Wine tasting amelia park

While most of us drink wine, not all of us feel capable of tasting and talking about it.

A thought looms that we need to know the etiquette, the drill, some routine or procedure that will unlock the vault. It can all seem too much. As part of our Margaret River Makers video series, we chatted to a host of winemakers in the region to get their take on tasting.

Their advice exposed the simple truth that there’s nothing to feel nervous about. It’s a case of diving in, experiencing as much as you can and above all having fun!


Dylan Arvidson, Winemaker, LS Merchants

“Give it a nice swirl in the glass. You let the air in, to let the wine open up so it breathes. Essentially, you’re opening up the nose, letting the aromas out so you can smell it better. And repeat that a couple of times. You might not pick it all up on the first smell. Come back to it and think OK I got that initial berry fruit and then think what’s that next little fruit. So, give it another swirl and stick your nose in again.

Suck a little air between your teeth and your tongue and that will really open up the aromatics of the wine on the palate and really let you taste the fruit. For me I go first for the most primary fruit. So, with a red wine either a dark fruit or a red fruit. I’ll look for that primary one that sticks out the most and then I’ll start unpacking it from there. So say I’ve got plum, what goes there with plum? Is it a redcurrant fruit underneath it or is it stewed plum, or is it prunes? So once you’ve nailed those down it’s going to be about spices. Is it mixed spice, oregano? Anything you can draw back on a sensory profile. Some people don’t have much in their sensory profile and that’s fine. You might just pick one or two things. It’s a start.”

Virginia Willcock, Winemaker, Vasse Felix

“I think when you’re talking about the taste of the wine I prefer to talk about it as the shape of a wine. Every variety has a different shape and a different feeling in your mouth. Something like a Sauvignon Blanc Semillon might be quite direct and linear while you might put a chardonnay in your mouth and it’s more of a round plump sensation. A red might be a bit like a horseshoe. It might be elegant and then the tannins wrap to the back. So there is a different shape to every wine and that’s why you may like one variety over another.”

Bruce Dukes, Winemaker, Passel Estate

“When you taste wine, it should take you to its terroir. Terroir is about the people, not just the climate and the soil; it’s also about the intent of the viticulturists and the winemakers.”

Stuart Watson, Winemaker, Woodlands Wines

“A good wine should make you smile and for me Cabernet is the wine that I drink that makes me smile the most. I suppose at the end of the day all we’re looking for is whether the wine makes you smile or not. Wine has to have drinkability, it needs to be enjoyable and usually the great wines do exactly that.”

Intimate Cellar Door Experiences - Moss Wood
The Margaret River Region is spoilt for choice with over 100 cellar doors. Photo: Moss Wood

Where to Further Your Wine Education

The Margaret River Region is spoilt for choice when it comes to cellar doors. With over 100 of them dotted between the Capes and all the way up to the Blackwood River, one could spend a lifetime tasting the region’s drops without boring the palate.

Although the varieties and experiences are seemingly endless, they have at least one thing in common: you can be sure to be served and swirled by passionate and knowledgeable local winemakers and cellar door staff.

Here are three places to get you started on your wine education.

Start your sensory wine journey at Origins Market's Urban Cellar Door. Photo: Russell Ord

Origins Market

Start off at one of the only places in the region where you can taste a selection of different local wines and styles under the one roof: Origins Market in Busselton.

Sip, taste, smell and swirl your way through the Urban Cellar Door and enjoy the sensory journey of creativity, connection and community that lives and breathes under this roof. Take your time browsing the cellar, talk curious blends with wine enthusiasts from the region’s new and bold wineries, and get your questions answered by wine experts from established biodynamic and organic wineries.

Don’t miss Origins Un-wine-d every Thursday and Friday afternoon, where complimentary drinks and nibbles will have you trying wines late into the evening.

Passel Estate’s Provenance Unearthed
Learn more about the region's stylistic differences through Passel Estate’s Provenance Unearthed. Credit: Passel Estate

Passel Estate

Learning a little from the experts in a relaxed and beautiful setting is always a good idea. Not only will you get the gist of wine-talk in no-time, their passion and knowledge will have you connecting deeper with the intent behind the wines and its provenance.

Passel Estate’s Provenance Unearthed showcases their quintessential Margaret River wines alongside premium wines from other renowned Australian wine regions to demonstrate how location, climate and winemaking techniques influence the taste of the wine produced. The guided comparative wine tasting experience will have you discover and learn the region’s defining stylistic differences, all while tasting superb wines.

“All of the wines in the Provenance Unearthed tasting experience are exceptional; they are strong expressions of their classic regionality and terroir,” says Passel Estate owner, Wendy Stimpson.

Cape Grace Wines
Robert Karri-Davies and winemaker Conrad Tritt in the cellar door at Cape Grace Wines. Photo: Cape Grace Wines

Cape Grace Wines

A hidden gem that’s been around for a long time is the personable and welcoming little winery of Cape Grace Wines: a carefully tended vineyard from which boutique, handcrafted, basket pressed wines are made.

Owners Karen and Robert Karri-Davies, and winemaker Conrad Tritt, are always happy to share insights on the trials and joys of being a small winemaker, tell the tales of their winemaking processes, and give practical tips on how to taste their wines. If time is available, take the chance to dig a little deeper and weave in a tour of the winery.

It’s a great addition to your wine education journey.

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