We’re back with another installment of The Great Aussie Wine Mutiny. In the last TGAWM, we took a broad look at Margaret River in southwest Australia near Perth. The wines burst with character that is the reflection of the cool climate terroir, and the local shiraz takes on a very different personality from the bombastic shiraz of Barossa Valley. Now, as a God-fearing wine writer I will drink bombastic Barossa Valley shiraz with great enthusiasm, but these Margaret River shiraz wines are layered and complex works of elegance with an identity all their own.
“The styles that we’re trying to produce here, and certainly at Xanadu, are a lot finer, more elegant, and in my opinion, a little bit more food friendly,” says Glenn Goodall, winemaker at Xanadu Wines. “Margaret River is probably most well recognized by its cabernet, its chardonnay and its sauvignon blanc/semillon blends. Shiraz, historically over the last few years, has probably played second fiddle to those other varieties.”
Cabernet sauvignon is the flagship red of the region, with the region’s top producers making cabs that can hang with the best in the world. Moss Wood, Cullen, Cape Mentelle and Leeuwin Estate all come to mind.
Beyond the brilliant cabernet sauvignon monologues, Bordeaux-style meritage blends are also pretty damn amazing, and the inspired use of petit verdot and malbec by winemaker Virginia Willcock in Vasse Velix’s Heytesbury red resulted in something of a fine beverage religious experience for me. I’m talking about a wide-eyed and giggly symphony of complex aromas that are all familiar to me from the countless meritage blends I’ve consumed in my days, yet expressed in a very spectacular way.
As crucial as the petit verdot and malbec are to this blend, for Willcock they are really supporting actors to the lead that is cabernet sauvignon:
“Cabernet [sauvignon] is king in Margaret River and all I want to do is find something that is going to bring cabernet to wonderful heights, and I think petit verdot and malbec can do it. Petit verdot brings violets, orange peel, acid structure and incredibly intense tannins. Malbec spice, voluptuousness and beauty.”