The Coonawarra wine region is located on the Limestone Coast of South Australia. Often called Australia’s “other red centre”, its premium red wines have won world acclaim. Its Cabernet Sauvignon wines produced on its ‘terra rossa’ soil - are internationally renowned and its Shiraz wines are not far behind.
Coonawarra is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘Honeysuckle’ - and is about 380km southeast of Adelaide, close to the border with Victoria. Coonawarra is a small region, only 20kms in length and 2kms in width, despite the size; it is home to more than 24 winery / cellar doors. The first vines were planted by John Riddoch at Yallum, South Australia in 1890 - and with Shiraz being the main grape variety grown.
Led by several leading wineries - The Coonawarra wine region played a leading role in the transformation of the Australian wine industry as it changed from making fortified wines to conventional table wines. Plus the region’s terra rossa soil (red soil found on top of limestone) is perfect for grape growing.
Coonawarra's terra rossa soil is one of the most famous terroirs in the New World, covering an area just north of Penola. It lies on a shallow limestone ridge, raising it above the swampy land either side. To the west of the ridge lies black rendzina soil which is poorly drained, and so is much less favourable for vines. There is also a 'transitional', or brown rendzina, soil which grows vines quite successfully. This geological complexity led to many disputes during an eight-year period before Coonawarra was entered on the Register of Protected Names.
Being situated just 60 km from the ocean, Coonawarra has a somewhat maritime climate not dissimilar to Bordeaux. There is a periodic, major disadvantage to the maritime climate and that is spring frosts. The 2007 frosts wiped out up to 80% of some wineries crops, the frosts however, are rare. During the growing season, there is just 219mm rainfall (Oct-Apr), out of 585mm annually. Extensive cloud cover keeps the temperature down to approx 19°C in January.
Coonawarra is synonymous with quality Cabernet Sauvignon, full of rich plum and blackcurrant fruit and with an intense colour. So much so, that success with other grape varieties is somewhat overshadowed. Shiraz fruit produces some exceptional wines, and with the limestone geology also suiting Chardonnay, Riesling, and even Sauvignon Blanc.