It wasn’t until we got to Albany that we discovered that there was a little food and wine region only 50km to the west! We stayed the night at Torbay Inlet, got up nice and early for the sunrise and packed up for an action-packed day.
Once we arrived in Denmark, we went straight to the information centre to make sure we’d crossed all the Ts and dotted all the Is. They were so impressed with Juz’s organised action plan, they suggested we move to Denmark and offered her a job!
Denmark is a little coastal town in southern Western Australia. It was first explored by naval doctor Thomas Braidwood Wilson in 1829, who was assisted by local Noongar men. It was originally called Leeuwin Land, but after the discovery of the river, Wilson named the area after his friend, English doctor Alexander Denmark. By 1885, the wood trade was booming and a railway was built between Denmark and Albany to transport all the karri timber. Unfortunately, after a severe depletion of karri trees, the timber industry collapsed and the population reduced.
In the 1960s, Denmark was reinvented as the home of alternative hippies, who helped cultivate the town’s artistic culture. Agriculturists also moved into the area and established vineyards. Since then, over 20 vineyards have opened in the area, and due to the great soil, it is also a wonderland of local produce like berries, eggs, cheese, chocolate, honey, olives, coffee, pickles, sauces, toffee, fudge, wine, beer and cider.
While we were exploring the town, we definitely noticed the alternative lifestyle, with lots of health food stores and holistic practitioners. After a quick lap of town, we got down to business and started to visit the wineries.
A little tip – just for you – don’t go to Denmark on a Tuesday or Wednesday because many places are closed!
Howard Park Wines & MadFish
These two wine labels are owned by the Burch Family. Howard Park Wines has two wineries – Denmark and Margaret River – and released the MadFish label in 1992. MadFish got its name from a story about Madfish Bay, south of Denmark. Usually a tranquil bay, during particular tide times, the fish ‘go mad’ and try to jump out of the water to avoid being eaten by bigger fish.
- 2010 Howard Park Chardonnay – pale straw with a green tinge, it had a sweet oaky smell that was a little oily. The entry was very fresh before a warm, oily bloom that finished with sweet melon. Gorgeous!
- 2010 MadFish Carnelian – named after a semi-precious stone from South Africa, it was deep red with plums and purple. The smell was rich with sweet fruits, lots of blackberry, plum and chocolate, and while it had a dry entry with velvety tannins, it was rich, warm and ripe.
- 2010 Howard Park Scotsdale Shiraz – deep ruby with hints of indigo, it had a sweet, robust scent of lavender and tasted of black fruits.
- 2008 MadFish Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot – caramel, garnet and ruby, it smelt of sweet berries and chocolate. The entry was dusty and spirited, but mellowed out with berries and savoury tannins.
- MadFish Muscato – the colour of pink champagne! Lots of strawberries and floral characters on the nose with a sweet and refreshing entry full of musk, lychees and Turkish delight!
- Howard Park Muscat (No Vintage) – golden caramel, it smelt sweet with nut and honey. Very viscous, it was gently spirited and had a nutty rancio finish. Beautiful!
In the 1980s, a local family acquired the property, called it Matilda’s Meadow and planted some vines. The name Rockcliffe comes from the granite cliffs that run along the coast of Denmark and the wines are also named after landmarks along the coast.
- 2010 Rockcliffe Chardonnay – a sweet smelling wine with lots of yellow nectarine, it had a crisp, acidic entry and rounded finish that was creamy with butter and fruits.
- 2011 Third Reef Pinot Noir – light crimson liquid full of raspberries and plums that matured in the flavour to dark fruits, chocolate and fine tannins.
- 2012 Quarram Rocks Rosé – using pinot noir grapes, it was a deep rose pink colour with a creamy scent of flowers and berries. It was very light and vibrant, full of strawberries and a crisp finish.
- Forty Foot Drop Sparkling Shiraz (No Vintage) – ruby with a caramel lining, it smelt of currants and liquorice. It was full of bubbles and any sweetness was chased away with a hint of dryness before the fruity finish.
If you like honey, then this is the place to be! Bartholomew’s offers honey wine and liqueur, honey ice cream and several flavours of pure honey, as well as bee merchandise like tea towels, jars and honey spoons. They also have a glass beehive where you can play ‘spot the queen’!
- Citrus Mead – it had an odd smell that was dry and bitter like grapefruit. The entry was crisp and refreshing with a beautiful raw honey flavour that continued until the end.
- Methglin Mead – traditional recipe infused with cinnamon, ginger, rosemary and cloves. It was very spiced and fruity with a sweet and full flavoured entry full of honey and a spiced finish at the back of the throat.
- Honey Liqueur – oozing with the smell of brandy and spiced fruit, it was very thick and sticky with a firey spirit and honey nut finish.
The different flavours of honey were just gorgeous – cinnamon, ginger, yate, chocolate, creamed and vanilla bean. The real stand out was the hazelnut honey, which was kinda like Nutella but with a rich honey sweetness and consistency.
Denmark Chocolate Company
Chocolate-lovers BEWARE! You will never want to leave! We were in chocolate heaven as soon as we walked through the door, with the smell of freshly baked chocolate brownies wafting through the air. This place is Western Australia’s first licensed chocolate lounge and uses Swiss Annie’s Fine Chocolates to make a variety of handmade chocolates and truffles. They also offer local wines, beers and liquors, coffee, hot chocolate and cake.
Swiss chocolate has had a long history that has spanned over 200 years. Italy was the chocolate epicentre of the world after learning from Swiss chocolate artisans in the 18th century. In 1826, Swiss chocolatier Phillippe Suchard opened a chocolate factory and produced chocolate that made him world famous and by 1883 was making 50% of all Swiss chocolate. In 1831, Swiss chocolatier Charles Kohler opened a chocolate factory and introduced nutty chocolate. He also took on a few apprentices, including Rudolph Lindt. Lindt went on to open his own factory in 1879 and improved the recipe to make chocolate even more delicious. By the early 1900s, Switzerland was making 55% of the world’s chocolate.
We sampled a variety of pistols, from the super dark chocolates to the strawberry infused white chocolate. The chocolates that were between 55-72% were still creamy without being bitter at all. The infused white chocolates were very interesting – particularly the lemon and orange flavours. It seems that a strong essence was used to flavour the chocolate while the colours are added later, and most of them were sickly sweet.
They also had some ports, tawny and muscat to try. Our favourite was the Rutherglen Premium Muscat, which was rich caramel brown and smelt and tasted of fruit and honey with a viscous entry and spirited warmth.
We also sampled the truffles. The Roast Almond and Honey truffle was rolled in flaked almonds and the milk chocolate was made even sweeter with the honey. The Rum and Raisin truffle was rolled in dark chocolate flakes and was rich with rum essence and chewy raisins in dark chocolate. We were also treated to a Dark Coconut Malibu truffle covered in dark cacao powder, which contrasted the sweetness of the white coconut filling perfectly.