Another sign of maturity at Woodlands is the conversion to organic viticulture. The process started more than a decade ago with the reduction of chemical use in the vineyard and the introduction of compost, and will culminate this vintage with the winery and original estate vineyard becoming fully certified organic.
The next stage is to convert a second 16-hectare vineyard, Woodlands Brook, located two kilometres from the winery, to organics.
On the one hand this is a natural progression for a farming family long-attuned to their land.
“We’ve been picking our grapes according to the lunar calendar for 15 years,” says Watson. “We’ve noticed that the grapes tend to ripen up to the full moon and then lose sugar. We’ve learnt that to get good balance of acid and sugar in the fruit we’ll pick our whites around the half moon and reds leading up to full moon.
“A lot of winemakers talk about this stuff because it sounds good in their marketing, but it’s pretty pragmatic for us. Observing nature was something we were always told by our parents. Watch the birds: if you see black cockatoos coming, it means it’s going to rain.”
Biodynamic wine trail
Converting to organics is also part of a broader trend in Margaret River. One of the region’s highest-profile wineries, Cullen, has been certified biodynamic for over a decade. Two of the region’s largest players, Voyager Estate and Vasse Felix, are in the process of certifying or applying for organic certification for some and eventually all of their vineyards. And a group of fully certified producers recently launched both a Margaret River Organic and Biodynamic Wine Trail aimed at eco-conscious visitors, and a website that lists the producers on the trail and those, like Woodlands, that are in conversion.
“I think this is a really positive thing for Margaret River,” says Watson. “I’d like the whole region to go organic. We could do it really easily.”
To celebrate the 40th vintage at Woodlands, the Watson family are planning a midyear series of tastings and dinners in Western Australia and the eastern states. To register your interest in these events, or to join the Woodlands wine club to access rare bottlings and older vintages, go to woodlandswines.com.au
Tasting Woodlands wines
- 2017 Woodlands Wilyabrup Valley Cabernet Franc Merlot [Margaret River] The gold capsule and the Wilyabrup Valley appellation indicate the wine was made from grapes grown in vineyards not owned by the family. This excellent-value elegant young red comes from a small block of cabernet franc and merlot vines planted in very gravelly soil, and was matured in older oak barrels to let the fruit flavour shine. It’s beautifully perfumed, with lifted, floral cedar and violet aromatics and dusty, tight, fresh tannins. Lovely. $28
- 2016 Woodlands Clementine [Margaret River] The red capsule indicates estate-grown fruit. Where the cabernet franc merlot reviewed above is all finesse and elegance, this blend of 55 per cent cabernet with equal parts malbec, merlot and petit verdot, grown in the Watson family’s Woodlands Brook vineyard, is round, flesh, and deliciously chewy. Terrific dark flavours of blackberry and olive, with a deep, savoury finish. Named after Andrew Watson’s daughter, Clementine. $39
- 2015 Woodlands Russell Cabernet Sauvignon [Margaret River] Each year the top cabernet from Woodlands carries a different person’s name on the label: the 2015 vintage is a tribute to erstwhile Margaret River winemaker and long-time Watson family friend Russell Cook. It’s about as good as cabernet (with a smidge of cab franc and malbec in the blend) gets in the Wilyabrup region: gorgeous, pure, rich blackcurrant and mulberry fruit flows seamlessly across the tongue, funnelled by fine, silky but deceptively assertive tannins. Destined for a long life in the cellar. $150