The Swan Valley, on the eastern fringes of Perth’s CBD, is host to some of Western Australia’s oldest vines. Tour the countryside in a reliably warm, dry climate for the state’s oldest winemaking region, which is home to cellar doors, breweries and budding distilleries. With an abundance of vineyard estates, key varietals grown here include shiraz, chardonnay, and cabernet sauvignon, which shows particular intensity and length. Other styles of chenin blanc, verdelho and petit verdot receive equal praise from wine lovers. This compact valley is only a 25-minute drive from Perth, making it the perfect day trip getaway. But there’s plenty to do in the area, so extend your stay to further enjoy the spoils of the wine region.
Swan Valley Winery Itinerary
If you’re heading to the Swan Valley from Perth, drive east to Guilford and stop in at the Swan Valley Visitor Centre. Grab a free map of The Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail, a 32-kilometre track that features over 200 attractions, including over 100 cellar doors, as well as breweries, distilleries, restaurants and cafés, accommodation, markets and other venues. The visitor centre is open 7 days and you can ask for recommendations from the staff to help you narrow down the stops on your itinerary. If you’d rather not drive while you’re visiting the cellar doors, there are plenty of other options for your winery-hopping transport, including a number of guided wine tours, a chauffeured classic car or even a horse-drawn cart. Whatever your means of transit, you can spend the day tasting the local wines and getting to know the winemakers who have crafted them while you take in the stunning Swan Valley vineyard vistas.
Swan Valley Winery Accommodation
The Swan Valley is close enough to Perth to visit on a day trip, but there is so much to do in the region that you’ll likely want to extend your trip at least overnight. Luckily, there are a wide array of accommodation options to suit visitors of all styles. Bed and breakfasts and guest houses will provide welcoming comfort at the end of a long day of wine tasting. Retreats and hotels can add a little luxury to your trip for those who need to get away from it all. For an experience you won’t forget, choose a farmstay, chalet or cottage and experience a taste of country life. If you’d prefer to live like a local, there are self-contained studios, apartments or houses where you can cook your own dinner using local produce and enjoy it with your favourite wine from the day. For travelers on a budget or those who’d like to stay a little longer, there are backpackers, caravan and camping parks, and motels. Book your accommodation in advance or ask at the Swan Valley Visitor Centre to discover options close to the wineries you plan to visit.
Things to Do in the Swan Valley
The Swan Valley is a prime region to stock up on world-class wines, but also plenty of other artisan produce. The area beckons visitors and locals alike with a range of epicurean offerings. Visit the chocolate factory, pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables from the side of the road, or wile away the afternoon in one of the local cafes. On top of an incredibly vibrant food and wine scene, the Swan Valley celebrates all things art and culture with a range of shows and rotational displays. Unwind and discover the latest on the music scene or embrace the Swan Valley’s galleries and boutique shops. There are plenty of other local experiences to try, including learning about Aboriginal culture while tasting bush tucker and throwing a boomerang. There’s also a lavender farm as well as plenty of parks to explore.
James Halliday on the Swan Valley
Two waves of immigration by Yugoslavs, the first in the early years of the 20th century (principally from Dalmatia) and the second after World War II, gave the Swan Valley two claims to fame. The first is that, most surprisingly, for a time it had more wineries in operation than either New South Wales or Victoria; the second is that, more obviously, it joined the Barossa Valley (German) and the Riverland (Italian) as a significant ethnically- driven wine producing region.
It was not always so. Viticulture was started by English settlers, most notably Thomas Waters who dug the cellar at Olive Farm in 1830, thus giving this winery the distinction of being the oldest winemaking establishment in Australia to be in use at the start of the new millennium. Sadly, it has since been sold and decommissioned.
Another link with the past comes through the colonial surgeon Dr John Ferguson, who purchased part of a substantial land grant owned by three Indian Army officers, the most senior of whom was Colonel Richmond Houghton. Even though Houghton never came to Australia, the property was named after him – likewise the Houghton wines of today (Western Australia’s largest wine company).
Climate and Soil in the Swan Valley
The Swan Valley (which is the core subregion of the Swan District, cowering in the south-eastern corner of the region) has always been a friendly place in which to grow vines and make wine. The completely flat, alluvial river plain provides soils which are immensely deep and well drained (or are so in the prime vineyard locations) and the hot, dry summer means that grapes ripen easily and quickly.
This is an ideal climate for table grapes (huge quantities were produced for export markets in bygone years) and for fortified wines. It is likewise suited to the production of bulk table wine, which was once sold to a large but uncritical local clientele, many of whom were of Yugoslavian origin, and they brought their own flagons, drums and sundry other containers to be filled up at their chosen winery.
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MARGARET RIVER wines to try
White | 2017
Houghton Crofters Pemberton Margaret River ChardonnayHoughton
Red | 2016
Houghton C.W. Ferguson Frankland River Cabernet MalbecHoughton
Red | 2016
Houghton Gladstones Margaret River Cabernet SauvignonHoughton
Jarrah Ridge Classic WhiteJarrah Ridge Winery