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Welcome to the Western Australian Wine Region series, where every week we feature select wine regions from the stretch of Western Australia's extensive coastlines and varying landscapes. Subscribe to our newsletter today or view other articles in this series to learn more about the wines of the region.

Location:

Among all of the world-class regions in Western Australia, Pemberton is somewhat of a hidden gem. Tucked away along the coast, south-east of Margaret River, it is one of Australia's youngest wine regions, but also one of the most exciting.


It is bordered to the north-east by the Manjimup wine region, and is a comfortable four hour drive from Perth. The first commercial vineyards were planted here in 1982, but despite its youth, Pemberton has established itself as one of the rising stars of the west. Initially, it was thought that Pinot Noir would flourish in this cooler climate zone. But although Pinot is grown here successfully, it has been outperformed by its warmer-climate stablemates, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. The success of these two varieties, along with the ubiquitous Chardonnay, have really shone a light on Pemberton as a premium wine producing region.

Terroir:

Pemberton is cooler on average that its northern neighbour, Manjimup, but quite similar to its western neighbour, Margaret River. The coastal influence of the Indian and Southern Oceans moderates the temperature for the region, with cooling sea breezes providing relief from the heat of the day, thus giving Pemberton a cool climate with strong maritime influence.


Pemberton's altitude also plays a role in its cooler climate. Although not a particularly high region, many of the vineyards are planted at heights between 150m to 300m above sea level. The abundant stands of karri eucalypt forests also provide a degree of shelter and moderation for the vines, although they also limit the land area suitable for viticulture.


There are two main soil types throughout the Pemberton region. The first are the lateritic gravelly sands and gravelly loams overlying medium clay with moderate water retention capacity. These semi-fertile soils are found on many of the higher slopes around Pemberton. The second soil is the more fertile karri loam - a deep red fertile soil which was formed directly from the gneissic country rock and which, together with the abundant winter and spring rainfall, leads to vigorous growth. This means that many growers and producers need to manage vine vigour, otherwise fruit quality can drop.

Varieties:

Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the star performers in Pemberton, although special mention must also go to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Pinot was once the most widely planted variety throughout the area, but Chardonnay has taken that crown, with most winemakers producing fuller-bodied, oaked styles. In recent years, Pemberton has been touted as one of the few regions in Australia with potential to produce top quality Merlot. This much-maligned variety flourishes in the cooler climes of the region, and is produced both as a single variety, or blended with Cabernet.


Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are also grown here to great success. The cool climate helps these varieties in retaining their freshness and acidity, and they are often blended together to make wonderful crisp, dry whites.

Producers:

Bellarmine Wines, Picardy Winery, Silkwood Estate

 

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