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Swan District revels in its elegant wine styles

By Peter Bailey – AWBC

The Swan District region is part of the Greater Perth zone and is located north of Perth in Western Australia. It runs 90km along the coast just south of Guilderton and its north-west boundary extends 110km up to the town of Wannamal. The region focuses primarily on the sub-region of the Swan Valley, just 20km from Perth.

The Swan Valley is the oldest wine region in Western Australia with vines first planted in 1830, predating both Victoria and South Australia in viticultural terms.

The Swan District is one of the hottest and most arid wine regions in Australia. The region has a mean January temperature of 24.2°C and a low growing season rainfall average of 167mm. In contrast, regions such as Tasmania, the Yarra Valley, and the Adelaide Hills have mean January temperatures below 20°C and average growing season rainfalls above 300mm. The Swan District has some relief from the heat through a south-westerly breeze, the famous Fremantle ‘Doctor’.

There are around 40 wineries in the region, the largest being the Houghton Wine Company which crushes more than 10,000t. Based on data collected by the ABS 2006 Vineyard Survey, 1173ha were under vine in the Swan District in 2006. Of this, 94% or 1105ha were bearing. While this is 36% higher than in 2002, it is lower than the region’s recorded peak of 1305ha in 1979 and the 1301ha reported in 2005.

While the bearing area in 2006 was lower than in 1979, production was significantly higher. The Swan District produced 7116t of winegrapes and 1994t of dried and tablegrapes, for a total of 9110t of grapes in 2006. In contrast, the region produced 3868t of winegrapes and 3240t of dried and tablegrapes in 1979, a total of 7108t.

There are two key changes in the Swan District production base. First, the proportion of winegrapes in the mix has increased from 54% in 1979 to 78% in 2006. Secondly, yields in the region have increased by around 50%, from 5.44t/ha in 1979 to 8.24t/ha in 2006.

While Swan District is the oldest region in WA, it is now the third-largest winegrape-producing region in the State, accounting for 12% of WA production in 2006, behind Margaret River with 47% and Great Southern with 20%. In 1979, the Swan District accounted for nearly 60% of WA winegrape production. Margaret River overtook the Swan District as the largest WA winegrape producer in 1992, a position it has held since that time.

White varieties account for the major share of Swan District winegrape production, with 4921t produced for a 68% share in 2006, with reds contributing 2196t, a 32% share. The red share peaked at 42% in 2003 but has been in decline since then.

The full article can be found in the September/October 2007 issue of the Wine Industry Journal. To subscribe visit winetitles.com.au/wij/subscribe.asp

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