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translation missing: en.Coonawarra: Coonawarra

Welcome to the South Australian Wine Region series, where every week we feature select wine regions from the stretch of South Australia's spectacular coastlines and thriving hillsides. Subscribe to our newsletter today or view other articles in this series to learn more about the wines of the region.


Part of the Limestone Coast Zone, Coonawarra is a small region with a big reputation. Situated about 380kms south-east of Adelaide, Coonawarra sits up against the Victorian border, slightly above the Henty region. To the north of Coonawarra is Wrattonbully, and directly south is the Mount Gambier region. Coonawarra is home to one of the most famous soils of any Australian wine region, the fabled Terra Rossa. But more on that below.

The first vineyards were planted in Coonawarra by John Riddoch in the late 1800s. But the region's fortunes flagged due to economic depression, and many vineyards were discarded or pulled up for pasture land. Then in the 1950s, David Wynn purchased the old Riddoch vineyards, revitalised them and built a new winery, establishing Wynn's of Coonawarra in the process.

More producers arrived to plant vineyards and build wineries, and Coonawarra's fortunes blossomed. By the 1990s, it was one of the most iconic regions in Australia, and held the crown for best Cabernet Sauvignon wines in the country - a title that many still recognise today.

Through its vibrant and collaborative winemaking community, its distinctive terroir, and a strong global demand for its Cabernet, Coonawarra is one of the most recognised and important wine regions in Australia.


Coonawarra's proximity to the Southern Ocean (around 80 kms) gives it a predominantly maritime climate, with moderate temperatures that are mitigated by cooling ocean breezes. The region has a relatively low, flat altitude, ranging from around 50m to 110m above sea level. This would ordinarily suggest a warmer site, but the lack of height allows the cooler ocean air to flow through the vines, unimpaired by any topographical barriers. During the growing season (the warmest months), there is a an upwelling of cold, deep ocean water that lowers the temperatures of the oceanic winds coming in from the coast. This heavily moderates the temperatures, giving Coonawarra a much cooler climate than it would otherwise have, and aiding in the production of premium quality fruit.

The other element that creates Coonawarra's unique terroir, is the vibrant, red Terra Rossa soil. Coonawarra is world-famous for this small, cigar-shaped section of earth that runs north to south, over a ridge of limestone. This tiny stretch of land, just 27 kms long and 2 kms wide, is among the most valuable patches of dirt in the Australian wine community.

The terra rossa was produced by the weathering of limestone over many thousands of years and coloured by iron oxide. It’s made up of around one-third clay and sits above a pure water aquifier, below the natural limestone ridge. The soil naturally inhibits vigour, and the aquifer provides an unlimited water source for the vines, meaning irrigation is unnecessary.


Cabernet Sauvignon is king in Coonawarra. This widely planted variety makes up over half of the annual crush for Coonawarra each vintage. And for good reason too. The combination of cool temperatures and terra rossa give winemakers in Coonawarra the ability to produce incredibly deep and structured, age-worthy wines with elegance, balance and complexity. It's Cabernet that has really made Coonawarra the world-famous region that it is today.

Following Cabernet is Shiraz which also grows well here, producing medium-bodied wines with dark berry fruit, spice and a distinctive herbal note. Shiraz can be produced as a single variety wine, but is also often used in blends to create Coonawarra 'Dry Red.'

Where Cabernet is grown, Merlot usually follows, and this is certainly the case in Coonawarra. Produced as both a single variety wine, and blended with Cabernet, Coonawarra Merlot is typified by a full-bodied wine with ripe plum notes and silky spice.

Reds certainly dominate the scene in Coonawarra, but Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are also grown here with great success, the cooler climate producing wines that are lighter and more elegant, with excellent natural acidity.


Wynns Coonawarra, Balnaves, Zema Estate, Brand's Laira, Katnook Estate, Bowen Estate, St Hugo Wines, Petaluma, Rymill, Jamiesons Run, Penley Estate.


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