Jan 4, 2013

Coonawarra with WineWalkabout

All wine regions like to think they are unique. The truth is mostly they are, but some are more unique than others. Some just have that certain "Je ne sais quoi". One of these regions that has this more than some of the others, is a place in the south east of South Australia, in an area called the Limestone Coast. The place with all this "Je ne sais quoi"is Coonawarra. The sign is very accurate as one thing you truly get in Coonawarra is welcomed. 
Coonawarra is an Aboriginal word meaning "Honeysuckle". It is about 380 km southeast of Adelaide, close to the border with Victoria. Often called Australia’s “other red centre”, its premium red wines have won many awards. What makes this area so special is one of the most famous terroirs in the southern hemisphere. It is the combination of a thin layer of unique rich, red top soil (‘terra rossa’ or ‘red earth’) over an ancient limestone mantle encasing a pure, underground aquifer. Add to that a long, cool ripening season for the grapes and you have the makings of a hard-won reputation as one of the world's finest wine regions, especially for red wines and, in particular, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. The cigar-shaped strip of 'terra rossa' is finite, approximately 12km long and 2km wide, and is all but taken up by vineyards. More than 24 Coonawarra wineries have cellar doors for your enjoyment.

As Coonawarra is relatively far from a major city there is not the highly developed tourist infrastructure found in say Barossa Valley or the Hunter Valley. Nevertheless there is a good selection of accommodation (see futurestory), places to eat and welcoming 'Cellar Doors' from where you can taste, buy the wine and/or other produce.

The Coonawarra region has a lot to offer the wine enthusiast and or the historian. The first vines were planted by John Riddoch at Yallum, South Australia in 1890. Scottish born John Riddoch had settled in the area in 1861. Only the Redman family of Rouge Homme continued to produce table wine during this period, during which Shiraz was the main grape variety grown. Not much wine production was ongoing until it all changed when Samuel Wynn recognized the potential of the strip of terra rossa soil, and bought the original Riddoch cellars in 1951.
Being just 60 km from the sea, Coonawarra has a somewhat maritime climate not dissimilar to Bordeaux. During the growing season, there is just 219mm rainfall (Oct-Apr), out of 585mm annually. Extensive cloud cover keeps the temperature often down to 19.1°C in January which allows for the slower ripening of the grapes.

But the Coonawarra region is part of a bigger area called The Limestone Coast. This area has a number of other wine regions worth exploring. Just a bit to the north is the Padthaway wine region and just a bit further again is the newer Wrattonbully wine region. The area sits between two great attractions. In the north is the World Heritage Listed Naracoorte Caves and to the south is Mt Gambier and the beautiful Blue Lake.

Coonawarra is an area that needs to be experienced and should be on every wine lovers list of places to go. We here at WineWalkabout give it a highly 'recommend'!

Happy Wine Travel Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala
Coonawarra Video link.

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