We could name you Margaret River’s best wines in just this first sentence.
However, our opinion is bound to slip in.
UMAMU Estate is just one of over 200 wineries producing stunning vintages in the Margaret River wine region – and so many of us deserve a special mention.
In this article we will take you in broad strokes through Margaret River’s best wines.
Once you’ve got a better understanding of the types of wine the Margaret River is best known for, then the rest really is up to you.
If you’re still new to Margaret River wines, we envy the discovery you’re about to make.
Brief history of Margaret River wines
You can read our timeline of Margaret River wine history in a separate article.
Here’s a quick overview:
- Earliest Margaret River vineyard – 1851. The earliest known Margaret River winery dates back to 1851, when a settler named Elijah Dawson planted a vineyard at Vasse to cater to American whalers working off the Western Australia coast.
- Italian Doradillo at Yallingup – 1920-1950. Italian settlers played the next role in Margaret River wine history, selling a blend called ‘red dynamite’ at local dances from plantings of Doradillo.
- Tom Cullity establishes the first modern Margaret River vineyard – 1967. Favourable scientific reports from Dr John Gladstone suggested the Margaret River region had a climate similar to Bordeaux, France, in a dry vintage. Dr Gladstone encouraged Perth cardiologist Tom Cullity to establish the Vasse Felix vineyard in 1967 with Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon cuttings.
By the 1970s there were more than 20 vineyards in the Margaret River wine region producing stunning vintages. Today, there are more than 200 Margaret River wineries which together produce 20% of premium Australian wines from as little as 2% of the total grape production.
So what makes the Margaret River wine region so special?
The Margaret River is the most geographically isolated wine producing region in world – since plantings had been around since the 19th century, they missed the phylloxera vine pest which decimated many Old World wineries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Today, Margaret River is one of the unique wine regions which grows vines on their own root system. The Margaret River even has its own unique ‘Houghton clone’ varietal of Cabernet Sauvignon.
The houghton clone was planted in the Vasse Felix vineyard back in 1967 and still features in many Margaret River vineyards today.
This vine produces Cabernet Sauvignon wines with a unique flavour profile. They are typically less herbaceous, and with more blackcurrant and cassis notes than other Cabernet Sauvignon wines in Australia and around the world.
Another reason for why Margaret River produces such great wines is thanks to its low-nutrient, ancient soils. Also important is being surrounded by two oceans keeping vines fresh and safe from disease. You can read more about understanding the Margaret River wine terroir here.
What types of wine is Margaret River known for today
The Margaret River wine region produces a wide range of varietals, including:
- Cabernet Franc
- Cabernet Merlot
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Chenin Blanc
- Petit Verdot
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Shiraz (Syrah)
Determining which are Margaret River’s best wines is often a matter of personal taste. Some of us prefer white wines from the Margaret River; some of us prefer red wines from the Margaret River.
The Margaret River also produces rosé wines – UMAMU Estate rosé is made from 82% Cabernet Franc and 12% Merlot.
If this answer doesn’t satisfy, then let’s look at the the Margaret River’s best wines by production.
Margaret River best wines – the top 5 varietals
You will often read of the Margaret River ‘big 5’ varietals.
These are the varietals for which the Margaret River is best known – and they’re also the most produced.
The following are the top 5 Margaret River wine varietals (by tonnes crushed):
- Sauvignon Blanc (7,449)
- Cabernet Sauvignon (6,460)
- Semillon (6,404)
- Chardonnay (5,569)
- Shiraz (4,244)
It’s not uncommon to find pioneer plantings of these 5 varietals dating back to the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. When we acquired the vineyards that today produce UMAMU Estate, we were lucky to have Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc vines dating back to the 1970s and 1980s.
Since then, we have planted Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Semillon and Chardonnay.
The best award-winning wines in the Margaret River
To get a better idea of Margaret River’s best wines, it can help to look at the award-winning wines.
As we explain in our Margaret River wine history article there were two awards which put the Margaret River on the world stage:
- 1982 – Decanter names the Art Series (1981) from the Leeuwin Estate as the ‘best Chardonnay in the world’.
- 1983-1984 – Cape Mentelle in Margaret River wins back-to-back Jimmy Watson trophies (the pinnacle of Australian wine awards) for their one-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon vintages.
Since then, here are two more Margaret River wines to win a Jimmy Watson:
- 2016 – Deep Woods Estate wins with a reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (2014)
- 2018 – Xanadu Wines wines with a Cabernet Sauvignon (2016)
Here’s another list of Margaret River’s best wines according to the varietals winning ‘best in show’ at the Decanter World Wine Awards in the past five years:
- 2018 – Brown Hill Estate wins with a Cabernet Merlot (2014)
- 2020 – Fraser Gallop Estate wins with a Chardonnay (2018)
- 2021 – Fermoy Estate wins with a Chardonnay (2019)
- 2022 – Deep Woods Estate wins with a Cabernet Sauvignon (2020)
UMAMU Estate is lucky to have won the Jimmy Watson runners-up award with our Cabernet Sauvignon from 2008. And our Chardonnay 2006 and 2007 both received Decanter Gold Medals. We’ve also scored highly with the leading Australian wine reviewer James Halliday. Margaret River wines currently available online include:
95 points – Margaret River Chardonnay 2016
96 points – Margaret River Shiraz 2015
96 points – Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
96 points – Margaret River Chardonnay 2014
97 points – Margaret River Chardonnay 2011
95 points – Ann’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
- Blue Gold Medal Sydney International Wine Show – SBS16
UMAMU Estate is well known for hand-picking our Chardonnay grapes, as it was a Chardonnay which brought my family to the Margaret River. UMAMU Estate is also well known for producing fantastic Sauvignon Blanc Semillon vintages – read more about the differences between SBS and SSB white wine grapes here.
Frequently asked questions
What type of wine is Margaret River known for?
The Margaret River is best known for producing five main varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Shiraz.
What is the best red wine from Margaret River?
Margaret River is best known for producing Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz red wines. Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon varietals regularly pick up awards on a global scale.
What is the best white wine from Margaret River?
Margaret River is best known for producing Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon white wines – as well as SBS and SSB blends. Margaret River Chardonnays regularly pick up awards on a global scale.