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Elinor Sheargold took her tastebuds on a tour of Western Australia’s Southwest and discovered a promised land for indulgence seekers on a budget.
“It’s one of the most expensive foods in the world.”
Rare, subject to the whims of nature, and fetching AUD$1,300 - $3,000 per kilogram, black truffles are sought after the world over. Yet here I was, sharing a gastronomically memorable tasting plate of garlic-y/mushroom-y ‘black gold’ delicacies for just $13.
The Margaret River harvest trail is full of experiences like this. Leave aside the 100 or so wineries that the region is arguably best known for (not that we suggest you do), you’ll find boutique breweries, olive groves, orchards, venison farms and freshwater marron (local crayfish). But that’s merely for entrée. Liqueur lovers, fudge fanciers, cheese and chocolate connoisseurs can all tuck into world-class delicacies at surprisingly wallet-friendly prices.
And there lies the dilemma – so much choice, so little time. Choosing the easy option, we handed over the decision-making responsibilities to The Dude. As the name suggests, John O’Connor’s Wine for Dudes tours promise to uncork the region for Gen X and Y without the hit-and-run haste of most tours. Within minutes of being picked up, our 12-strong group had settled into an easy banter as John helpfully shed light on the difference between a bargain wine and wine bargain.
Rolling up a vine-lined driveway we arrived at the first of the day’s three winery stops, Xanadu. No sign of Olivia Newton John or roller discos, but there was line of bottles and tasting glasses that Fran, one of the cellar door crew, had thoughtfully laid out for us to try. It would have been rude to say no.
As we performed a kind of synchronized sipping, Fran took us through a refreshingly un-patronising lesson in wine-tasting 101. It wasn’t long before we were picking out flavour notes in the fruity Cabernet Sauvignon (berry and chocolate with an acidic kick) and quaffing multi-medal winning Chardonnay like pros.
No two days are the same with Wine for Dudes, who mix up itineraries to take in commercial biggies like Voyager Estate, family operations like Moss Brothers and cottage industry creations that started up as hobbies.
Atone for your overindulgence sins with the Southwest’s myriad of activities:
· Beaches and water sports go together like, well wine and cheese, and the Southwest’s white sands and clear waters are up there with the world’s best to surf, paddle, kitesurf, and dive.
· Land lubbers can walk the Southern Hemisphere’s longest wooden jetty at Busselton and check out the artificial reef from the underwater observatory.
· Explore a subterranean world of limestone caves, underground lakes and the fossilised remains of 65-million year old creatures. Eat your heart out David Attenborough.
· Enjoy lungfuls of unpolluted air with a walk amongst the giant Karri trees and coastal trails. Climb the lighthouse at Cape Leewin, Australia’s most south westerly point.
· Time your visit to coincide with the dazzling displays of visiting whales or wildflower season (September-October).