Australian wine has greatly risen in prominence over the past few decades. Margaret River is one of their lesser-known wine regions, though it isn’t for lack of quality!
Smaller than the Victorian wine region and with a medley of newer wineries, Margaret River is often overshadowed by its neighbors. Despite this obscurity, the wines that come out of this region consistently impress with their complex spins on international wine grape varieties.
If you feel like stepping off the beaten path and venturing into less-charted waters, we’ve got the wine region for you.
Below we’ll look at the history of this growing wine region, their most stellar wineries, and several wines of Margaret River you should try this year!
A Glance at The History of Margaret River
Nestled in the southwestern region of Australia, Margaret River is proof that impressive feats can come from small packages. This area is technically a subregion of the Great Southern region of Australia, which is another reason why few wine drinkers outside the country know about it.
As is standard for New World wine regions, the Great Southern region of Australia first gained prominence in the late 1800’s.
Settlers got their start planting wine grapes and bottling vintages for business purposes, but it would take the effort of horticulturalists to launch the region into the mainstream. It wouldn’t be until the 1950’s before Australian wine became a household name.
Margaret River floats in a limbo between the Great Southern region and the prominent Western region. It’s well-known for having a rather balanced Mediterranean climate, providing even temperatures and salty winds to its vineyards. In fact, their climate and terroir make this region ideal for both white and red wines!
What Wine is Margaret River Famous For?
Since Margaret River is well-suited to several wine grapes, it’s unsurprising this region is commonly associated with chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and shiraz.
For clarity, shiraz is the same as the syrah grape. The different naming conventions reflect where the grape is grown: syrah is the spelling used for France, while shiraz is commonly used in Australia and South Africa.
How Many Wineries are in the Margaret River Region?
Margaret River is home to around two hundred and fifteen wineries. This is significantly smaller than larger regions like Victoria, another popular Australian wine region, which has over eight hundred.
What is Gingin Chardonnay?
A term you’ll run into while searching for wines of Margaret River is gingin (or gingin chardonnay).
This Chardonnay is believed to be a clone of the original grape, first found in Margaret River and still being studied by biologists.
The Unofficial Subregions of Margaret River
Here’s another reason why Margaret River is often overlooked: it doesn’t have any official subregions! Regions and subregions are designated by the government to protect vineyards’ unique qualities.
That said, it’s likely only a matter of time before these unofficial regions get the gold seal of approval. Let’s take a look at a few of them below.
This little subregion is located right on the coast of Margaret River. Yallingup is widely considered a must-see wine district for tourists thanks to its proximity to the beach and dedicated wineries.
Cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc are planted heavily here. You’ll also find quite a few red blends made with cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, or merlot.
Another tiny subregion you should check out is Carbunup, home to some of the oldest wineries in the country. Margaret River is well-known for having many boutique wineries, a term for small businesses that sell hand-crafted, small-batch wine.
Shiraz fans will be in heaven with this area’s production, available in both single origins and blends.
The last unofficial subregion we’ll look at is Karridale, known for loose soil and a slew of boutique wineries. This township was founded in the late 1800s, originally known for lumber farming before establishing its winemaking culture.
Chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon are the preferred grapes grown here.
Wineries of Margaret River
Margaret River has a slew of boutique wineries that focus on small-batch offerings. Vintages you buy here are very likely to be limited-edition and artisanal in nature.
Artisanal is a frequently misunderstood word in wine spaces. Put most simply, this term refers to wine made by hand with traditional winemaking methods. Manufacturing machinery is used to a lesser extent, creating wines that often vary greatly from year to year.
Stella Bella Wines
How can you go wrong with such a charming name? Stella Bella Wines is a small winery that tends five vineyards throughout Margaret River, though the headquarters is located in Karridale.
Two winemakers established this business with the express desire to celebrate Margaret River’s unique terroir, aiming for unique wines that express characters unable to be duplicated elsewhere.
Their wine offerings are separated into where the wines are grown, such as their Suckfizzle portfolio or Stella Bella portfolio.
Many of Margaret River’s go-to grapes are offered here, including chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and shiraz. You can also find moscato, rosé, and red blends.
If you want variety in wine grapes and a hand-crafted approach, Stella Bella is one of our top suggestions.
Another quintessential expression of Margaret River is Vasse Felix, a small business established in the 1950s by two researchers. The result is a winery that embraces the uniqueness of its region and is proud to focus on quality over quantity.
Vasse Felix prefers the least amount of intervention between the grapes and bottling, eager to hold onto the expression of the region’s terroir. Their portfolio is split into Filius, Classic, Icon, Idée Fixe, and Premier. Each one has a few still or sparkling varieties to choose from.
