In this Western Australian wine region, lush pastures meet vines and tall karri trees, and cabernet and chardonnay reign supreme.
Much like its neighbouring region of the Margaret River, Blackwood Valley shares a winning streak for its successful wineries and quality grapes. The valley is also one of the most isolated wine regions in the world, but that doesn’t deter visitors. Exposed to cooler temperatures and high elevation, Blackwood Valley mainly produces white wines, including aromatic chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. However, the climatic conditions also help create a fine selection of red styles. Visitors can expect to taste vivid shiraz full of black fruits, and textured, medium-bodied cabernet sauvignon from a number of the region’s cellar doors.
In addition to Blackwood Valley wineries and vineyards, the region abounds with natural beauty, including the scenic Blackwood River. The hills are flanked with forestry and vines, with many opportunities to enjoy a picnic and a glass of wine while taking in the surrounds. Visitors driving from Perth should allow for a three-hour journey.
James Halliday on Blackwood Valley
The Blackwood Valley has long been a mixed farming region, with orchards and the odd patch of table grapes representing diversification from grazing. The first wine grapevines were planted by the Fairbrass family in 1976 at what is now called Blackwood Crest, inspired in part by the table grapes grown by Max Fairbrass’s grandfather on the same property in the north- eastern corner of the region.
Subsequent expansion has seen the establishment of 50 vineyards supporting five wineries. The region’s boundaries are in large part self-defining: in the south it abuts Pemberton, to the west and north Geographe, and on the south-east it meets the northern limits of Great Southern. There are no subregions, but there are three separate areas of vineyards: around Boyup Brook, Bridgetown and Nannup. Progress has been slow but steady, with the limited number of wineries largely choosing to have their wines contract-made outside the region. There are many more vineyards, mainly established by local farmers and graziers seeking diversification.
By far the largest single venture is the Blackwood Valley Wine Partnership, with 85 hectares of vines at Boyup Brook. Around 800 tonnes are produced by the partnership each year; slightly less than half is vinified at Ferngrove Winery. All sales are of grapes or bulk wine to the industry. The major impediment to viticulture in the region has been and remains salination of the Blackwood River, forcing surface water collection via kilometres of hillside contour ditches feeding into dams.
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Late February to early April