Wine Regions

Coonawarra Wine

The Coonawarra wine region, Est in the 1890's, is located in the greater Limestone Coast of South Australia. Learn about the top wineries, wine variet…

The Coonawarra wine region is located in the greater Limestone Coast are of South Australia. A view of the Coonawarra map will reveal its world famous ‘cigar shaped’ strip of red (Terra Rossa) soil that has been an internationally defining feature of the Coonawarra vineyards. The Coonawarra wine region is an area of land just 15 x 2 kilometres in size.

Coonawarra wineries owe their location to the first plantings by pioneer grape grower, John Riddoch, who first put vines into the earth in the Coonawarra wine region in 1890. While the fortunes of the region changed, and much of the original plantings were set aside, the industry was revives in 1951 when another pioneer, Samuel Wynn, bought the original Riddoch cellars.

Coonawarra red wine is the famous staple of the Coonawarra wine region, with Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon often said to be Australia’s best examples made from the grape variety. Coonawarra cellar doors and wineries tend to be defined by Cabernet Sauvignon grown and made in the region.

Get to Coonawarra

Coonawarra vineyards are readily accessible by road, though the drive from Adelaide will take around four hours. Coonawarra wine region a relatively straight forward four-and-a-half-hour drive from Melbourne. The closest airport to Coonawarra is located in Mount Gambier and serviced by flights daily.

Climate and style in Coonawarra

Coonawarra wine region is located only 60 kilometres from the sea and has a quasi-maritime climate due to this proximity. Coonawarra vineyards enjoy a warm growing season, but cooling breezes and consistent cloud climate mitigate heat, making the region substantially cooler in growing conditions than expected. Winters are considered cold in Coonawarra.

Coonawarra vineyards are planted to approximately 90 per cent red grapes and 10 per cent white grapes. Coonawarra red wine is typically medium to full bodied, deeply flavoured with dark fruit and given complexity from chewy tannin, herbal and eucalyptus characters, suggestions of mint and the potential to age well over decades. Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon is the signature variety, and is often powerful even with medium weight.

Coonawarra grape varieties of white colour are a little less popular and celebrated, but Coonawarra Sauvignon Blanc has had some attention for its intensity and ability to age short term. Coonawarra Riesling and Chardonnay has likewise a small dedicated fan base, often generous in flavour and more traditionally styled.

Key Coonawarra varietals

Coonawarra wine region is intrinsically linked to Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon. While Coonawarra Shiraz and Coonawarra Merlot are also significant plantings, the local industry has forged a strong identity with their Cabernet Sauvignon wines. The Coonawarra wine region is predominately planted to ‘noble varieties’ with Coonawara Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Shiraz most commonly made.

Coonawarra wine region has also plantings of Riesling and Pinot Gris, with small plantings of Viognier, Tempranillo and Sangiovese also noteworthy.

Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon

Coonawarra wine region is arguably considered the preeminent producer of Cabernet Sauvignon in Australia. The wines are generally picked at full ripeness to produce medium to full bodied Coonawarra red wine, that are distinguished by dark fruits, soft spice, firm tannin profile, and minty-herbal complexity. The wines grown on Terra Rossa soils are typically gently savoury and display some earth-like mineral characters. They are approachable in three to five years, but will also cellar for decades in Coonawarra best vintages.

Coonawarra wineries

With over 120 years of Coonawarra vintages, the wineries of Coonawarra have a fair bit of history to draw upon. The longest standing continuous wine producer is Redman, with the fourth generation of Redmans now working the land. The 1950s saw the resurrection of Riddoch winery by Samuel Wynn, which brought the prestige producers Wynns into the Coonawarra wineries family.

Most Coonawarra wineries with enjoy a high profile. Notable names include Wynns, Majella, Balnaves, Bowen Estate, Di Giorgio Family Wines, Brand’s Laira, Hollick Wines, Katnook Estate, Leconfield Coonawarra, Parker Coonawarra Estate, Patrick of Coonawarra, Penley Estate, Raidis Estate, Redman Wines, Rymil Coonawarra Wines, Right Side of the Tracks, The Ridge, and Zema Estate. Penfolds and Yalumba Coonawarra Menzies Estate also have a commitment to wines from Coonawarra wine region.

Coonawarra Region

The future of Coonawarra

The future of the Coonawarra wine region is undeniably linked to the adherence of Coonawarra wineries producing Cabernet Sauvignon. While innovation is occurring in Coonawarra vineyards and wineries, there is a default position of fine-tuning the already high quality offering of Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon as the regional hero.

While location is a hindrance for wine tourism, Coonawarra wine region continues to be significant on the wine map for its increasingly excellent wines from one of the world’s most unique strips of geology.