Jeremy Gor­don, wine­maker of Amelia Park in Western Aus­tralia’s Mar­garet River, shows how the re­gion is dis­pelling old no­tions of Aus­tralian wine­mak­ing with am­brosias that of­fer el­e­gance and com­plex­ity


Jeremy Gor­don, wine­maker of Amelia Park in Mar­garet River, shows how the re­gion is dis­pelling old no­tions of Aus­tralian wine­mak­ing

Wine­maker Jeremy Gor­don tells me wine tourism is grow­ing in Mar­garet River, but the re­gion is “lo­cated so far on the other side of Aus­tralia that we some­times get over­looked”. It is quite an amus­ing re­mark: If you are an in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tor head­ing Down Un­der from Asia, Perth in Western Aus­tralia of­fers the short­est flight time. Per­haps what Gor­don meant was a sense of ge­o­graph­i­cal iso­la­tion. Af­ter all, be­tween Mar­garet River and Ade­laide in South Aus­tralia (the next near­est des­ti­na­tion city), you have a 2,000 km drive through a Mad Max world of dusty high­ways and creaky road­houses.

It is this iso­la­tion that hap­pens to be Mar­garet River’s big­gest strength. Tucked in the south­west­ern tip of Western Aus­tralia and nestling right be­side the In­dian Ocean, the area has a mar­itime cli­mate, al­low­ing it to es­cape the ex­treme tem­per­a­tures that of­ten trou­ble in­land wine re­gions like Barossa Val­ley and Yarra Val­ley.

“The beauty of be­ing that close to the sea is it mod­er­ates the tem­per­a­ture,” says the 45-year-old Gor­don, who runs Amelia Park win­ery. “The coastal breeze works like an air flow, blow­ing straight through the vine­yards, dry­ing out the [vine] canopies, and de­creas­ing disease pres­sure. There is a lot of talk about global warm­ing these days, but it doesn’t re­ally af­fect us in Mar­garet River. We have had con­sis­tently good years.”

Gor­don says wine­mak­ers are “do­ing back­flips” for this year’s vin­tage. The Perth na­tive has come full cir­cle with Amelia Park in Mar­garet River. Af­ter start­ing his ca­reer with Evans & Tate in Western Aus­tralia in the 1990s, he moved to Hunter Val­ley and spent seven years there be­fore re­turn­ing to Mar­garet River to set up Flame­tree Wines with his wife Daniela in 2005. The ven­ture did not turn out well, so in 2009, they es­tab­lished Amelia Park in Wilyabrup. To­day, the win­ery fo­cuses on the Mar­garet River sta­ples of Caber­net Sauvignon, Mer­lot, Caber­net Franc and Semil­lon. It pro­duces 300,000 bot­tles a year—a fairly small op­er­a­tion—and is a ris­ing star in the Aussie wine in­dus­try.


Like other wine re­gions in Aus­tralia, Mar­garet River’s wine­mak­ing fash­ion has ditched the big shoul­der pads, say­ing good­bye to fat, chunky quaffs and wel­com­ing sleek, elegant am­brosias. “The wine styles have be­come more re­fined. Back in the 90s, I used to make re­ally pow­er­ful and but­tery wines, with more oak,” re­calls Gor­don. “We used to pick the fruit later [dur­ing har­vest sea­son] so they would have a higher al­co­hol con­tent.”

Gor­don and his team now hand­pick the Caber­net Sauvignon grapes for his mid-tier Re­serve range in the cool of the night to keep the fruit’s fresh­ness. The grapes are then crushed and destemmed, and fer­mented with min­i­mal pump-overs for a gen­tle ex­trac­tion of tan­nins. The wine is then aged in French oak bar­rels for 18 months. For his en­trylevel Trel­lis Collection quaffs, the grapes are ma­chine-har­vested.

