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Margaret River

  Famous for its vineyards and perfect waves, Western Australia’s  Margaret River is our top Best in Asia Pacific destination for 2019. 
  As dawn breaks,the cool grey tones ofthe beachwarm to a golden hue. Dozens of surfers are already out in thewater, bobbing up and down with the growing swell. They’ve paddled outfrom a perfect sandy crescent backed by forested hills beyond,the land is ribbed  with neatrows of grapevines.
  This is Prevelly Beach in the Margaret River region of Western Australia, and the scene encompasses this area’s twin passions its curling surf and delectable wines. Famously, some of the top local winemakers will begin the day catching waves in the morning sun before heading to the vineyards.
  I, however, am not a surfer. My last attempt, on Sydney’s Bondi Beach, was far more entertaining for spectators than it was for me, as I bucked and lurched and launched myself face first into the waves. Also, a rather shocking admission I don’t enjoy wine. On hearing this, winemakers across the world, from the Douro Valley in Portugal to Chile and New Zealand, have attempted to cure me by plying me with theirtop vintages, to no avail.
  Given these two lamentable shortcomings, I arrived in Margaret River wondering if someone like me could truly appreciate this much lauded part of Australia’s southwest. My firstreassurance came in the form of breakfast soft poached free range eggs on buttered Turkish bread, scattered with rocket, crispy bacon and roasted baby tomatoes that burst in the mouth. I was in a window seat at the colourful beach shack Sea Garden Cafe, looking out over a long stretch of the Indian Ocean. Much of the produce on my plate was home grown, drawn from the vegetable garden out the  back and from surrounding farms.
  Twinkle eyed and bearded, Normandy native Gilles England Brassy owned this café until a few years ago, when he took up a post as executive chef at the nearby Pullman Resort. ‘This region is amazing,’ says Gilles. ‘It’s one of those few places where you can get all of your produce from the area.We have truffles,chestnuts,Albany oysters,grass fed beef… and they taste out of this world.
  Part of the secret, I discovered while chatting with otherlocals among the morning crowd, is the soil, a sandy loam resulting from a granite landscape weathered down over millions of years. This, combined with what’s known as a Mediterranean maritime climate,  creates perfect conditions for producing big flavoured cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays.It also means exceptionally  flavoursome local fruits and vegetables.
  Mike is the very picture of a country farmer, with a great bushy beard, sunleathered face and battered wide brimmed hat.I struggled to keep up with him as he marched through his 65 acre property, where a thigh deep sea of green foliage burst with colour. ‘It has to taste of  something Mike told me emphatically, popping a gumball sized Principe Borghese tomato into his mouth with a juicy crunch and nodding with satisfaction. ‘The fruit and veg you buy at the shops doesn’t have any flavour. I’m not interested in anything but the taste.’ At Mike’s urging, I plucked a brightred piquillo pepperfrom a low bush  and bit, savouring its sweetness and the pleasure of eating something still warm from the sunshine it’s been growing under.
  I meandered my way back through muted hills and eucalypt thickets, where mobs of kangaroos gathered in tufty paddocks and spine backed echidnas foraged industriously by the roadside. And, of course,I passed endless rows of vines, which follow the contours of the land over dips and rises, and seem to converge at the far horizon.
  My journey brought me to the Cullen estate, not for a taste of their acclaimed cab sav, butto eat atthewinery restaurant,where high windows look out overthe vines. The tender green leaves were lit to an almost fluorescent glow by the afternoon sun. Soon I was tucking into my best meal yet perfectly soft local lamb with houmous made with beetroot grown in the biodynamic garden, no more than a few steps from my table.
  It was with my last bite of honey mousse with ice cream and crumbling chunks of honeycomb that I decided even I, with my  embarrassing lack of appreciation forits principal draws, could be utterly smitten with Margaret River.I even found myself wondering if I should finish my meal with a small glass of dessert wine, just in case.