The aroma of vine flowers blooming this month will blanket vineyards across WA in time for the annual Langton’s Margaret River Wine Show, between November 16 to 19.
Recognising excellence in wineries and vineyards, the annual Wine Show started in 2002 and showcases different wine styles and signature varieties of the Margaret River Wine Region.
While the success of the region isn’t down to any single person, 1965 and ’66 before Margaret River had produced a single drop, agricultural scientist Dr John Gladstones wrote two key papers identifying the area as an ideal region for producing high-quality table wine; a prediction that came to fruition.
“The predictions made then seem to be spot on and that gives me a great deal of satisfaction,” now-retired Dr Gladstones said.
Margaret River was dismissed by University of California viticulturist Professor Harold Olmo as too wet, but Dr Gladstones said his research led him to believe the region’s climate was similar to Bordeaux’s.
Dr Gladstones said the Department of Agriculture was initially sceptical of the idea succeeding.
“They pointed out, quite rightly, I had no concrete evidence,” he said
Amid the controversy, the department came around and was very helpful to growers in the later years.
The department assigned Dr Gladstones with the task of mapping the boundaries for the promising wine region. Formally recognised as the Gladstones Line, its borders spanned from Busselton to Augusta and is defined from east to west.
Dr Gladstones specifically pointed out the Wilyabrup area as a place to start, leading to initial plantings in 1966.
Learning from Dr Gladstones’ report, Dr Thomas Cullity located an ideal site in 1967 to establish the Vasse Felix Vineyard.
According to the Western Australian Wine Industry Strategic Plan 2014-2024, WA annually produces 45 million litres of wine. This represents nearly 5 per cent by volume of Australia’s production, 12 per cent of the value and nearly one quarter of the nation’s premium wine.
University of Adelaide anthropologist Dr William Skinner said the role of wine in Australian drinking culture had risen greatly since the 1950s and the development of Margaret River as a wine region formed part of this cultural shift after WWII.
“Wine had overtime been associated with sociality and socialising, and more Australians wanted to drink wine, so production increased, and wine regions began to position themselves as destinations for tourism,” Dr Skinner said.
“Drinking is seen to lubricate friendships and romantic entanglements, with a cultural rule that drinking should take place with other people, as solitary drinking is often considered inappropriate.”
Dr Gladstones has authored three books, with the 2019 publication Days of Lupins, Pastures & Wine being his latest.
He released an adapted version in September to the final chapter of the book; detailing climate change. At the end of this year, he is set to publish two volumes of climate tables.
Australia is heating more rapidly than the global average, and the last two years have been the hottest on record.
Former Winemaker Stephen Murfit said grapes tend to ripen faster when exposed to hot temperatures, which increases the sugar levels and lowers the acidity of the berry.
“Whilst the increased sugar level is desirable, it can also be detrimental if too high,” he said.
In extreme heat waves, Mr Murfit said grapes could over-ripen causing the end wine to be flabby.
He said this affected the wine’s stability by causing it to rapidly deteriorate and produced undesirable flavours.