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Your 2022 Guide to the Swan Valley Wine Region WA

Posted by David Laity on
Your 2022 Guide to the Swan Valley Wine Region WA

A Snapshot of the Swan Valley Wine Region

We acknowledge the Whadjuk (Noongar) people, who are the traditional custodians of this country. We pay respect to their culture, history and their elders past and present.

Guess which bird the valley was named after? The interesting thing here is that the Dutch named the river in the 1690s, but Europeans didn't settle here until 1829. The next century saw a laundry list of the usual culprits who created the tapestry of modern Australia - convicts, gold prospectors, returned soldiers, immigrants, businesspeople and opportunists. By the 1920s, the area had become the premier wine producing district of Western Australia.

photo by Kev Kindred - licenced under unsplash

Swan Valley is also home to some of Australia's oldest vineyards. Houghton's was established in 1836 and Sandalford Wines in 1840. Today the valley has around thirty cellar doors open to visitors wishing to wander around some of Western Australia's best wineries. The CEO of The City of Swan observed that "... based on 2019 visitor research, the Swan Valley welcomed 5.4 million visitors per year and 94 per cent of them were from WA." Seems like 2022 might be a good time to join the 6% of folks who aren't locals (unless you're a local of course) and get yourself over to Swan River.

Take Me There!

How to get to Swan Valley Wineries

Like most of the places listed in this guide, it isn't the easiest to walk to. So, drive yourself and it'll take about thirty minutes from Perth's CBD. You could take a train out to Guildford Station and then either taxi, tour or bike out. It's also only ten minutes from the airport.

What are Swan Valley wines like?

An overview of Swan Valley wines

Climate is always a very important component in the making of wine. Wine made in a warm climate is typically fruity and easy to drink. The flavour profile often incorporates ripe berry, the kind of honeyed richness that comes from baking a pear for instance, spiciness and generally higher in glycerol - this adds texture or 'body' to wine. Wines from a hot climate are often higher in alcohol and have a more intense flavour. In Australia, the most common types of wine made in a warm climate are Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

The Swan Valley - the oldest wine region in Western Australia - is a classic instance of a warm climate area. The diverse range of big, bold reds make the perfect accompaniment for good food. White wines from the Swan Valley tend to be soft and 'approachable' - not so much of the flintiness or citrus flavour profile, but rather tropical fruits and a 'buttery' texture. However, just as syrah grapes grown high up a mountain will make a very different wine from a lowland planting, so too will a chardonnay grape express different characteristics, even within a very localised climate area.

Terroir - Soil and Climate

How do the soil and climate affect wine flavour in Swan Valley?

Soil type is an equally important component of terroir - The Swan Valley is only a part of the much larger Swan District, and within this area there is substantial variation in soil type. Loam is a mix of san, silt and clay. It drains well, yet also retains moisture.

Many wineries in the valley were developed on deep, red loams, gravelly loams overlaying clay, or on alluvial soils - Alluvial soil is one of the best soils, requiring the least water due to its high porosity. The consistency of alluvial soil ranges from drift sand and rich, loamy soil to silt clays. - in other words, lots of nice open space in the soil for root penetration and not too much nutrient, which favours vine growth over intensification of flavour.

Something out of the box?

Unusual wine varieties in Swan Valley

Fortified Wines

Not a variety, but a style of winemaking, fortified wines involve adding alcohol to wines made from very ripe grapes in order to better preserve them. They're often aged in old oak wine barrels for extra complexity. Swan Valley wineries make a range of these wines including port, muscat, sherry and aged Verdelho. Have a look at the Fortified Wine trail map below

How about Touriga Nacional? It's a Portuguese varietal most commonly grown for making port, or blending in other varietals for balance, but it's flavoursome and can be a fine wine on its own.

From Wine Folly - "When you taste this wine, expect palate-coating and tooth-staining richness of blueberry, plum, blackberry, bittersweet cocoa and often a subtle stimulating flavor of mint and violet."

Touriga Nacional

It's a Portuguese varietal most commonly grown for making port, or blending in other varietals for balance, but it's flavoursome and can be a fine wine on its own.

From Wine Folly - "When you taste this wine, expect palate-coating and tooth-staining richness of blueberry, plum, blackberry, bittersweet cocoa and often a subtle stimulating flavor of mint and violet."

Petit Verdot

One of the classic grapes in a Bordeaux blend, its late ripening often made it a difficult variety to work with. If you like spicy syrah or a jammy, lotta tannin and chocolate Californian zinfandel, you might like this one. Great colour, pronounced tannins - capable of ageing well, and a lovely match for great food, Petit Verdot is making waves all on its own these days.

The stars of the show

The top varietals of the Swan Valley wine region

Swan Valley wineries are making really interesting grenache based wines - whether in GSM blends where Shiraz and Mourvedré/Mataro share the limelight - or in single varietal styles where some of the tobacco and cherry notes can be tasted. This variety is rapidly increasing in popularity not only around Australia but across the globe.

