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Margaret River winemakers embrace new grape varieties

While Margaret River is reputed for its Chardonnay and Cabernets, some new European varieties have emerged in the region - including one from the Balkans - that are further increasing the diversity of Australian cultivars.

Amato Vino is one such Margaret River producer who is stepping away from the mainstream varieties and is the first in Australia to produce the ancient Balkans variety, Slankamenka Bela.

‘I’ve always had a penchant for unusual varieties but it wasn’t until I attended an alternative varieties wine show that I decided to make wine from new plantings of Nero d’Avola, Vermentino and Grillo,’ said owner Brad Wehr.

‘The Slankamenka Bela came about by accident as I thought we had planted a Grillo – a Sicilian variety I am fond of – but after two years of trials we were doubtful the variety was actually Grillo. We undertook DNA testing and discovered it was the Slankamenka Bela, a variety nobody had ever heard of.’

This inimitable wine is medium-bodied and rushes about the mouth with zesty tropical and citrus fruit characters, with a firm line of talc-like minerality.

To pay homage to his family’s Austrian roots, Wills Domain owner Darren Haunold has introduced the first plantings of Scheurebe to the region. This aromatic grape variety, which is mainly grown in Germany and Austria, is a crossing of Riesling and Bouquet Blanc and is certainly tolerating the region’s Mediterranean climate.

‘I wanted to establish a new variety that suited both the terroir and my family’s history. The Scheurebe is grown at a slightly damper spot in the vineyard which suits the variety perfectly,’ said Haunold.

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