Australia is world famous for its wine, with several notable wine regions such as Hudson Valley, Yarra Valley and Margaret River. During my stay at Perth, I visited one of the often bypassed but long-in-history wine region known as Swan Valley.
What’s nice about Swan Valley is that it’s less than an hour away from Perth’s Central Business District, compared to the more popular Margaret River region that’s two-hour-plus away. Upstart tour company d’Vine Tours specializes in providing intimate, customized tours of Swan Valley, bringing some prominence to this wine region and its winemakers.
I was invited by d’Vine to get a taste of what its tours are like. Managing Director Breana Agnello (she started the company with her partner, Ewen Lawrie) picked me up in the morning and we were off visiting a variety of wineries and a food specialty store. (The tours typically include stops at four wineries and a brewery, but our group of wine writers asked so many questions that we ran out of time.)
At the wineries we visited, we met with the winemakers and I learned a lot about Australians’ tendencies in wine making, such as they like to blend Sauvignon Blanc with Semillon grapes and the Portuguese grape known as verdelho is quite popular.
Here’s a brief summary of our stops:
- Sandalford Wine – Our first stop is at one of the most popular stop for wine tasters. Sandalford is a lovely estate, with a large tasting room and a nice range of whites and reds. Nearly 95 percent of its grapes used in the wine come from the popular Margaret River region, so you get a taste of Margaret River without having to drive all the way down there.
- Mandoon Estate – This boutique winery is one of the most decorated in Western Australia, winning a variety of medals for its wine. I can see why; I enjoyed almost every glass I tried, especially the Grenache (Valenti Family 2011) and Shiraz from Franklin River. Wine maker Ryan Sudano said they rescued a plot of verdelho vines that are more than 100 years old and was neglected by previous owners. Mandoon, only two years old, is building a large tasting room to accommodate the flow of visitors.
- Jane Brook Estate – This winery has its roots with a lot of Croatian grapes and also makes some wines out of the popular grapes like Sauvignon semillon, Shiraz, and cabernet. Winemaker Mark Baird took us through a flight of the winery’s recent releases. (This is also where the tour typically stops for lunch, enjoying a beautiful platter of charcuterie, spreads, vegetables and bread.)
- Providore, Coward & Black, and Margaret River Chocolate Co. – The last stop in the tour takes you to a couple of specialty stores. Providore showcases a variety of jams, olive oils, and vinegars, while Coward & Black lets you get one last taste of wine. Of course, the popular stop is probably the Margaret River Chocolate Co. where you can get a variety of chocolates bars and truffles, order some gelato or grab some coffee.
I enjoyed the day at Swan Valley because it didn’t feel like a long day with its proximity to Perth. Many wineries in the area end up using grapes from Margaret River, so you do get the flavor of that popular wine region. And with such a long history (Swan Valley is celebrating it’s 180th anniversary this year), you get a lot of tradition but a nice reflection of current Australian wine making trends.
Thanks to Breana and d’Vine Tours for giving me a glimpse into the world of Australian wine. It made ordering wine at the various restaurants I visited for the rest of my trip so much easier.
d’Vine Tours offers day tours starting at AUS$99 (or $93.20) or customized tours for groups. Call +61(04)3996-6860 or firstname.lastname@example.org. More information at www.dvinetours.com.au
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