The first thing you get to know about Coonawarra is that it's a long, four-hour drive from either of the big cities of Adelaide and Melbourne. Some call Coonawarra ‘Australia's most isolated wine region’, which can mean the local people get a bit funny in the head. The only thing we think they get funny about are how good the wines of the region are – and rightly so.
Coonawarra is one of Australia's premier wine producing and grape growing regions, and a handy vein of ancient dirt helps it all along. They call the dirt of Coonawarra's wine growing region, ‘Terra Rossa’, a one million year old jumble of calcrete sitting on a white limestone base, with a sprinkle of red-brown topsoil to give it some colour and character. This ancient soil helps grow some amazing red wine grapes, particularly lending its hand to making complex Cabernet Sauvignon, the flagship variety for the region.
Coonawarra has a wine history that dates back to the 1880s, planted by John Riddoch, in a move that foreshadowed what would become the Wynns winery of today. In 1901 the Redman family kicked off their operations, and four generations later the family owned business continues. The region is known for premium wine rather than bulk grape growing with most wineries promoting prestige over volume.
While Coonawarra Cabernet, with its dense almost meaty/savoury vein, is the hero of the region, producers have planted widely with Shiraz, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Verdot, Riesling, Merlot and to a lesser extent varieties like Pinot Noir, Malbec and Semillon. Penola is the main town for the region, a charming village that forms the epicentre of winemaking activity, including drinking beer, crossing the road to the other pub, and drinking beer.
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