Margaret River has joined the list of amazing food and wine regions we have visited in Australia and New Zealand, and has made a fairly definite case for being at the top. Probably only Beechworth comes close to the quantity and quality of stuff we’ve come across, but how isolated  can a town be? It’s not just the distance – after all, it is only four hours from Perth and the roads are good – but you feel transported back. The town itself is enveloped in the old forest and the remaining stands of Karri and the other timbers we have been reading about make it feel primeval.

There is obviously a conscious effort here. Our cottage in its Bushland Retreat is an eco-preserve, something we were very aware of on the first morning when there were wallabies within three metres of the front door. The national parks and nature reserves make a concerned attempt to give you a sense of what it must have been like when the giant trees dominated everything and scorned puny humans before chain saws laid them low.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the complete lack of climate change identified by Pauline Hanson and her idiot crew has led to perfectly normal variations in climatic patterns in Southern Australia. Floods in NSW, cyclonic storms in South Australia resulting in power cuts caused by sustainable energy, wintery conditions here in the South West and a Labour government in Victoria. Actually, forget the last one, it was just random. Seriously, the weather is terrible for Spring, but we’ve tried to get out and about in the weather. We’ve had a wood-fired stove to warm the house and our hearts and we’ve eaten at home a couple of nights – especially tonight, when the wind is howling a gale and the rain comes through in squalls.

We’ve spent far too much on wine, but how often do you get it so nice and so cheaply? We’ve bushwalked and wandered around the coast a bit, but probably not enough because of the unseasonal weather.

I’m left thinking about the magic of such places: absolutely commercial, in the sense that no-one does it to lose money, but  much of the development around here is relatively small and decidedly driven by passion. Wine is big business for some of the bigger operators like Cape Mentelle and Xanadu, but so is beef and seafood and tourism and timber. In places like this, you get the sense that there is a belief in the value of what one does and a commitment to it. We’ve two conversations in restaurants – the quirky Arc of Iris and the more commercial Katch-up – which revolved around the mission of the establishment and what the owners and staff were trying to do. Wine regions like Margaret River seem to be full of cellar-door staff who want to talk to you about the art and science of wine-making, about the miracle that occurs when you take some stainless-steel tanks and some grape-juice and start to play in a creative but scientific manner. I like it when art meets science and science doesn’t dominate. It’s like the opposite of alcohol-free wine, probably the most pointless produce ever developed. Like commercial packaged beer, you end up wondering why anyone bothers to make it or drink it; but when the craft of the maker is to the fore, and there is an attempt to create something rather than manufacture something, then both the maker and the consumer have something to share that is immensely enjoyable.

That’s probably why we like visiting food and wine regions! And when the weather is as bad as this, at least there is somewhere to get warm…