Few may know it, but Western Australia’s wine industry dates back almost 200 years, with some of the oldest vines in the country. While it’s our largest state, however, WA also makes up just 5% of Australia’s wine production. Still, that 5% includes some of the country’s most famous premium wines, headlined by world-renowned Cabernet Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling, classic white blends and so much more.

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Margaret River

Margaret River’s wine history dates back just 50 years, after being identified as an ideal climate match to Bordeaux in the 1960s. For a long time, most of the region’s vineyards were all run by Perth doctors, making for a very unique wine culture that only drove quality even higher. The modern Margaret River is now a polished wine tourism mecca, with great restaurants, boutique accommodation and unforgettable, exceptional wines.

The dominant wine styles of Margaret River include legendary, long-lived Cabernet blends, powerful Chardonnay and benchmark Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, with Shiraz, Tempranillo and even Chenin Blanc popular here. The only challenge with Margaret River is that the best wines are both hard to find (and expensive). But the quality is world-class, and up against the wines of Bordeaux that they’re benchmarked against, these wines look positively cheap.

Wineries to look out for: Vasse Felix, Deep Woods, Moss Wood, Cape Mentelle, Woodlands, Voyager Estate & Cullen.

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Great Southern

Intriguingly, Great Southern’s wine history is even older than Margaret River, beating out its northern neighbours by two years (first planted in 1965). Geographically, Great Southern is one of the largest wine regions in Australia, spread from the far southern WA coastline to 150km inland, north of the Stirling Ranges.

The second-largest wine region in WA, Great Southern is best known for beautifully aromatic Riesling, with spicy Shiraz and structured Cabernet the red wine favourites for the region. The spread of Great Southern means that styles can vary from robust and full-throated reds, all the way through to some of WA’s best Pinot Noir (and did we mention the glorious Riesling?)..

Great Southern is also home to most of WA’s most experimental winemakers, with fascinating expressions of provocative Riesling and wild reds aplenty, with arguably much of WA’s most exciting new wines.

Wineries to look out for: Harewood, Frankland Estate, Plantagenet, West Cape Howe, Castelli, Castle Rock, Swinney.

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More to WA

Western Australia’s wine industry doesn’t start and stop between Margaret River and Great Southern, with a whole smorgasbord of premium wine regions beyond the ‘big two’.

One spot to really make a mark in recent years is Geographe, situated just north and inland of Margaret River. With a climate of slightly warmer days and cooler nights, Geographe’s wines can often present all the style and swagger of Margaret River, just without the pricetag. Shiraz is more at home in Geographe too, with Chardonnay & Cabernet blends the other key styles.

Wineries to look out for: Willow Bridge, Aylesbury Estate, Whicher Ridge

Taking a cooler tack again, Pemberton may be a small region, but its impact can’t be overstated, particularly for Pinot Noir. Perhaps more famous for its hardwood forests and trout farm than wine, Pemberton’s elegant wines are still a welcome addition to the WA wine scene.

Wineries to look out for: Picardy, Silkwood, Belllarmine Estate.

Further north, the Swan Valley is the original home of WA’s wine industry. The Swan is now being swallowed up by outer Perth suburbia, but the remaining wineries are notable for two things - great Verdelho and exceptional fortified wine. Almost within walking distance of the Perth airport, the Swan Valley is a great place to visit, plus the history of the region only adds to the experience. Don’t miss some of the old vine Shiraz, and the ancient, rare fortified Verdelho.

Wineries to look out for: Faber Vineyard, Talijancich, Sittella