Where is it? Why is it Unique? History, Grape Varieties, Soils and Climate.
Where is Swan Valley? Why is it Unique?
Swan Valley is Western Australia's oldest wine region and Australia's second oldest wine region with the first wine grapes planted in 1829. Grapes were also used for fruit and dried fruit production and wine production. Until the 1970's, Swan Valley was the major grape and wine producing region of Western Australia. It is located at the top of the Swan River at the base of the Darling Scarp. It is 25 kilometres from Perth city and this drive normally takes less than 30 minutes.
Swan Valley and Western Australia differ from all other wine regions of Australia in that our initial grape plantings came from a different source. They were picked up from South Africa as the ships came to Western Australia from England. Grapes that survived and performed well were propagated and plantings expanded. This was the start of Western Australia's unique vine make up in terms of varieties and clones. Wine grapes that were planted in the early days include Chenin Blanc, Verdelho, Grenache, and Shiraz all with significant area's under vine by the 1920's. Other wine grapes such as Muscat and Pedro Ximanez also had a presence though much of these would have gone to dried fruit production.
Swan Valley has a mild winter when most of the regions 730mm rainfall occurs. We normally have an early spring break firing the vines into life early in September. The Swan Valley has a warm climate. It is generally dry during ripening and harvest, with most rainfall occurring during winter and spring. It has a mean January temperature of 24°C and 1791 total sunshine hours during the growing season. Gingin which is a little further north in the greater Swan District is actually a little cooler. The district is relieved from the heat every afternoon from the Indian Ocean by the south-westerly sea breeze.
Soil types vary widely. The best soils are: well drained gravelly loam along the fringes of the Darling Scarp; deep rich red loams around the Swan River; and on the lower slopes of the Darling Range is the highly suited gravelly sand to gravelly sandy loam overlying brown clay. Of course there are a number of soils not so well suited and these generally are: grey sand over clay and area's with excessive clay and prone to water logging.
The Swan Valley / District is a bit of a neglected underdog of a wine region. There are plenty of old vines on well suited soils and we are searching the best of these out. We are focusing on what we think are the current stars of the Swan District - Chenin Blanc and Grenache and giving you our expressions of them. We are also exploring other varieties that should do well in our warm climate. We are currently sourcing Tempranillo and Touriga National out of a vineyard in Donnybrook. More on the vineyards later...
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