A lot of Norwegians have knowledge about Australian wine. Jacobs creek has been served in a lot of homes over the years. We tried out some of Margarets River finest.
In Margaret River we stayed in a very nice caravan park. It was close to Margaret River and we had a nice walk there in the morning. Luckily Mike only told us when we came back that snake season is up, so better look good where you go and stump around a bit, GULP!! There were also a lot of parrots and ducks around that really made the stay special.
There are around 130 wineries here in the area. It’s been growing steadily for a lot of years, but seems to have stabilized at that number. Some are changing hands, but no new pops up. These days it’s the real estate developers that buys land, not the wine producers.
Margaret River area produces about 3 present of all Australian wine, but as much as 20 percent of the premium quality. I’m no expert in wines (or anything else) but will relay on what I’ve picked up today. A lot of the wine for sale, in any country, will never come in contact with a oak barrel. The greatest symbol of all wine making are the barrels, but these things are very expensive. A new barrel from France (the French Oak is the best) costs from around 1000$ up to 2500$. When you then add that these barrels only lasts for about three years in any winery, you understand why a lot of wine are made in steel barrels. Only the most prestigious wines like “Reserva” etc are placed in new barrels, while second year use may be for “Estate” wines. There are probably wineries that don’t use the same terms as the once we visited, but hey… I’m still more of a beer guy.
Here in South West Australia there is good conditions for the grapes. Enough rain, cold, by not to cold, and good fermentation. Because of this all the big names of grapes can be grown here:” Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon, Shiraz, Merlot, Chenin blanc and Verdelho” to mention a few. It’s obviously a great art to mix these together to make good tasting wine. I guess it is the same kind as doing the Ben & Jerry flavor mix to get the best ice cream taste, it just pays better.
As the areas are huge there is a lot of work to be done at given intervals during the year. Backpackers come for pruning and the again for picking grapes after summer. I don’t know how they do their pruning, but we saw the bucket for picking and it was the size of a toilet bowl. I guess everyone can relate to that. They get 2 dollar a bucket, and the quick handed pick 15 of these buckets an hour. That makes about 50 % more than minimum wages and is considered good. The other upside is that travelers with visas that help out on these farms for at least 3 months can get visa for another year. So I guess the symbiotic relationship between backpacker and farmer is understandable. So now you maybe thought it was Scandinavian kids that does this? Nope, mostly Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.
The wine industry started around here in the late 60’s and early 70’s. We had our first stop at Leeuwin winery. It is one of the oldest and biggest around here. Not only do they make wine, they have an extended art collection on display and organize a big concert every year. The concert area was huge and they have had stars like Sting, Simply Red, Ray Charles and Diana Ross to mention a few. The first tickets to be sold are the 2000 $ where you sit on the veranda and sip wine and eat gourmet food.
I can’t honestly say much about the wine tasting. Some tasted like red some like white. Sometimes it even matched the color.
But I did learn that there are about four gram of sugar per liter in a dry wine. All flavor is made from the grapes, nothing else is allowed. If you put anything else in you can not call it wine anymore. But the grape has a lot of different tastes in it, more than any other fruit. And these can be manipulated by choice of barrel, oxygen deprivation, yeast type and temperature. You’re allowed to add grape acid, as it is a pure grape product. This has created an industry of its own. Grapes are dried and the acid crystals are extracted. I also learned that tannin molecules locked together over time, gets heavier than the wine and drop to bottom.( This is the easy wording of it. It’s all about negative and positive particles.) That’s why older wine tends to be less “sharp” compared to the younger once.
We visited a coffee producer, 4 different wineries and 1 brewery, a chocolate producer, a cheese maker and a olive oil and balsamico producer. We spent the tour with some delightful couples that made the small talk easy and the day flew by like a breeze.
During our ride we passed by a place called Cowaramup. It’s name is from the local indigenous people and mean something like “place of the green parrot”. But today the place is filled with cows. Live and in any other form. They use the cows to attract tourists and then they present them with all the town has to offer. And a last little fun fact:”Cowaramup has record for the number of people simultaneously dressed up as cows”. 1350!
And they say nothing ever happens around here…