Margaret River Grape Varieties

Grape Varieties & Wine Styles

Cabernet sauvignon is the regional leader both for volume and quality of red wine produced, representing just over half of the red crush. The other Bordeaux red varieties also factor, though merlot is by far the most represented. And while the style has typically been a powerful one, if not necessarily sweet-fruited, progressive makers like Vanya Cullen have pulled back both ripeness and alcohol, pushing into a more mid-weight spectrum with no loss of complexity or character.

Shiraz, while it doesn’t have the same level of prestige as cabernet, has a fair foothold in the area, representing about 30% of the red crush. Pinot noir, tempranillo and grenache make lesser but meaningful contributions.

For white grapes, while chardonnay may be responsible for some of Margaret River’s most iconic wines, it is shaved by both semillon and sauvignon blanc for vineyard holdings, and when combined, as they often are in bottle, they dwarf it. That Bordeaux-inspired white blend is also a regional standard bearer, with it even leapfrogging Chardonnay at one point to form Voyager’s pinnacle ‘Tom Price’ bottling (though no longer made).

Chardonnay, however, is a much more lucrative grape, and the plantings are increasing over the Bordeaux pair. One of the things that has made Margaret River Chardonnay so distinctive is the unique expression of the Gingin clone (aka Mendoza), which produces both small and large berries in the one bunch (hen and chicken). This variation gives ripe and expressive fruit notes, as well as fresh flavours and vibrant acidity, and though this viticultural variability isn’t particular to the region, the profile of the expression certainly is. Today, while the clone is still highly prized, there is also significant interest in the Bernard clones, amongst others, to add complexity.

Chenin blanc is the next most populous white variety, followed by Verdelho, with muscat blanc and pinot gris also planted in some concentration.

Margaret River in numbers*

  • Elevation: 0–227 metres above sea level
  • Annual rainfall: 931 mm
  • Mean temperature (Jan): 20.4°C
  • Area under vine: 5,840 hectares
  • White grapes: 59%
  • Red grapes: 41%
  • Average yield: 5.1 t/ha

Top five varieties crushed (2018)

*Statistics courtesy of Margaret River Wine Association

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