The Great Southern
The Great Southern Region
DRAMATIC contrasts. A vast and rich cultural history. Rugged coastline and striking tall timber forests. Sophistication and rusticity. The Great Southern wine region of Western Australia is, at its core, a place of natural distinctions and divergencies, danger and beauty, diversity and uniqueness.
Among rolling landscapes, wild oceanfront and picturesque headlands, pristine national parks, secluded bays, old-school country towns and villages, swathes of agricultural land, sites of important Indigenous significance, dramatic peaks and imposing mountain ranges, has emerged a wine region of international significance and reputation.
Isolation and a cool climate elicited a tradition in the Great Southern region both time-honoured and innovative, leading the way in the development of contemporary Australian winemaking. Featuring climatic conditions ranging from Mediterranean to maritime and continental, the wine region, situated within the ancient, rugged and pristine environment bordering the south coast of Western Australia, is the coolest in Western Australia. Soils are mostly lateritic gravelly and sandy loams, or sandy loams derived from granite bedrock. Amid a wild diversity of flora, fauna, culture and human habitation, stand remarkable vineyards and cellar doors crafting exceptional wine.
Stretching north, east and west from Western Australia’s south coast, the largest wine-growing region in mainland Australia takes in five nominated sub-regions; Albany, Denmark, Frankland River, Mount Barker and Porongurup, all producing distinctive fine wines that benefit from cool climate viticulture in a clean, green environment.
Coastal, maritime, inland and continental, it is a region of distinctions and disparities, home to over 70 producers crafting 25 per cent of Western Australia’s wine. It’s a recipe for greatness — a vast panorama of rugged beauty that’s all yours for the taking, right now.
The Beginnings of Greatness
The vast Great Southern wine region — 100 kilometres north to south and 150 kilometres east to west, including five subregions — was instrumental in the establishment of modern winemaking in Western Australia in the 1960s.
It’s said that the first vines were planted in the region in 1859, however, in 1965, trial vineyards were planted at Forest Hill near Mount Barker, and a Riesling and a Cabernet Sauvignon were made in 1972. Recognition quickly followed. A 1975 Riesling was a multiple trophy winner in wine shows around Australia. The Australian Geographical Indication, Great Southern, was subsequently registered in 1996.
Today, Great Southern winemaking is in the hands of talented, award-winning winemakers operating world-class wineries across the region, providing region-wide quality assurance and continuous improvement across classic varietals, while also providing room for innovation, contemporary exploration and production. Now, Riesling and Shiraz predominate in Great Southern winemaking alongside Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
According to wine critic, James Halliday, each of the wine region’s subregions produce distinctive wine styles and subregional flavours:
- Frankland River: for rich reds, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon
- Mount Barker: cool and complex, for structured examples of Riesling and Shiraz
- Albany: an all-rounder, for Chardonnay, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc
- Denmark: refined, for premium sparkling wines
- Porongurup: pristine and pure, for Riesling
The Great Southern wine region is made up of five sub-regions: Albany; Porongurup; Mt Barker, Denmark and Frankland River, characterised by distinctive geomorphic and climatic conditions.