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Western Australia: Predictions for 2024

Decanter takes a look at what lies in store for Western Australia this year, from wine styles to harvest to the Swan Valley Old Vine Charter.

The start of a New Year sees resolutions made (and broken), and the inevitable crystal balling of the year to come.

Western Australia spans over 2.5 million square kilometres, and the closest capital city to Perth is a three-hour flight. This isolation, and the fact that the state produces about 20% of Australia’s premium wine, has given rise to a population of wine drinkers loyal to their home-grown producers and wine regions.

Here is a glimpse of what I believe 2024 holds for Western Australian wine.

Pét-nat on the decline

The natural wine movement is evolving, as most sommeliers and wine retailers worldwide will confirm. Western Australians are still enjoying their fizz au naturel, however, palates and wallets are much more discerning. Good quality, clean examples that offer good value for money are still on the pour, but you’ll see smaller volumes and few remaining above the A$35 (£18/$23) price point.

Crunchy reds continue their rise

Last year saw a thirst for chilled reds, and the demand shows no slowing. It makes sense in a climate where summer days easily hit the 40°C mark. In addition to more chilled reds on the shelves, there is a general shift with more winemakers looking towards elegant, lighter-bodied red wines. Cabernet Sauvignon remains king as far as Western Australia is concerned, with Margaret River taking three Best Cabernet Trophies home from the nation’s seven capital city wine shows in 2023.

Grapes at John Kosovich Wines.

Grapes at John Kosovich Wines. Credit: Frances Andrijich

More ultra-premium releases

Margaret River Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are excellent value for money, especially when nestled amongst peers from Burgundy, Bordeaux and Napa on a wine list. It’s no secret that as European summers get hotter, Margaret River producers are lucky to continue to enjoy a moderate maritime climate and perfect growing conditions for these varieties. And winemakers are excelling at their craft. Only a handful of producers have released wines above the A$200 (£105/$134) mark, but 2024 will see several more hit the market.

Sparkling keeps sparkling

Western Australia produces several fantastic sparkling wines; however, most don’t make it out of the state. The thirst for bubbles continues its ascent – both for premium imports and locally produced bubbles. Aly Forsyth, proprietor of Old Bridge Cellars, which has locations in both North Fremantle and Como, says: ‘Many people’s Christmas Champagne was traded out for Idée Fixe and local sparkling wines under the $50 mark.’ Next door to Idée Fixe’s main vineyard in Karridale, Glenarty Road is increasing its vineyard by an additional 4ha to keep up with demand. Howard Park has taken sparkling seriously for years, and 2024 sees production increase in both tank and traditional method bubbles. Look out for several other well-known producers who have been working on limited-release sparklings too, such as Xanadu and Corymbia.

Idée Fixe wine

Credit: Sarah Hewer

Alternative varieties to watch out for

Unlike European appellations, producers are not tied down to tradition or regulation. They can continue with the varieties that are doing well or shift to alternative varieties that might better suit the culture, climate and soil. Fiano, Vermentino and Albariño are three white varieties on the rise, while reds include new graftings of Grenache, Mencia and Dolcetto. Savagnin might also see future success after the variety’s initial case of mistaken identity with Albariño.

The launch of the Swan Valley Old Vine Charter

The Swan Valley Old Vine Charter has been in development for some time now, and this year sees it realised. Like the Barossa Old Vine Charter, it will encourage old-vine preservation and the continued use of these vines’ fruit to produce premium wines. Look out for more wine tourism in the region centred on the charter.

James Talijancich of Talijancich Wines.

James Talijancich of Swan Valley Old Vine Charter member Talijancich Wines. Credit: Frances Andrijich

2024 vintage

Vintage is early. Very early. Margaret River producers are kicking off about three weeks earlier than usually predicted (a classic Margaret River vintage starts in late January to early February), and some producers in the Swan Valley had already finished by the second week of January. Most have never seen a vintage so early. It’s early, it’s warm, but the fruit looks fantastic. Clive Otto, winemaker at Fraser Gallop, predicts Margaret River Cabernet, in particular, will be outstanding, with similar characteristics to the 2020 vintage.

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