Glorious Geographe

Western Australian wine, especially Margaret River’s, is riding high, but what about that lesser-known region called Geographe?

Wines from this region have been coming to my attention increasingly, climaxing in the recent 2014 Boutique Wine Awards. In this show, Geographe was a surprise package, landing the strongly contested trophy for the best chardonnay with 52 Stones Chardonnay 2013. It’s a beautifully subtle, refined but classically varietal chardonnay with sensitively handled oak, lees contact and great palate length.

The region also scored three silver medals, and the wines came from three different producers: 52 Stones (again), Fifth Estate and Pepperilly (tastings). Pepperilly’s 2013 chardonnay (tasting) was my wine of the week in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food section recently.

The stand-out sub-region of Geographe is the Ferguson Valley. The Geographe region is in three distinct parts: the coastal strip from Bunbury to Busselton, which is where Capel Vale and the original Killerby vineyard are situated; the Donnybrook area in the south-east; and the Ferguson Valley in the north-east.

The Ferguson Valley is further inland and cooler, higher in altitude, and its continental climate is enhanced by the Darling Ranges, a line of hills that separates it from the coastal weather influences. The most important winery is Willow Bridge Estate (tastings), which has a substantial 59-hectare vineyard and Simon Burnell in charge of winemaking.

52 Stones (vineyard pictured above) owner Darryn Rigg and contract winemaker Peter Stanlake attended the Boutique Awards presentation ceremony to collect the trophy for the 52 Stones Chardonnay. For Stanlake there must have been extra satisfaction, as he also made the Fifth Estate Chardonnay.

Ferguson Valley and Geographe are names to watch, and their successes serve to underline the fact that today, top Australian chardonnay is coming from not just a handful of regions, but many.

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