Verdelho

tropical fruits with undertones of citrus and then balanced beautifully with lingering acidity, a good verdelho is a bottle full of delight. One well-known Master of Wine, Jancis Robinson, reckons that Swan Valley makes the best Verdelho in the world.

Pick it early and it leans towards a more typically sauvingon blanc /lemonygrassiness, pick it late and you have honeysuckle, melon and something spicy. Typically drunk in the first few years, there are examples of it being barrel-aged with higher residual sugar and maturing into premium wines.

Chenin Blanc

It grows on vigorous vines - control this and be blessed with a suitable soil, climate and a skilled winemaker, and these wines can range from lean and dry with a pronounced acidity through to noble rot dessert or fortified wines. You can make it minimal skin-contact style, barrel-aged, with a high or low fermentation temperature - it's a versatile grape.

The Swan Valley style is known for being intensely flavoured, but crisper and with pronounced acidity. It's now the most widely planted white variety in the valley- there are some well known wineries here producing award winning examples using old vines and modern methods.

Stellar Cellars

Some of the best wineries in the Swan Valley wine region

Like Victoria's Yarra Valley, or South Australia's Adelaide Hills, the Swan Valley is one of the regions close to a capital city. Thanks to the proximity to Perth, you're spoiled for choice when it comes to leaving Perth, grabbing a delicious lunch, visiting a couple of farmers markets , some of the best wineries and their vineyards and cellar doors, and then being back in time for a (rather) late dinner in Perth.

Cut to the chase and get to the winery hopping? Ok

Sandalford Winery - An early estate of the valley and not only one of the best wineries today, but definitely one of the most well known wineries in Western Australia. Arrive at a private jetty, tour the vineyards, taste the product and catch a major event if you time it right.

Upper Reach Winery - eat at the Upper Reach winery restaurant, drink at the cellar door and sleep in the vineyard cottage. That's a winery!

Olive Farm Wines - Olive Farm Wines was established in 1829. The Yurisich family have run the show ever since. No bookings needed at Olive Farm Wines award winning cellar door on West Swan Road and tastings are offered from over 40 different wines. Anthony Yurisich is now the head of winemaking at W.A's oldest established vineyard.

Windy Creek Estate - Windy Creek offer crisp whites, earthy reds and amazing views. Head out to Herne Hill to sample a Windy Creek Vermentino - recently a gold medal winner.

Faber Vineyard- Faber Vineyard has long table lunches, a single varietal petit verdot, and they are one of the few Swan Valley wineries making sparkling wine. The Faber vineyard, out on Haddrill Road, features 11 acres of hand-pruned and hand-picked vines.

Henley Park Wines - Recently sold, but it was a family run operation. You can enjoy a delicious lunch at the cellar door, enjoy a tasting (or a bottle) of their 12 different varieties shared among 6,500 grapevines.

Lancaster Wines - 100 year old grenache vines, print your own wine label, get some sparkling grenache while you're at the family run winery Lancaster Wines. Urban List reckons the Lancaster Wines "dessert wines are extra special"

Edgecombe Brothers - the Edgecombe brothers, out on Gnangara Road, have a nice range of activities to do while visiting the winery. Historic walking tours, wine pairing, selling grapes, a rustic cellar door offering wine tasting.

Swan Valley Wines - lots of unusual varietals, minimal intervention philosophy, additive-free wines made from dry grown vines.

Mandoon Estate - considered one of the Swan Valley wineries, not only does Mandoon Estate make great wine - it was the most awarded boutique winery in Western Australia from 2010-2020, it also has accommodation (32 rooms), an art gallery and a very swanky cellar door.

Tyler's Vineyard - Tyler's Vineyard have 100 year old non-irrigated grenache grapevines and you can design your own labels and get them printed for free

Need a nap after all the fun?

Best accomodation options

If you're in a DIY frame of mind, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of listings for cabins, houses and farmhouses available to rent.

Feel like being pampered - go luxurious and stay at the Novotel Swan Valley Vines Resort and get in some golf while you're there.

Or, stay in Western Australia's most award-winning winery, Mandoon Estate, and overlook the Swan River and verdelho vines when you visit.

The Guildford Hotel looks like a great combination of heritage charm - a very impressive facade - and modern amenities, music and menu.

Feel like bringing your dog along? - there are four holiday parks to choose from with cabins, powered and unpowered camp sites and caravan sites as well.

Why visit the Swan Valley in 2022?

The lowdown

2021 was a rather out of the ordinary year. Not only Covid, but Chinese tariffs on Australian exports and locked down borders for almost two years. However, for Swan Valley wineries it hasn't all been bad news. Domestic tourism stayed strong, and after a particularly wet spring (record rains in October) and a hot summer (the hottest vintage in over 40 years), you could still find yourself tasting something extraordinary. Some of the '21 reviews of verdelho, chenin blanc and a grenache taking out Table Wine of the Show at the annual SV Wine Awards.

Something to see while you're there?

