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Coonawarra, SA

Sublime wine growing region with famous terra rossa soils

Coonawarra is one of Australia's (and South Australia's) most significant and internationally acclaimed grape growing and wine producing areas. Along the road from Coonawarra to Penola there are a total of 30 wineries. This is the result of an unusual situation where there are beautiful red soils (terra rossa) stretching for 14 km and lying on top of limestone. The area has been producing fine wines for over 120 years. It has a deserved reputation for genuinely high class red wines, particularly cabernet sauvignon.


Coonawarra is located 374 km south-east of Adelaide via Murray Bridgge and Naracoorte. It is 14 km north of Penola on the Riddoch Highway.


Origin of Name

It is widely accepted that Coonawarra comes from a Bindjali Aboriginal word meaning 'wild honeysuckle'.


Things to See and Do

What is unique about Coonawarra?
Coonawarra is a unique grape growing area. This is entirely due to a 14 km long cigar-shaped strip of terra rossa soil over limestone. The Coonawarra website (https://coonawarra.org) explains: "Terra rossa (Italian for red soil) is a type of red clay produced by the weathering of limestone over many thousands of years and coloured by iron oxide. Free draining yet complemented by the water holding capacity of the limestone, the unique soil influences vine vigour, ripeness and wine flavour."

This is not really the place for an analysis of all the vineyards (a total of 34 with 30 on the narrow belt of terra rossa soil) in the area. For people wanting detailed information on the vineyards check out "Wineries" on the local website - https://coonawarra.org. It lists all the wineries, provides a map, and effortlessly bounces wine enthusiasts through to the dedicated internet sites of each of the vineyards. A cellar door map can be downloaded at https://coonawarra.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Coonawarra-Wine-Region-Cellar-Door-Map.pdf. There are a couple of wineries that are worth visiting for people who are really not very interested in wines.

Rymill Wines
Rymill Wines is located in a spectacularly beautiful building with a huge statue of two rearing stallions (known as Stallions Rampant) out the front. The winery was established in 1974 by Peter Rymill, the great-grandson of John Riddoch. It is located on land held by Riddoch's family since the 19th century. The  tasting room is like a chic purpose-built inner city restaurant. Located north of Coonawarra on the Riddoch Highway this winery specialises in red and white table wines and sparkling wines derived from cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, Merlot, chardonnay and shiraz grapes. It is open seven days from 11.00 am - 5.00 pm for tastings and sales. For more details contact (08) 8736 5001. Check out http://www.rymill.com.au for more details.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate
If you visit only one winery in the area, Wynns Coonawarra Estate deserves your attention because it lies at the heart of the history of the region. It was here in 1891 that John Riddoch, recognising the wine growing potential of the beautiful terra rossa soils, built a huge cellar out of limestone. He planned to buy all the grapes from the local blockers and consequently the cellar was built to hold 75,000 gallons of wine. Today it has been tastefully modernised. It is the region's largest single vineyard holder and the district's pre-eminent wine maker. Located at 77 Memorial Drive west of Coonawarra it specialises in premium red and white table wines derived from cabernet sauvignon, riesling, chardonnay, Merlot and shiraz grapes. It is open seven days for tastings and sales - Monday to Friday 9.00 am - 5.00 pm and weekends from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm. For more details contact (08) 8737 2392 or check out https://www.wynns.com.au.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Bindjali Aboriginal people.

* The first Europeans into the area were the Austin brothers who arrived in 1840 and established a run of 109 square miles based on what is now Yallum Park.

* In the 1850s a Scottish gardener, William Wilson, took up land and grew fruit trees and vines near the present day site of Penola.

* John Riddoch purchased Yallum in 1861. He acquired 35,000 acres on which he ran 50,000 head of sheep. William Wilson advised Riddoch to grow grapes.

* Around 1890 Riddoch formed the Coonawarra Fruit Colony and 2,000 acres from Yallum Park were subdivided into smaller holdings of 10-30 acres which were sold, at very reasonable terms, to a group of farmers with the express idea that they all became vineyards and orchards. It was out of this that the Coonawarra vineyards grew.

* In 1901 John Riddoch died.

* In 1908 Bill Redman established his own winery in the district. He would dominate the industry for the next half century.

* In 1951 David Wynn purchased the Riddoch vineyards and winery.

* In 1955 Mildara bought into the Coonawarra.

* In the 1960s, as Australians developed a taste for wines, the exceptional soils and their ability to produce superb red wines, was fully realised.

* In 1965 Lindeman's bought vineyards in the Coonawarra.

* Penfolds arrived in the area in 1965.

* Today Coonawarra is known as one of the world's finest grape growing areas.


Visitor Information

Penola Coonawarra Visitor Information Centre, 27 Arthur Street, Penola, tel: 1300 045 373 or (08) 8737 2855.


Useful Websites

There is a useful local website - https://coonawarra.org - which includes detailed information on all the vineyards and cellar doors in the district.

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