“You can still get top qual­ity fruit from ma­chine-har­vest­ing,” says Gor­don. “There’s

a lot of spin [from wine­mak­ers] these days about whether the fruit is hand­picked or ma­chine-har­vested. But hand­pick­ing won’t guar­an­tee the best job ei­ther—if it hap­pens dur­ing the day, fruit may sit around un­der the heat, or you may have pick­ers who just want to fill buck­ets and pick what­ever they want.” Old vines, which are eas­ier to con­trol be­cause they are less vig­or­ous than younger vines, may not nec­es­sar­ily give great fruit, too, if the soil is not ideal, he adds. “On the other hand, you can have young wines and a per­fect site, and you’d get out­stand­ing wine. Thus, site or vine­yard lo­ca­tion is every­thing.”

The grav­elly loam soils of Wilyabrup are great for grow­ing Caber­net Sauvignon. “If you look at the best Caber­net Sauvignon grown around the world, they are al­ways in soils with a lot of rock in there to al­low for good drainage. You don’t want earth that is rich or else you’d have too much vigour in your vines.”

Gor­don’s Re­serve Caber­net Sauvignon is a Bordeaux-style blend—a pop­u­lar style in the re­gion given the dom­i­nance of Caber­net Sauvignon in Mar­garet River—which also con­tains a small amount of Mal­bec, a grape bet­ter known as the flag­bearer of Ar­gen­tinian wines. “Mer­lot can be quite a fickle va­ri­ety; it may not give you the soft­ness you are look­ing for some­times,” he says. “The Mal­bec [in Mar­garet River] is lighter and doesn’t have the weight of its Ar­gen­tinian coun­ter­part. It is beau­ti­ful and lush, and gives my Caber­net blend an ex­tra bit of round­ness. I guess I can’t help my­self muck­ing around.” He adds that he’d love to do a straight Mal­bec but he doesn’t have enough fruit—he cur­rently owns only a hectare of the grape va­ri­ety.

In re­cent years, small plant­ings of ‘al­ter­na­tive’ va­ri­eties like Ver­mentino, San­giovese and Tem­pranillo have also showed up in the re­gion. Gor­don thinks this re­flects the wine­mak­ers’ will­ing­ness to ex­per­i­ment with grapes that may grow well in Mar­garet River’s cli­mate. Gor­don makes Pinot Gris and a Tem­pranillo rosé, to show that Mar­garet River isn’t “just about Caber­net Sauvignon and Chardon­nay”.

The top tier Amelia Park Chardon­nay is ar­guably the win­ery’s show­piece am­brosia and should clearly put the old, anti-An­tipodean joke of ‘ABC’ (Any­thing But Chardon­nay) to bed. The wine is fer­mented in bar­rels with wild yeast and al­lowed to ma­ture on its lees for nine months. The 2017 vin­tage has a lovely, gen­tle ex­pres­sion of peach, honey and citrus notes, and a beau­ti­ful min­er­ally fin­ish. For such a youth­ful wine, the pro­file is lay­ered and com­plex, of­fer­ing much cel­lar­ing po­ten­tial.


Gor­don notes that Mar­garet River is still not very well un­der­stood on the global stage. “When peo­ple think of Aussie wine, they have in mind a place like South Aus­tralia and its Shiraz. But Mar­garet River makes Shiraz, too, which has a more del­i­cate style. For ex­am­ple, we source our grapes from Fran­k­land River, which has been pro­duc­ing out­stand­ing Shiraz for a long time. It shows the qual­ity we have from the di­verse sub-re­gions in Mar­garet River,” he says.

De­spite in­creas­ing de­mand for his wines, Gor­don doesn’t plan to in­crease the size of his vine­yards or pro­duc­tion for now. “The way of the fu­ture is about qual­ity, not quan­tity. I got caught up in the wine in­dus­try when it was boom­ing, with many big com­pa­nies set­ting up in the re­gion. Some of them have had prob­lems when own­er­ship changed hands,” he re­calls. “But to­day, we are see­ing more in­de­pen­dent wine­mak­ers start­ing their own small winer­ies. And that’s what it should be be­cause wine­mak­ing is a cot­tage in­dus­try—it should be made by pas­sion­ate fam­i­lies.”


Top Amelia Park’s Re­serve range

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