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Wilyabrup sub-region push thwarted

Wine Australia’s Geographical Indications Committee has turned down an application by producers in Wilyabrup to have their Margaret River sub-region officially recognised.

Image credit: Wine Australia

Notable producers including Cullen, Fraser Gallop and Moss Wood put forward an application towards the end of last year but the committee turned it down saying that there was an on-going project to properly map the Western Australian region’s potential geographical indications (GIs).

According to several local newspapers, the committee’s presiding member, Dennis Mutton said that as there was still no firm accord on the exact boundaries or attributes of the proposed Wilyabrup sub-region no final decision could be agreed upon.

Furthermore, he pointed out that the Margaret River Wine Association had recently launched the ‘Margaret River Region Project’ to map the area and determine potential GIs.

“The project could potentially identify discrete viticultural areas within that GI that may meet the criteria for determination as separate GIs,” he said.

“It will also include trained panel sensory analysis to identify areas which are distinct in climate or soil characteristics that could set them apart from the remainder of the Margaret River region.”

The MRWA had opposed the petition saying in a statement that, “the region was not yet in a position to scientifically validate where, or to what extent, uniqueness or uniformity occurs within its Geographical Indication.”

The GIC is authorised to consider applications for GI recognition under certain conditions; namely that the area in question is s ingle tract of land, that at least 500 tonnes of fruit is harvested there a year on average and that five, individually-owned, vineyards of at least five hectares each are behind the petition.

The idea of sub-regions in Margaret River has existed for quite some time. One of the region’s pioneers, Dr John Gladstones, published a paper in 1999 arguing that there were at least six distinct sub-regions: Yallingup, Carbunup, Wilyabrup, Treeton, Wallcliffe and Karridale.

The petitioners have expressed their disappointment with the ruling, with Vanya Cullen even quoted in local paper the Busselton Mail that the ruling “lacked courage and vision”.

However, some winemakers with holdings in Wilyabrup, such as Jeff Burch, owner of Howard Park, agreed with the decision, telling Melbourne-based paper The Age that the application had been “premature” and while he did not oppose the push for recognising GIs, in his view it was better to keep pushing the broader message of Margaret River rather than a sub-region few will have heard of in export markets.

The petition may been shelved for now though one can well imagine it will re-emerge again in time.

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