The mofo guide to | Coonawarra
Coonawarra - rich in history, both ancient and recent, all of which you see in each drop of deliciousness coming out of there. It may be an established region, but it’s also ripe with potential. Let's get into what you need-to-know.
It’s comparatively tiny compared to other regions, but Coonawarra and its wines have a big rep on the world stage (and in our hearts too). Set on South Australia’s Limestone Coast, its unique terra rossa soil (“red earth”, if you don’t parlo italiano) is formed out of oxidised clay on what was once an ancient seabed, with a climate still considered as maritime due to cooling effects of the Southern Ocean lying 80km to the south.
Those sea breezes bring cool, dry summers along with them, which provide an extended ripening period for the grapes that call Coonawarra home. Wynns Coonawarra Estate spearheaded a revival of the region from the 1950s onwards, and over the past decade or so growers have taken advantage of the climate to introduce innovations, new techniques and technologies to focus on sustainability and maximise quality at the same time. We’ll drink to that.
Coonawarra’s fabled red dirt has a love affair with red varietals, and you’ll find cab sav, shiraz and merlot accounting for a whopping 87% of what’s being crushed here. But… if we know anything about wine it’s that there’s always unexpected gems to be found amongst the underdogs, and you’ll find some ripper chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling taking advantage of those long ripening windows too.
Coonawarra cab varies from medium to full-bodied, well-structured wines with well-balanced acidity to boot. Typically you’ll find heaps of fine tannins well integrated alongside bold cassis, blackberry, plum and dark cherry aromas and flavours - plus that classic mint character that’s telltale cab, but here often ventures further into eucalyptus territory too. If you want complexity, you’ve got it in spades here - wines that are still drinkable in their early years but capable of rewarding you again as they age. And what’s not to love about that?
Until cab sav claimed the crown, shiraz was the reigning ruler of Coonawarra, accounting for most plantings until ‘50s. Typically you’ll find it lighter in style than those heavy-hitters coming out of the Barossa or McLaren Vale; generally medium-bodied, balanced with pepper, dark red and black fruits and occasionally a savoury herbal character (kind of similar to that cab sav mint) popping up too. You’ll find it bottled straight up by itself, or blended with a regional mate like cab sav to lend some of those richer red fruits.
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A relatively new kid on the terra rossa block, merlot may not have been around in Coonawarra for as long as cab sav and shiraz, but it thrives in the free-draining limestone soils here. Like shiraz, you’ll find it either on its own or paired up with a blending buddy, and generally it’s made in a way that showcases all that’s good about that sunny ripening season, producing full-bodied and heady wines with bold ripe plums, red berries, spice, menthol and cedar.
Keen to sample the delights of Coonawarra? Check out our latest stock here.