25 September 2023

Margaret River’s speedy vinous success

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By John Rozentals.

Glenn Goodall … guiding the wines through to the bottle.

It hardly seems feasible that in just half a century, the Margaret River district, tucked away in Australia’s extreme, extreme south-west corner should emerge as one of Australia’s and the world’s finest, that it should produce some 20 per cent of the country’s fine wine, that Western Australia’s largest producers should gravitate there from the Swan Valley, and that it should sprout more than 200 wineries.

Yet all of that — and quite a deal more — has happened in the years since its potential was realised, and if much of its growth has been led by largish Californian-style enterprises so be it.

Much of the initial success was on the back of chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, perhaps the world’s two best-known premium grape varieties, but it has since proven itself almost as worthy with shiraz and with blends of sauvignon blanc and semillon, a delicious, refreshing blend that has become almost synonymous with the area.

One of the district’s viticultural pioneers was Dr John Lagan, who established Xanadu Wines, not far from Margaret River township, in 1977.

It was purchased by Melbourne’s Rathbone family in 2005, the same year that Glenn Goodall was promoted to the role of Senior Winemaker.

His focus has always been primarily on quality, and his philosophy well summed up on the family company’s website: “to guide the wines through to the bottle, rather than ‘beating them into submission’”.


Xanadu 2019 Exmoor Sauvignon Blanc Semillon ($20): SBS or SSB? I suppose that the blending decision depends primarily on strength of varietal character. In this case the strength of herbaceousness of, I think, the semillon dominates even in a minority role. Regardless, it’s fresh, crisp , crunchy and dry — the perfect match for a plate of freshly harvested oysters.

Xanadu 2018 DJL Chardonnay ($25): The DJL pays homage, I presume, to Xanadu’s founder. It’s a step up in complexity from the SBS — think white stonefruits such as nectarines overlaid with creaminess gained from yeast contact after fermentation. I’m putting the lid back on and will have the rest tonight with spinach-and-ricotta ravioli in a creamy alfredo-style Italian white sauce.


Xanadu 2017 DJL Cabernet Sauvignon ($25): This medium-bodied dry red also contains 9 per cent malbec and 4 per cent petit verdot. It’s still a bit closed but matching the wine with good meat in a mushroomy sauce soon opens it up. So will a few years of cellaring. I have neither the time nor inclination for cellaring so I’ll take the meaty option every time. I like the wine’s structure and its flavours of dark red fruits.

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