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Great Southern wines show their character

MANY wine consumers across our land, and in particular most consumers in Perth, will almost without hesitation give the “golden globe” awards to Margaret River wines and wineries.

But, ever so slowly, other Western Australian wine regions are picking up the odd Oscar and beginning to put a scuff or two on the red carpet rolled out for Margaret River.

One the most exciting of these ‘emerging’ regions is the area called Frankland in the Great Southern.

It includes the area between Mt Barker, Denmark, Manjimup and Kojonup. Although the Great Southern is talked about as ’emerging’, in viticulture terms it has been worthy of acclaim since the early 1950s. Vines have been in the ground since the late 1960s, compared with those in Margaret River, which first were planted in the mid 1970s.

An independent report recently released by viticultural consultant and renowned expert, Dr John Gladstones, recognised the Great Southern as one of the best regions in the world for growing shiraz.

The report compares the region favourably against the internationally recognised Hermitage and Cote Rotie regions in France. Dr Gladstones evaluated the region as being able to produce ultra premium shiraz.

In 1956, respected US Professor Harold Olmo singled out Mt Barker-Frankland as an area of particular promise. Former WA Government Viticulturist, the late Bill Jamieson, reported in 1950 that, if Marice Oshea (the legendary Hunter Valley producer) had his time over again, he would have planted vines inland from Albany.

This is indeed high praise for the region.

Dr Gladstones’ report explains that the first commercially planted vines were planted in 1966 at Forrest Hill. The Roche family started with a pilot planting in 1968, which expanded after some promising results to a major planting in 1970. Merv and Judy Lange followed in 1971, with Old Kent River in 1985 and Frankland in 1989.

Dr Gladstones’ report goes into the positive viticulural attributes of the climate, including weather and temperature records, topography and soils, which further emphasises the quality within this region.

These viticultural records provide the basis for Dr Gladstones’ claim that the region has the potential for producing some of the world’s best shiraz, given the favourable comparisons of Frankland’s ripening period with those in France and elsewhere in Australia.

While shiraz has received much of the praise due to the many awards gained in the show system across Australia, varieties such as riesling also are beginning to show outstanding results.

Houghtons winemaker Larry Cherubino has for some time been excited about the quality of the fruit from the region.

This year, Houghtons released a couple of regional specific wines to highlight the outstanding fruit attributes coming off the vineyards within the Frankland region.

Watch out for wines coming out of the Frankland region over the next few years as their market share grows in liquor outlets across the country, simply through the quality of fruit being grown.

Don’t be afraid to take an opportunity to explore the region. There are a number of wineries that will welcome the chance to show you a few wines.

Next time you are searching through your local bottle shop or restaurant wine list, why not have a look for some of these wines that I think represent the region in a shining light.

Following are five Frankland wines that show the regional characters.

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