“...most wine authorities acknowledge that Coonawarra is Australia's greatest red wine district and one of the producers of great reds of the world.”
Len Evans - ‘The Complete Book of Australian Wine’.
Coonawarra is a unique strip of land situated in the Lower South East of South Australia, approximately 80 kilometers inland from the Great Southern Ocean, 450km from Melbourne and 400 km South East of Adelaide. The region is one of Australia's most southerly wine-producing areas. The topography is generally flat with some slight undulation on the eastern side. Coonawarra's mix of well structured and well drained soils, plus cool climate has afforded the region a huge reputation for high quality red wine production.
Coonawarra shares a similar climate with the Bordeaux region of France. This without doubt helps explain the success in Coonawarra of such classic varieties as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In most years, the local climate produces optimal temperatures and sunshine hours for the ripening of high quality fruit. In fact, it is argued that Coonawarra's climate is the major factor in determining the quality of wines produced from the region, not the soil type. Coonawarra's climate is characterised by a moderate winter dominant rainfall of about 585mm per annum. Growing season temperatures are moderate, showing a mean January temperature of 19.6° Celsius. Solar radiation levels are moderate while humidity is high during the growing season. Spring is cool, followed by mild dry summers, long cool autumns and cold wet winters. The climate produces optimal temperatures and sunshine hours for the ripening of high quality fruit.
Coonawarra is famous for its Terra Rossa soil, a red clay loam over limestone which has free draining soil structure and is Australia's most prized soil for viticulture. The Terra Rossa is a long cigar shape strip of soil which is 15km long by 2km wide. The Terra Rossa soils of Coonawarra have become very well known for their excellent suitability for grape growing. Most soils of the Coonawarra region share one feature in common and that is the calcrete (limestone) layer that underlies the region. This layer is generally found from 10cm and deeper. Many say that it is this calcrete layer, and not the thin topsoil layers, that are particular and special to the quality of Coonawarra viticulture.
Experts on the Coonawarra Region
Map Coordinates - 37°17'S,140°49'E
Altitude - 57m (185 feet)
Heat degree days - 1365 (cut off at 19°C (66.2°F) but otherwise not adjusted)
Sunshine hours - 1593 (Gladstones)
Annual rainfall - 585mm (23 inches)
Growing season rainfall - 219 mm (8.6inches)
Mean January - 19.1°C (67°F)
Relative humidity - Average 45%
Harvest - Early March - End April
“The Australian wine industry worked out relatively early on that it had the perfect spot for Cabernet Sauvignon and that spot was Coonawarra.”