Cabernet is king in Coonawarra

Coonawarra’s agricultural history began in the mid-1800s when settlers recognised the potential of the flat, fertile plains for sheep farming and fruit growing. Enterprising Scottish settler John Riddoch planted Coonawarra’s first grapevines in 1891, thirty years after establishing a lucrative sheep farm at Penola.

Coonawarra is, perhaps alongside Margaret River, Australia’s most famous cool-climate region for Cabernet Sauvignon. The Bordeaux grape varietal found a home in the terra rossa soils of Coonawarra, producing rich, firmly structured red wines that are renowned around the world as some of the finest in Australia. 

Coonawarra
Coonawarra
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Coonawarra snapshot

Coonawarra is situated in the Limestone Coast zone, between Adelaide and Melbourne. It is home to one of the most prized and famous soil structures in Australia – terra rossa.

Shiraz actually has a longer history of production in the region but now there is three times more Cabernet Sauvignon planted than Shiraz.

4,960ha
Total vineyard area
50m
Altitude
37° 18'S
Latitude
260mm
Growing season rainfall
19.6°c
Mean temperature (Jan)
1430
Heat degree days
White
8%
Red
92%
Type

Cabernet Sauvignon

Coonawarra is considered to be the pre-eminent producer of Cabernet Sauvignon in Australia creating medium to full-bodied wines with cassis, blackberry, plum and dark cherry flavours. Firm but plush tannins the very best versions can age gracefully for decades.

Merlot

Does not have a long tradition in Coonawarra but has been a very successful blending partner for Cabernet Sauvignon and makes interesting, elegant varietal wine.

Shiraz

Up until the 1950s Shiraz was the main variety grown in Coonawarra, so it has a long history in the region. The style is medium-bodied with spice and raspberry-toned fruit. A Coonawarra tradition is to blend Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Top varieties grown in Coonawarra
Climate
  • Coonawarra experiences a maritime influence due to upwelling of cold ocean currents at certain times of the year
  • Cold winters and cool summer night temperatures
  • Consistent cloud cover contributes to temperature reduction
Soil
  • A flat region famous for its terra rossa soils
  • Thin iron-oxide based top soil over limestone

Stories of Australian Wine

Regional associations

Coonawarra Vignerons' Association