The world’s most famous wine regions are defined by actuality not artifice, substance not spin.
There is no pretence about Coonawarra – it is as solid as its tri-century old gumtrees and as reliable as the rainfall that rolls in from the nearby Southern Ocean.
Coonawarra is not a recent arrival. It has paid its dues to the Australian wine industry for over 120 years, exporting fortifieds in the late 1800s and providing the essence of many of our most famous wines in the 30s, 40s and 50s long before its global reputation as a fine wine region was established.
Then from the 1960s to the 1990s it blossomed, claiming the mantra as Australia’s leading Cabernet Sauvignon region. It remains one of only three or four Australian geographic wine names that is easily recalled by consumers worldwide.
Coonawarra is region that has a singular story based on a unique cigar-shaped strip of terra rossa soil over limestone.
Terra rossa (Italian for red soil) is a type of red clay produced by the weathering of limestone over many thousands of years and coloured by iron oxide. Free draining yet complemented by the water holding capacity of the limestone, the unique soil influences vine vigour, ripeness and wine flavour.
Scottish born gardener, William Wilson who came from the Victorian goldfields in the 1850s with £300 in his pocket, chose his small block not on the black and grey loams to the east and west, but on the red terra rossa soil around the town of Penola.
His canny sense of place was repaid in the vigour of his fruit trees and vines and he advised John Riddoch, a fellow Scot who arrived in 1861, to do the same.
COONAWARRA CABERNET SAUVIGNON
Imagine a red wine that has the savoury elegance and structure of Europe yet the fruit purity, ripeness and concentration of Australia.
That is Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted variety in the world and Coonawarra is one of the few regions where free draining soils and maritime ripening conditions achieve the ultimate varietal expression.
Since John Riddoch decreed in the 1890s that his blockers plant Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra has remained true to these classic varieties. But a new crop of grape-growers and winemakers are challenging the status quo with innovative viticultural technology, alternative grape varieties and new winemaking styles.