Woodlands the quiet achiever

Stuart and Andrew Watson of Woodlands Wines (Photo: QED Wines website)

Woodlands is probably the least well-known of Margaret River’s first wave of vineyards; the sleeper of the group. Its first vines were planted in 1973, just six years after the region’s pioneer, Vasse Felix, in 1967. The vineyard is one of the region’s best, and the cabernets were superb from the start. But there was a seven-year hiatus between the early work of founder David Watson and the passing of the baton to his sons Andrew and Stuart who run the show today. That was to the advantage of other local wineries who purchased the grapes in those years.

Leaning heavily on the region’s strengths – chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and the other Bordeaux red varieties – the Watson boys are rapidly re-establishing Woodlands as a worthy member of Margaret River’s elite.

For a small producer, they sure have a lot of Bordeaux-style red wines – six, at the last count.

From the top, the current wines are:

Cabernet Sauvignon – the flagship, made from the same 8-acre block of old vines on the original Woodlands vineyard, a south-facing slope that yields a superbly elegant cabernet which has power and longevity. Each vintage carries the name of a different family member: the current vintage, 2014, is named Matthew. (AUD $137)

Margaret Reserve Cabernet Merlot Malbec – the second-rank cabernet blend, which – in confusing contrast with the above – has the same name every vintage. Doubly confusing, it’s not a reference to the region Margaret River, it’s the name of a family member: Stuart and Andrew’s great grandmother. This is a fresh, elegant, blueberry-and-violets wine with very fine tannins. It comes from the same 12-acre block of the original Woodlands vineyard every year. (AUD $56)

Emily Special Reserve Cabernet Franc Merlot – This also has the same name each year, and is unusual in the region by being a cabernet franc-driven blend – a St Emilion style, if you like. Emily, Emilion, get it? The fruit comes from the same 8 acres of the Woodlands Brook vineyard, which is 2km from the original vineyard. (AUD $46)

Clementine Cabernet Merlot Petit Verdot – This is from young vines on 18 acres of the Woodlands Brook vineyard. (AUD $43)

Wilyabrup Valley Cabernet Merlot – This is blended from various vineyards in the Wilyabrup sub-region, not all under the Watsons’ ownership. (AUD $29)

Cabernet Franc Merlot – From the Bantry Bay vineyard, the 2015 is great value: aromatic, fine-boned, elegant and intense. (AUD $27)

Chloe Reserve Chardonnay – The flagship chardonnay bears the same name every year and comes from the same two acres of the original Woodlands vineyard. It’s very concentrated, powerful and complex: one of the best chardonnays in Margaret River. (AUD $87)

Wilyabrup Valley Chardonnay – Like the eponymous red, this is a blend from various vineyards in the district, including Woodlands Brook. The new-release 2016 is outstanding value for money. (AUD $29)

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