balanced and highlights both this noble variety’s blackcurrant character and has a real taste of place. To our minds it is every bit as impressive as the more famous (and more expensive) flagship wines from the likes of Leeuwin, Cape Mentelle or Vasse Felix.
Western Australian Wines: Affordable Excellence
At MWH Wine we’ve always been keen on regions that offer fine wines at affordable prices and Margaret River really delivers these. Even at the very top end, the wines are (relatively) modestly priced and can offer truly exceptional drinking. Unlike some other wines and regions in Australia – one thinks of the Barossa and wines such as Hill of Grace or South Australia’s Bin 707 – prices have remained affordable thus far and the wines from top producers such as Woody Nook offer affordable excellence.
Like To Know More?
If you would like to know more about Woody Nook’s wines – either from a retail or wholesale perspective, then you can call us on 0118 984 4654 or email us and we’ll be more than happy to help.