The Great Southern wine region is in Western Australia's Great Southern region.
Great Southern is a large Australian wine region running along the south coast of Western Australia. It stretches from the eastern edge of Manjimup (marked by Lake Muir) to the Pallanup river in the east, where the more cereal-focused expanses of ‘Central Western Australia’ begin. Rather neatly, the region’s northern and southern edges lie almost perfectly on those of the 34th parallel, taking its vineyards closer to the equator than most in Australia and any in Europe.
Great Southern has more sub-regions than any other Australian wine region – a reflection of Western Australia’s keen focus on provenance and terroir. They number five to date, from Frankland River in the north-west to Albany in the south-east. Soils vary accordingly, as might be expected in a region which spans 125 miles (200km) from west to east and only slightly less from north to south. In general, Great Southern’s soils are similar to those of the Margaret River, being laterite and gravels or sandy loams over gneiss and granite. The most visible expression of the region’s geological makeup is in the north-eastern sub-region of Porongurup, which is named after the ancient (Precambrian) granite domes at its centre.
Rivers play an important role in viticulture here, not only in demarcating the regions but also in facilitating much-needed irrigation in the drier areas. The Frankland River, after which the eponymous sub-region is named, is the largest here and bisects the western third of the Great Southern region. It rises at Trollup Hill and flows southwards to the Southern (Antarctic) Ocean coast, 60 miles (100km) away. Closer to the centre is the Denmark River, which rises near Mount Barker and meanders gently southwards through many miles of bushland and marri forest. It flows into the Wilson Inlet just outside Denmark town – named after the river – which is the center of the Denmark wine sub-region. Further east again, the Kalgan river flows through the granite hills of Porongurup before reaching Albany.
Riesling is Great Southern’s white wine specialty, with its crisp, citrusy style matched in few Australian regions outside Eden and Clare. Frankland River Riesling is particularly prized in Western Australia, with the slightly increased altitude and cooler climate making this style possible even at such a low latitude (34 degrees south). In a similar vein, Pinot Noir has proved successful in the cooler, coastal areas of Great Southern – and now even on more elevated sites further inland, notably around Mount Barker.
Despite this slightly alternative focus on cool climate styles of Riesling and Pinot Noir, the standard Australian favorites Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Chardonnay are also alive and well in Great Southern. Shiraz wines here often have a distinctly earthy, peppery, spiced-cherry element, reminiscent of the northern Rhone. In general, Great Southern winemakers tend to use less vanillin-imparting American oak than their counterparts in the east of Australia, which permits this style to shine through.
- 115 miles (185km) east of Margaret River and 185 miles (300km) south-east of Perth.
- SIZE OF REGION (GI)
- 5000 acres (2025ha)
- HIGHEST ELEVATION
- 215 m (705 ft)
- Mediterranean type, moderated by the mass of the Southern Ocean.
- Gravelly/sandy iron-rich laterites (Marri loams) and Karri loams derived from gneissic or weathered granite rock
- NUMBER OF GRAPE GROWERS
- About 70
- NUMBER OF WINE PRODUCERS
- TOTAL TONNES HARVESTED
- 13,840 tonnes crushed (2012) or 15,000 cases, depending on size
Cabernet Sauvignon (525ha)
Cabernet Franc (69ha)
Pinot Noir (68ha)
Sauvignon Blanc (324ha)
As one moves north and inland from the strongly maritime-influenced climate of Denmark, the Continental influence and temperature variability increase significantly. Elevation, aspect and sites vary widely, but in general terms the climate of these northern areas is slightly warmer on the higher sites.
Though rainfall is greater and relative humidity increases in the south around Denmark, heat summation and sunshine hours do not change greatly, so careful site selection allows the production of virtually every wine style.
The predominant soils are similar to those of the Margaret River region – either lateritic gravelly sandy loams (marri country) or sandy loams deriving directly from granite and gneissic bedrocks.
They are typically brown to grey-brown in colour, with the percentage of clay varying from one location to another. Fertility is moderate, as are typical yields.
TOP VARIETIES GROWN
Savoury cool-climate Shiraz is one of many premium wines produced in this vast, diverse region, enriched with spice and peppery notes to produce an elegantly light wine.
This variety thrives across the region, producing age-worthy wines of deep colour and intense flavour. Many benefit from several years in the bottle to let their flavours soften and develop.
Riesling vies with Shiraz as Great Southern’s signature wine. It is crisp and refreshing with intense citrusy flavours, and ages superbly over 10 years or more.
These elegant, excellent wines are produced in a diversity of styles across the five subregions. Most can be aged for five years or more.
The Great Southern wine region is vast and diverse and provides an ideal environment for growing high-quality grapes. Located in the south-western corner of Australia, it’s a five-hour drive from Perth, or an hour’s flight from Perth to Albany.
CLIMATE AND ALTITUDE
Growing season rainfall – 251mm
Mean temperature – (20c)
Heat degree days -1,680
Altitude – 0-1083m
- Located approximately 360 kilometers south of Perth, Frankland River is fast becoming one of the State’s most successful wine producing regions. Its impressive wine show success is testament to the quality of vineyards and wines of the region