|A stunning part of the world it is too.
This photo is from the Porongurup ranges
Great Southern (wine) land
Like any industry, the wine business is always looking for something new. Something fresher, more intriguing and, theoretically at least, more interesting. New varieties, new producers, new regions… New things.
Unlike many other industries, however, wine ‘things’ require more time to change. A grapevine takes at least 2 years after planting to produce a crop, and generally is not yielding its most concentrated, finest quality quality grapes until its 10th birthday, with the ideal age closer to 25 years.
Full bodied reds, too, typically don’t show their best until they turn five, and that’s not even counting the 12+ months many need in barrel.
When you then couple in the high costs of planting new vineyards, or grafting over to new varieties, alongside the challenges of actually getting these new wines right, any new changes tend to take a little longer to happen. All of which tends to mean that, hype or not, the best wines tend to come from established regions, more often.
Which brings us to WA’s Great Southern.
Why exactly I got this impression is up for debate. Some may argue it is due to the dominance of Margaret River in West Australia’s fine wine paradigm. Others point to the pure isolation, and slight disunity, of what is a highly divergent wine region. Some simply point to the fact that the styles that madethe Great Southern reputation – unwooded Chardonnay in particular – have become considerably less popular.
Whatever the reasoning, I’m still slightly baffled as to why the Great Southern doesn’t get more love. I’ve looked at a few top Great Southern wines recently and have to say that the Riesling and Chardonnays (in particular) seem to have hit a serious high note of late (helped along by a few warm, even vintages) and really deserve a further consideration (or reconsideration for that matter)!
They just need a chance…
My Great Southern picks
Bellarmine Riesling Dry 2011 ($22) – sourced from the cooler climes of Pemberton, a sub-region better known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir than Riesling, this stunning dry Riesling clearly illustrates the perfect natural acidity that can be achieved here. Wonderful, vibrant, fresh dry Riesling of flavour and intensity.
Xabregas X Figtree Riesling 2011 ($40) – super serious Riesling from one of the most dedicated Riesling producers in WA. This carries a carefully measured level of sweetness to cope with sky high acidity, this is massively powerful and unforgettably long Riesling, cleverly packaged in a physically huge bottle.
Plantagenet Omrah Chardonnay 2012 ($18) – The original Great Southern budget Chardonnay and now in very smart new packaging. It’s a simple wine perhaps, but one that successfully showcases the unwooded Chardonnay style that first catapulted Great Southern into the mainstream.
Castle Rock Estate Pinot Noir 2011 – I’ve never been a fan of the bolder Great Southern Pinot Noir style traditionally, but this wine throws everything on its head. Dense, yet still with a certain delicacy that marks the very best Pinot Noirs. Very smart.