Great Southern Wine Producers Association: www.greatsouthernwines.com.au
Great Southern Region
The Great Southern is really a cluster of five cool-climate sub-regions around the Southern Western Australia’s Stirling Ranges: Frankland River, Mount Barker, Porongurup, Albany and Denmark.
Apart from some early viticultural attempts around Albany there has been no long tradition of wine-making in this region more famous for its massive jarrah and red gums, wild scrub and massive outcrops of granite. The impetus for commercial wine-making in this area was a 1955 report by a visiting Californian Professor (Harold Olmo) into the wine-making problems being experienced in the Swan district, The Professor recommended that the Frankland River and Mt. Barker were far better sites for wine.
A few hardy wine-makers decided to give the remote area a go in the 1960s and 1970s. The State viticulturalist, Bill Jameison, established a trial vineyard near Mt. Barker and produced the first vintage in 1972. In 1975 his Rieslings became the most awarded dry white in Western Australia. Alkoomi, Plantagenet and Goundrey were the most successful of the first wave of pioneers. Major new players such as Howard Park, Houghton’s Frankland River and Ferngrove have set up here in the 1980s and 1990s and lifted the quality of the wines in the region generally.
The region is most famous for its tight Rieslings and elegant nutty Chardonnays and the ubiquitous WA Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blends. Where it is warm enough there are some great Shirazes and Cabernet-Merlot blends. The major hazards in the region are the severe frosts, salinity, native birds and limited water availability.
The Frankland River sub-region is the most inland of the sub-regions and makes the most wine in the Great Southern but its remoteness means that there very few cellar doors with Alkoomi and Frankland Estate being the most most famous.
The Mt. Barker is Western Australia’s coldest wine sub-region and is famous for its Rieslings. Galafrey is also experimenting with the Germany’s popular cold climate Muller Thurgau. Well known wineries include Plantagent and Goundrey.
The coastal Albany sub-region includes Western Australia’s oldest European settlement and more than half a dozen wineries such as Wignalls and Yilgarnia.
The hills around Scotsdale in the coastal Denmark sub-region are attracting a lot of interest with Margaret River’s Howard Park re-locating its wine-making facilities to this region. West Cape Howe is the most famous of the local Denmark wineries.
The Porongurup sub-region based on the spectacular granite hills of the same name has about a dozen wineries with Pinot Noir and Riesling showing the most promise