Australian wines don’t often feature on the cover of the prestigious British wine magazine Decanter. So to see the Woodlands ‘Margaret’ grace the cover of the May edition, and to be placed in the company of the acclaimed Ridge Monte Bello from Santa Cruz and Pomeral’s celebrated Château Clinet, is a good sign of the high regard the rest of the world has for Australian Bordeaux blends. Indeed, in the introduction to the feature article, ‘New World classics to cellar,” Stephen Spurrier writes that “The banks of the Gironde aren’t the only places to find quality, ageworthy Bordeaux blends. The US, Australia, Argentina and Chile are all worthy of a spot in any collector’s cellar.”
Huon Hooke, who wrote the section on the Australian wines, states upfront that “Historically, Australia has made a better fist of pure Cabernet Sauvignon than it has Bordeaux-style Cabernet blends.” But he highlights some stand-out wines that prove the exception to the rule: Cullen’s Diana Madeline and Vasse Felix’s Heytesbury from the Margaret River, Mount Mary Quintet, Yarra Yering’s Dry Red No. 1, Wantirna Estate’s Amelia and Hannah blends and Yeringberg’s five way blend Yerinberg from the Yarra, and the Hunter Valley’s Lake’s Folly Cabernets.
While the Woodlands ‘Margaret’, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec, may not have the stature of Hooke’s top picks, it would undoubtedly be included on a slightly longer list of Australia’s best Bordeaux blends. And Hooke’s observation that “still today, most Australian wineries that produce both pure Cabernet Sauvignon and a Bordeaux blend – usually a Cabernet Melot – reserve their best Cabernet grapes for the pure wine, age it in better oak for longer, and sell it a higher price, often with extra bottle age,” certainly rings true for the Woodlands range. Its flagship Cabernet Sauvignon is almost three times the price of the ‘Margaret.’
The 2008 ‘Margaret’, which was featured on the cover, has received a string of impressive reviews. Huon Hooke scored the wine 95 points and made the following comments:
Deepish red/purple colour. Rich meaty and smoky aromas, plus tar and black olive oak tinges: quite complex. Sumptuous, fleshy, deep flavour, lots of attractive cabernet character here, with fruit sweetness and seductive charm. Lovely texture and balance. Medium to full-bodied and very long. (HuonHooke.com, 9 May 2012)
Established in 1973 by David and Heather Watson, the Woodlands winery in Wilyabrup is in fact the fourth oldest winery in the Margaret River. With the original aim to make wines in the tradition of fine Bordeaux, the Watsons’ met with early success. The 1981 ‘Andrew’ Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, was the first Margaret River wine to win a trophy at a national wine competition.
In the 1990s the couple took a break to raise their children in Perth, but for the last decade winemaking has been back in family hands. Stuart Watson took the reins as winemaker in 2002, and his brother Andrew joined Woodlands full time in 2005.
The ‘Margaret’ is sourced entirely from the original Woodlands vineyard. (In 2007, the family bought a second vineyard in the Wilyabrup Valley, but total winery production is still only around 9,000 cases a year). The vineyards are dry grown and maintained by hand using organic and traditional methods. Other wines produced include a house cabernet merlot blend and two chardonnays.
A range of Woodlands wines are available on the Cellarit Wine Market.