Such an historic and well-known location has its benefits for the casual visitor. You want to see it in style? How about checking out the Barossa from above - in a helicopter, from a hot air balloon, or from a vineyard on top of the ranges. Grab yourself some wheels (with someone sober behind the steering wheel of course) and head off on two wheels, three wheels, vintage wheels or embrace the historical aspect of your trip and get around on a horse.

Fancy a bevvy while visiting?

Beer, wine and cider in the Swan Valley Region

Get onboard the Up Close and Local Wine Tours for either a half or a full day tour. You might get to meet a winemaker, crush some grapes or fall over a barrel.

Sandalford Wines is hosting a Grapevine Gathering in October. Plenty of music, gourmet food, and sitting on wine barrels drinking premium wines.

photo byn lithian- licenced under shutterstock

How about some good tunes and good times?

Live Music and Festivals in the Swan Valley Region

The Grapevine Gathering looks like it will be fun. It's going to be at Sandalford Wines on West Swan Road in October and it features a pretty cool line up of artists.

Another huge event for fans of Aussie music will be at the Red Hot Summer Tour 2022 at the same vineyard - Sandalford Winery. Also, Andrea Bocelli will be performing here in early November. It holds up to 16,000 fans, so there might be more people than you have seen in the last two years.

Midnight Oil will be calling by the Swan Valley on their farewell tour in March.

You can check out the Edgecombe Brothers vineyard (listed above) for live music. events. Oakover Grounds, Ugly Duckling Wines and the Black Swan Winery & Restaurant also hold live music events.

In general, some of the best wineries for events include

  • Sandalford Winery
  • Olive Farm Wines
  • Faber Vineyard
  • Edgecombe Brothers
  • Henley Brook
  • Mandoon Estate

Bringing Granny and the kids?

Family Friendly things to do in Swan Valley

The Swan Valley has lots of outdoor attractions to enjoy. The Walyunga National Park - a meeting place for 60,000 years. Middle Swan Reserve is a great place to picnic as is Noble Falls with its spring and winter wildflower displays.

In Henley Brook you can get in some paintball or if that sounds like too much action - enjoy yourself some chocolate at one of the valley's two chocolatiers.

If you fancy visiting winery or two over Easter, without the kids in tow, there's an Autumn School Holiday Program at the Swan Valley Adventure Centre -beginning April 11. There's also a flying fox, archery, a commando course etc throughout the year.

Geeking Out?

Quirky and clever things to do in the Swan Valley wine region

Impress your neighbours with your casual mastery of winemaking chit chat after attending wine education classes (and then graduating to wine education tours) at the Upper Reach Winery throughout 2022.

The Swan Valley Museum of Natural History has an impressive display of hundreds of Australia's native animals, birds, fish and reptiles.

The Motoring Museum of W.A is in the valley and has more than 200 vintage, rare and racing vehicles.

Feeling Artistic?

Arts, Culture and Entertainment in the Swan Valley

Linton and Key Galleries are located within an historic homestead on the grounds of Mandoon Estate Wines. They exhibit a range of Australian and international artists.

There's also

  • Maalinup Aboriginal Gallery,
  • The Artist's Nook,
  • Sammy Wyborn Aboriginal Art,
  • Gomboc Gallery Sculpture Park and the
  • Guildford Village Potter's Club

Try some Art Classes in the Vineyard at Riverbank Estate - wave around your paintbrush in one hand and a glass of bubbles in the other.

photo by Quino Al - licenced under unsplash

Looking for Something Sporty?

Active events and outdoor sports in the Swan Valley Region

Does mini golf count as a sport? You know, it does if you believe it does. Mini-Golf Swan Valley is at the Vines Resort.

This is right out of our usual wheelhouse of recommendations, but an afternoon shooting clay targets at Hot Shots could be just what the doctor ordered - provided you don't hit the bubbles first.

Rollerzone is Perth's largest roller-skating rink

The Perth half marathon kicks off Sunday, August 7 alongside the Swan River. Then there's the full marathon on October 9.

photo by Morgan David de Lossi - licenced under unsplash

The Wrap

We've hope you've enjoyed this run down of the Swan Valley wine region and some of the incredible wineries and activities it has on offer. We will be regularly updating this page and greatly welcome any input you can offer. And if you go ahead and visit the Swan Valley, we hope you love it as much as we do.

Cheers

The team at Goodwill Wine

Who is Goodwill Wine?

Goodwill Wine is Australia's only certified social enterprise wine company.

What's that you ask?

We are a wine company with soul. While other wine companies are focussed on maximising their profit, we are focused on maximising our impact. We do this by donating half our profits to Australian charity. Better still, when you buy, you get to tell us where the money goes.

Our wines are every bit as good as our competitions - in fact hundreds of five star reviews would indicate better (see below) and thanks to Australian's choosing to buy their wine ethically, we have been able to donate almost half a million dollars to date.

So why would we do this?

Our founder, David Laity lost most of what he owned in the Black Saturday bushfires. Thanks to the generosity of fellow Australians, he was given the chance to start again and so he made it his mission to pay forward the help he received.

You can read his story here

Looking for a wine that helps save the world, one bottle at a time?

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