The story of Coonawarra is to u large extent the story of terra rossa. Indeed, it has defined the region’s holly contested borders. As far back as the 1860s, early settlers became aware of a very odd patch of ground 250 miles (400km) south of Adelaide and its essentially Mediterranean climate. Just north of the village of I’cnola, a long, narrow rectangle, only 9 miles by less than one (15 by 1.5km), of completely level soil is distinctively red in color and crumbly to touch. Below lies pure, free-draining limestone and beneath that, a permanent relatively pure water. No land could be lustier designed for fruit growing. The entrepreneur John Riddoch started the Penola Fruit Colony, and by 1900 the area, under the name of Coonawarra, was producing large quantities of an unfamiliar kind of wine, largely Shiraz, but brisk and fruity with moderate alcohol: not unlike Bordeaux, in fact.

Coonawarra
Coonawarra

This great resource, an Australian vineyard producing wines with a structure quite different from most, was for a long time appreciated by very few. Only with tire table wine boom in the 1960s was its potential fully realized, and the big names of the wine industry began to move in. Wynns is by far the single largest winemaking landowner, although its owner. Treasury Wine Estates controls a good half of all the vineyard through its other labels Penfolds. Linde man’s, and Jamieson’s Run as well. Partly In cause of this considerable amounts of Coonawarra fruit end up in wines blended and bottled many miles away. Such producers as Halnaves, Bowen, Tullick, Kalnook, Leeonfield, Majella, Parker, Pcnley, Petaluma, Rymill and Zema, on the other hand, offer something much closer to the estate model.

Made in heaven

Yatumbo's vineyard for its The Menzies Cooiwwarra Cabernet illustrates terra rossa ("red earth") nicety. Note those carefully orientated rows.
Yatumbo’s vineyard for its The Menzies Cooiwwarra Cabernet illustrates terra rossa (“red earth”) nicety. Note those carefully orientated rows.

Shiraz may have been the original Coonawarra specialty, but since Mildara demonstrated in the early 1960s that conditions were close to ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra Cabernet has been one of Australia’s remarkably few touchstone combinations of variety and place. Since almost six vines in every, 10 in Coonawarra are Cabernet Sauvignon the fortunes of Coonawarra have tended to rise and fall with the popularity of Australian Cabernet.

Coonawarra’s soil was not the only reason for this marriage apparently made in heaven. The area is considerably further south, hence cooler than any other SouLh Australian wine region, and only’ 50 miles (80km) from an exposed coast, washed by the Antarctic currents and fanned by westerlies all summer. Frost is a problem in spring and rain at vintage lime enough Lo такса French grower quite nostalgic. Indeed, Coonawarra is cooler than Bordeaux, and sprinkler irrigation is used to counter the threat of frost. That said, in the Iasi, relatively dry decade most producers have had to introduce some form of supplementary irrigation. If the will is there, vigor can he fine-tuned on terra rossa, unlike the darker and naturally damper rendzina soils to the west.

For decades, much of Coonavarra's vineyard has been dictated by head offices hundreds of miles away (Katnook is owned by Freixenet of Catalunya in Spain) but there are family companies here too such as Balnaves.
For decades, much of Coonavarra’s vineyard has been dictated by head offices hundreds of miles away (Katnook is owned by Freixenet of Catalunya in Spain) but there are family companies here too such as Balnaves.

In the 1990s, Coonawarra’s total vineyard area more than doubled and the region’s isolation and sparse population meant that many vines were pruned, or at least prepainted. and picked mechanically. While Cabernet remains by far the most planted variety. Shiraz and various clones of Malherbe are now rather more common. More than 25 cellar doors arc valiantly aimed at such tourists as make it this far south quite a feat considering that there are only 15 working wineries.