Tasting The Swan Valley

All it takes is 25 minutes of driving before the urbanism of Perth gives way to picturesque vines and the warm rustic charm of the Swan Valley. For visitors from Singapore, add about another 310 minutes of flight time to Perth but the smooth connection via Jetstar Asia, which flies direct to this Western Australian capital city thrice daily, will set you off on a good note for some gastronomic adventure on the Swan Valley’s food and wine trail.

The trail is sign-posted well and works in conjunction with the Swan Valley Guide and Maps, which are available from the Swan Valley Visitor Centre in Guildford and are designed to help you plan your own unique food and wine experience. For beer enthusiasts, there is also the new and enticing cider and ale trail that highlights the Swan Valley’s burgeoning breweries and cideries that have sprouted over the years.

The self-drive 32km loop takes you through more than 150 wineries, restaurants, cafes, breweries, distilleries, art galleries, seasonal roadside stalls and a host of other attractions. There are tours available if you would prefer to have someone else behind the wheel.

Perth’s Valley Of Taste
A trip to the Swan Valley is never complete without a spontaneous stop at one of the many vibrant roadside stalls you may chance upon. Depending on the season, you may stumble upon grapes just picked off the vines, freshly picked asparagus, plump strawberries, juicy watermelons, rock melons or vine-ripened tomatoes. If lady luck is shining on you, you might come across stalls selling honey, seafood and ice cream. You will have the feeling that you are eating the produce straight from the orchard or vines knowing that you are buying direct from the grower. That is how fresh your purchase can be.

The Swan Valley is never short of artisan wares, from extra virgin olive oils, specialty cheeses, marinated olives, tapenades, dried fruits, pickles and preserves to handmade chocolate, fudge, truffles, nuts and nougat, foodies will have a field day. Now that Maison Saint-Honoré, famous for their macarons, has a dedicated Macaron & Cake Factory in the Swan Valley, sweet tooths can indulge in French pastries, canelés, lemon meringue tart and more.

Masterclasses And More Masterclasses
The Swan Valley has an ever growing list of masterclasses offering hands-on experiences and opportunities to watch artisans at work, along with the sampling of freshly made produce. Interesting masterclasses to join include picking asparagus at Edgecombe Brothers, making cheese at the Cheese Barrel, becoming a winemaker for the day at Sandalford, and matching chocolate with wine at Providore.

Work Off The Calories
There are various activities that can help rid the calories that have been piling up since you embarked on the food and wine trail. You can walk off the calories by going on some of Swan Valley trails or cycle it off by following the Swan Valley Heritage Cycle Trail that showcases the area’s history, nature and characters. For a more relaxing “workout”, take a stroll at Whiteman Park where you can feed the roos at Caversham Wildlife Park.

More To Superb Food And Wines
There is more to the Swan Valley than the superb food and wine. Though known foremost for its produce, it is the inhabitants who make the Swan Valley such an appealing place to explore. For example, you will witness third or fourth generation winemakers greeting and serving their visitors at the cellar doors, eager to share their tales about the regions’s 183 years of viticulture. A midweek visit is perfect for lingering and having a chat because the locals invade in huge numbers during the weekends. The Swan Valley sees 3.1 million visits per year.

The passion of the people behind the wineries, restaurants, cafés, breweries, distilleries, galleries and seasonal roadside stalls will rub on you, making repeat visits to the Swan Valley inevitable.

Sunshine Is The Standard Order Of The Day
If comfortably mild weather, clear skies and blooming wildflowers are more your thing, then September to March are good to visit, with temperature averages of anywhere between a 9°C minimum during September through to a 32°C daily maximum in February, These are the months bridging the winter and spring seasons.

But all in all, the Swan Valley region sees more sunny days per year than any other Australian capital city, so sunshine is often the standard order, which sees fruits and vegetables on bountiful soil ripening to perfection.

The weather conditions are also ideal for cultivating wine grapes such as Chenin Blanc, Verdelho, Shiraz, Cabernet and Petit Verdot varieties. Long, hot summers mean grapes can undergo extra ripening time, producing the high sugar levels required for liqueurs and fortified wines.

They Take Their Produce Seriously
Swan Valley was named the first Australian Humane Food Region by the RSPCA in 2014. The region has continued this commitment, ensuring chickens bred for meat are allowed to scratch and forage, hens can lay their eggs in a nest and breeding pigs are not confined to stalls or crates. With animals leading happier, healthier lives, quality wholesome food that is fresher and tastier can be expected.

There is a growing global trend in ethically-conscious diners wanting to know where their food is coming from. The Swan Valley Humane Food Region initiative is therefore giving diners what they want. In keeping with the RSPCA’s stringent accreditation process, these diners can expect menus featuring cage-free eggs, free-range chicken and free-range pork from the 30 participating restaurants and cafes in the Swan Valley.

Western Australia’s Oldest Wine Region
This year, the Swan Valley celebrates 183 years of winemaking. The vines at Olive Farm produced the first wine, making it the oldest wine region in Western Australia. Croatian and Italian immigrants transformed the region into a winegrowing centre in the 1920s. Now, it is home to over 40 wineries including iconic ones such as Houghtons, Sandalford and Olive Farm. The tradition of small boutique wineries in the Swan Valley is the foundation of this wine region’s charm.

The European immigrants may have specialised in fortified wines but these days, there is a rich array of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Petit Verdot and Verdelho varieties to round out the experience. Though generations of tradition and passion have been sown into the land here, visitors will also find new state-of-the-art wineries like Mandoon Estate cropping up. The recent influx of young, innovative and sophisticated winemakers to Swan Valley wineries has brought a fresh new style and finesse to table wine.