Coonawarra - vineyards and cellar doors

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Fine wine from the Coonawarra wine region in South Australia

Fine wine from the Coonawarra wine region in South Australia [©Limestone Coast Tourism]

Wine barrels in the Coonawarra wine region of South Australia
Brand’s Cellar, Coonawarra, South Australia
Vineyard views, Coonawarra, South Australia
Winemakers taking a break in the Coonawarra wine region, South Australia

Coonawarra’s total vineyard area of 6368ha represents around 7 percent of South Australia’s wine industry.

Its terra rossa soil is world famous but not unique to the region. It occurs throughout the Limestone Coast zone. Vivid red in colour, it is derived from weathered limestone and thus is not volcanic in origin. It forms sub-plastic clays and friable loams that are free-draining in comparison with the grey and black soils that are frequently interspersed here.

Coonawarra is acknowledged as the home of some of Australia’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Indeed, the region is predominantly red wine country. Almost 85 percent of its vineyard area is planted to red wine grapes.

Cabernet Sauvignon (3484ha) dominates the region, with a 55 percent share of the region’s vineyard area. Shiraz (1242ha) and Merlot (456ha) are Coonawarra’s other significant red varieties.

Chardonnay (491ha) is the region’s most prolific white grape, though it accounts for less than 8 percent of Coonawarra’s total vineyard area. Sauvignon Blanc (211ha) and Riesling (152ha) are the only other white varieties of any importance. Small pockets of Pinot Gris (37ha) and Viognier (11ha) provide proof of grower interest in two of the country’s newly emerging white wine varieties.

Balnaves, Brand’s, Jamieson’s Run (formerly Mildara), Katnook Estate, Majella, Punters Corner (once Haselgrove) and Wynns Coonawarra Estate are the region’s pre-eminent red wine producers.

From vine to glass

On international markets, the Coonawarra brand is associated with premium quality Australian wine. In 2007-2008, total export sales for wine labelled Coonawarra exceeded $25m. Its top five destinations were the UK, the US, Canada, China and New Zealand.

In June 2008, the average price per litre of exported Coonawarra wine was valued at $10.02, well in excess of the $3.78 average per litre calculated for all Australian wine exported during that period.

Coonawarra’s largest producers are well represented among national retail and on-premise sales. Wines from smaller producers are more likely to be restricted to southern and eastern states of Australia.

Katnook Estate Odyssey, Majella The Malleea, and Parker Coonawarra Estate Terra Rossa have a very strong following on the Australian wine auction market. All enjoy a Langton’s Wine Classification of Outstanding. All are best sourced direct from the vineyard cellar door. 

Coonawarra vineyards at a glance:

Limestone Coast Zone
GI registered 2003
Located 37°18'S, 140°49'E
Terrain: 400 sq.km of red terra rossa soil over a limestone ridge
Altitude: 60m
Heat degree days: 1430
Mean annual rainfall: 640mm
Growing season rainfall: 222mm
Mean January temperatures: 19.6°C
Planted area (2007): 6,368ha
Principal varieties (in order of planted area):
Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc.
Typical harvest period: Early March-end April
Total crush (2007): 17,026 tonnes*

* 2007 harvest reduced by almost 50 percent as a result of severe frosts during October 2006

Regions

  • Coonawarra (SA)
  • Limestone Coast (SA)
  • Mount Benson (SA)
  • Padthaway (SA)
  • Penola (SA)
  • Robe (SA)
  • Wrattonbully (SA)

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