Geographe Vignerons Association: www.geographewine.com.au
The region (known for its magnificent strands of native eucalypts) follows the J-shape of the coast from Preston Beach past Busselton, 100 km to the south until it hits the Margaret River region borders. It includes the major coastal town of Bunbury and also Collie in the hinterland.
Geographe gained formal GI status in 1999. For a long time previously it has been lumped together with what is now the Peel region as part of the informal “South West Coastal Plains” designation.
The wines of the coastal plains can be quite distinctive from the hot Swan Valley to the north and the cooler Margaret River to the south.
The late Len Evans commented in his 1990 Complete Book of Australian Wine: “Invariably the weight of the wine is less than in adjacent areas, tending to more medium-light body; and the natural berry flavours are more precise and intense. Perhaps the shiraz variety is the best indicator of these qualities, and white frontignac..” Of course there are exceptions such as the rich full-bodied Kinnaird Shiraz from Capel Vale.
Wine-making in the region dates back to the second half of the 19th century. Pioneers in the Bunbury area established vines to export wines to the United Kingdom although they seem to have disappeared by the mid 20th century.
The revival for the region was once again led by medical doctors. Barry Killerby, established Killerby Vineyard and Peter Pratten established Capel Vale. A few other vineyards and wineries followed, in the eighties and nineties with the focus being on vineyard development.
The viticulture was originally confined to a thin maritime strip of grey tuart sands that formed a buffer between the coast and what was perceived as the overly fertile hinterland. The major winery, Capel Vale, made use of the sandy loams of river beds to keep yields down.
Since then new wineries have been able to spread into the hinterland to cooler, more continental sites in the Darling Ranges above 300m in the Ferguson Valley and around Harvey and Donnybrook.
Shiraz, Chardonnay and the ubiquitous Sauvignon-Semillon blends are the most common varieties although Merlot seems to do rather well here. A smattering of the alternative varieties are grown here - particularly the Italian varietals such as Zinfandel, Barbera and Nebbiolo along with WA’s popular white staples, Chenin Blanc and Verdelho. Willow Bridge are starting to have success with their Solana Tempranillo.
Most of the more than 30 wineries are small - the only four wineries so far with significant interstate distribution are Capel Vale, Hackersley, Harvey River Bridge Estate (an adjunct to the Harvey Fresh juice factory) and Willow Bridge. Harvey River Bridge cause a sensation in 2010 when a Cabernet poduced by them (using northern Margaret River fruit) won the Jimmy Watson Trophy for the Best Dry Red in Australia.
Recently the wineries have been trying to raise their local profile through holding the Geographe Crush wine show in Bunbury each November.top