Coonawarra, South Australia

Penley Estate vines

                  Penley Estate vines

Coonawarra somewhat crept up on us as we crossed the border into South Australia. After the winding roads past the statuesque formations of the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, our ability to discern distance when looking at a map was rather skewed, so it was rather a surprise to see the “Welcome to Coonawarra” signs just less than an hour after departing Mt Gambier.

The wine growing region of Coonawarra is part of the Limestone Coast, just 60km inland, and is characterised by a long and narrow strip of terra rossa soil, literally meaning ‘red earth’, 15km long and 1 km wide. The soil is incredibly nutrient rich and a distinctive red in colour that has been described as “one of the notable terroirs of the New World”. With the establishment of the Wynns and Penfolds wineries in the 1950’s, the Coonawarra region became a primary foundation of the table wine industry in modern Australia.

There was a marked difference in sales pitch at each of the cellar doors we visited, with the emphasis on the soil front and centre, as the winemakers pushed to display the intricacies of their location rather than their prowess in the manipulation of the grapes themselves. Due to the geographical restraints imposed by the dimensions of the soil deposits, the region boasts both the most expensive real estate per m2 in the country, and is home to just 39 wineries (although this is still rather impressive considering the size of the land). To find out more about Coonawarra and it’s resident vineyards follow this link.

In the one short day we spent in the area we visited; I would highly recommend each of the vineyards below, although as one man commented “if you don’t make good wine, you don’t stick around for long”. You’d be had pressed to find a bad drop in Coonawarra.

Wynns Estate – A must-see. The cellar door experience was fantastic, filled with information about the area, a great selection available for tasting and friendly, knowledge staff.

Zema EstateOwned and operated by the aunt and uncle of Domenic Zema, for whom I worked at his restaurant Casa Di Tutti in Seddon, Melbourne. Great family atmosphere.

Redman Estate – One of the oldest vineyards in the area. Family run and extremely modest operation, but keeps the emphasis on the great wine. One of our favourite purchases to date.

Penley Estate – Wasn’t our favourite. A few good wines, the Phoenix Cab Sav in particular, but grumpy staff make a big difference to how long you stay and the feeling you have when you leave.

Highbank Estate – Also offers accommodation. Especially good stop just on 5pm when extremely generous hand out free bottles of wine to those who offer some good chat!

Raidis Estate –
Home to a charming man who gives out roses to all the young ladies…

Wynns Coonawarra

                    Wynns Estate