28 August 2016 by Adam Hickmott
The Margaret River region of Western Australia is well known for its great wine, but now there is a gourmet food culture to match. New truffle hunts and fine dining experiences take visitors off the beaten track into the heart of Australia's South West.
Originally a chilled out surfing town, Margaret River has long been a nirvana for wine lovers, producing award-winning chardonnays, cabernet sauvignons and semillon sauvignon blancs from its boutique wineries.
Its Mediterranean climate, pristine environment and nutrient-rich soils, make it ideal for grape growing. The region accounts for just 3% of Australia's grapes but produces more than 25 per cent of the nation's premium wines - testament to its exceptional quality. Yet, this slice of Western Australia, 150 miles south of Perth, has more than just wine on offer.
Artisan cheese, chocolate and olive oil producers have been popping up, along with mircobreweries part of a thriving craft beer industry and restaurants which make great use of local seafood – from rock lobsters and prawns to marron (a local type of crayfish).
One of the newest ventures in the south west is the harvesting of black truffles, which are found in the tall karri forests around Pemberton. These 'black diamonds' are exported to top restaurants in Melbourne, the US and Europe. The Wine & Truffle Company in nearby Manjimup offers escorted truffle hunts through its oak and hazel tree plantations; afterwards you can sample the delicious fungi in truffle honeys, oils and mustards.
Image credit: Jess Morgan
Where to try great produce from the Margaret River region
Cape Lodge, located in the Margaret River region in Western Australia's extraordinary south west, is a boutique vineyard hotel and award-winning restaurant, which hosted 25 of the world's best chefs during the Margaret River Gourmet Escape last year. Executive chef Tony Howell's philosophy is to only use the freshest local produce, and changes his menu daily depending on what's available.
The Wine & Truffle Co
The Wine & Truffle Co is a truffle producer, located in Manjimup in Western Australia's extraordinary South West. WA produces more black truffle than anywhere else in Australia, and the Wine & Truffle Co is the largest producer of Superior Perigord Truffles in the southern hemisphere. Trained dogs are used to sniff out the truffles, which are then exported to premium restaurants worldwide, and used to make a range of truffle products. This is their story, as told by dog trainer Shane and black Labrador Bella.
Cullen Wines is a winery, located in the Margaret River region in Western Australia's extraordinary South West. Certified biodynamic, carbon neutral and powered naturally by wind, they achieve the best results when they harvest their grapes by hand on a full moon fruit day, to achieve the most lively wines. They believe in producing a wine that represents a sense of place. This is their story, as told by Vanya Cullen.
How to explore the Margaret River region
Margaret River Discovery Company
One of the best ways to experience the wine that Margaret River has to offer is with the Margaret River Discovery Company hosted by expert local guide Sean Blocksidge. Armed with a luxury 4WD and a canoe he plots a journey that takes you behind the tourist facade, away from the masses to discover people and places you won't find on your own.