The grapes they focus on are sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and shiraz. While their price tags may skew a little high for casual sipping, Vasse Felix offers enough of a range to suit multiple budgets and tastes.
If you’re a huge fan of pairing wine with lunch or dinner, Voyager Estate is a great pick for your next purchase.
These winemakers have a particularly heavy lean toward wine tasting and food pairing, even offering an award-winning restaurant alongside their winery.
The classic cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and shiraz are here alongside less common varieties like chenin blanc.
If you’re interested in getting more out of your experience, they offer a wine club with exclusive discounts and boxed wine delivered to your door.
Voyager Estate is a solid pick for wine drinkers who want to go all in with their purchase.
Wines of Margaret River
Curious to see just what makes Margaret River so special? We’ve chosen a selection that represents much of what makes this region stand out, focusing on popularly planted grapes from smaller wineries.
Stella Bella Wines 2021 Luminosa Chardonnay
Grown in Boodjidup Valley, this chardonnay boasts aromas and flavors you’ll have a hard time finding outside the region. In fact, this chardonnay comes from the cloned variety gingin.
This bottle has a fascinating bouquet of salty sea spray and citrus fruit, all leading to more traditional flavors of stone fruit. We recommend pairing this bottle with shellfish, white fish, or creamy vegetarian pasta.
Stella Bella Wines 2020 Otro Vino Tempranillo Shiraz Malbec
If red wines are more your style, this red blend will cure what’s ailing you. Blending three robust red wine grapes together with a little bit of oak aging, the result is one seriously complex wine for value.
The dominant flavor notes here are red currants and plum with a hint of baking spices. The winemakers don’t recommend cellaring this bottle, so pop it open upon arrival with a plate of steak or stir fry.
Stella Bella Wines 2022 Otro Vino Piquette
Curious to see what other wines Margaret River offers outside the classics? This bottle is based on an old winemaking style associated with the working class, using leftover skins to create casual sipping wines.
This piquette is bright, zesty, and just a touch fizzy. With sweet notes of strawberries and flowers, we recommend popping this bottle open with friends or pairing it with takeout.
Vasse Felix 2021 Filius Chardonnay
With a lower price point and youthful age, this casual chardonnay will slot easily into almost any wine rack. These details still don’t puncture the complexity that Vasse Felix has to offer.
The flavor notes are impressively balanced between semi-sweet and savory, ranging between buttery, zesty, and stone fruit. Try this bottle with white cheese ravioli, a mushroom burger, or marinated chicken.
Vasse Felix 2021 Filius Shiraz
Margaret River wines follow closely in line with Australia’s dominant wine culture with their shiraz production. This jammy grape responds well to the relatively warmer and steadier climate of the region.
With a silky body and fragrant bouquet, this bottle stuns right off the bat. Expect flavor notes of chocolate and plum with a touch of red fruit, ideal for savory stews or rack of lamb.
Voyager Estate 2020 Chenin Blanc
A lesser grown variety in Margaret River is chenin blanc, a French white wine grape that leans toward high acidity and a light body. Depending on how it’s grown, it can be a casual sipping wine or a sultry dessert wine.
This bottle has a unique, waxy mouthfeel and floral bouquet, ideal for wine drinkers who want to try something new. We recommend this dish with a tangy seafood platter or a spicy stir fry.
Miles From Nowhere Shiraz 2019
If you’re tightening the belt on wine purchases, we have a great low-cost bottle from Margaret River. Shiraz is a powerful grape that responds well to Australia’s warm and salty climate.
This bottle is overflowing with complex notes of dark fruit, pepper notes, and hints of baking spices. There’s enough to enjoy sipping this wine solo or with a salty, savory dinner.
Why You Should Try Wines of Margaret River
Margaret River is a relatively young wine region with a complex microclimate and a medley of boutique wineries. Its small size has it overlooked by its larger neighbors, but there’s serious quality to be found here.
Australia is well-known for producing large volumes of shiraz and Margaret River is no different. Thanks to its complex Mediterranean climate, this region also produces steady amounts of chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon.
While Margaret River doesn’t have official subregions, it nonetheless is split into smaller areas with unique winemaking cultures. Businesses here tend to focus on traditional winemaking methods, an artisanal approach, and small batch production.
Wine drinkers who want to try international wine grapes from a unique angle will adore the compelling climate, terroir, and winemaking methods of Margaret River. Classic grapes like chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon will seem almost brand new!
Want to learn more about Australian wine regions? Check out our piece on Victoria here! Also, check out our lists of wine regions to further deepen your knowledge of wine.