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Nestled amongst the native gums, around some of the Margaret River's most picturesque terrain, lie the precious vineyards of Flinders Bay Estate
Flinders Bay Wines is a joint venture between the Gillespie and Ireland families. Alastair Gillespie has grown grapes in the Margaret River region for over 25 years. He also owns and operates a viticultural contracting business in the South West, establishing, maintaining, pruning and harvesting for growers in all the viticultural regions of Western Australia. Bill and Noel Ireland were wine retailers in Sydney from 1979 to 1996.
The Karridale Vineyard, 45km south of Margaret River township, is very close to Flinders Bay. Its climate is distinctly cooler than in the north of the region. Scientific data has found that Karridale is the coolest grape growing region in Western Australia. Influenced by both Southern and Indian Oceans, the 50 hectare (120 acres) vineyard was planted between 1995 and 1998 on a former dairy farm of 80 hectares (200 acres). Varieties planted are Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec.
Vineyard practices, trellising methods and control of yields, are determined by only one criterion â€š optimum quality. Pests (slugs, snails, beetles etc) are controlled without the use of chemicals, by chooks (chickens) and ducks. The absolute minimum of fertilizers and chemicals are utilised.
The surrounding Marri trees (WA Red gum) conveniently flower as vintage approaches. The silvereye birds which can cause so much damage to ripening grapes are attracted to the Marri blossom. If the Marri blossom is poor, the silvereyes will attack the grapes. So we put nets over whole rows of ripening grapes. The fruit is harvested when taste and laboratory analysis indicates optimum ripeness. Whites are harvested at night, so as to reach the winery cool, and need less refrigeration prior to cold fermentation. Reds can come off during the day, as they are fermented at room temperature. The quality of fruit has exceeded the best expectations.
The Margaret River wine region occupies the south western corner of Western Australia; about three hours drive south of Perth. It enjoys a Western Maritime, or Mediterranean climate. Summers are warm and dry, winters cool and wet. The climate has often been compared to that of Bordeaux.
The Indian Ocean lies to the west, the Southern Ocean to the south. The oceans meet at Cape Leeuwin, near the small township of Augusta. Here the Blackwood River, the largest in the South West, ends its journey, flowing into Flinders Bay. Humpback and Southern Right whales abound in the waters around the South West. They take refuge in Flinders Bay during their annual migration.
Vines were first planted in the Margaret River region in the 1960s. Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon and Riesling were the main early plantings. Much of the Riesling, more suited to continental than maritime climates, has been replanted or grafted to other varieties. In recent years there have been large new plantings of Cabernet and Semillon, along with Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Merlot. There are also substantial blocks of Verdelho, and some Viognier, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and other varieties. Pinot Noir is a continental variety, and is not widely planted in Margaret River.
Margaret River wines have earned an enviable reputation for their quality. The definitive white style is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Cabernet Sauvignon is the red of note, but Shiraz, particularly from the south of the region, is making spectacular wine, and is now vying with Cabernet for top recognition. The region is now one of Australia's top tourist destinations. Spectacular food and wine, quality resorts, accommodation and golf courses add to the natural assets of scenic forests and rugged coastline, with world renowned surf.
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