Coonawarra Wines: You Should be Drinking Them
If you’re ready to step out of your comfort zone and leave the world of California wine behind, now is the time. I can confidently assure you, this is one situation where the grass is just as green on the other side of the fence and it is absolutely worth the change!
Located 400 km south of Adelaide and just along the border of Victoria, the Coonawarra region is defined by its intensely coloured, rich red soil. So rich and vibrant in fact, that the colour of the soil is visible in aerial satellite photos. It is this distinct ‘terra rossa’ soil that has gained the area recognition for being one of them most notable terroirs of all the new world wine regions.
The rusty soil is composed of layers of rich minerality; a shallow limestone ridge sits atop centuries worth of sediment from ancient sea beds and the remnants of past glacial eras, all supported by a deep crust of chalky white bedrock. Its proximity to the ocean provides for a cooler maritime climate, similar to that of Bordeaux. Broad cloud cover for most of the growing season helps to keep average temperatures down, effectively preserving acidity levels for very fresh, very lively wines with an excellent potential for aging.
For drinkers new to this region I suggest to start with a cabernet – their most widely grown varietal – and I promise you will be awestruck by what comes out of the bottle. Layers of complexity, bold, ripe fruit and a silken finish of milk chocolate come through so beautifully on Coonawarra cabs. Think chocolate covered, succulent bing cherry and you won’t be far off! Some cabs can give off fragrant notes of eucalyptus and mint, adding to the depth of layers that evolve as these wines open up. At one point shiraz was widely planted in the region, but due to the success of cabernet the grape now only makes up a small portion of Coonawarra wines. If you’re looking for a sophisticated, elegant shiraz pick up Wynn’s which currently sits on our shelves for under $25.
125 years after John Riddoch first planted vines in Coonawarra, these spirited Aussie winemakers still toil tirelessly to keep the spirit of the region alive. Coonawarra vignerons were integral in the transitional phase of Australian wine making, when many producers made the move from strongly fortified wines to the more popular table wines that we now know and love from down under. Finally we’re seeing generations of wine makers whose wineries dot this long, narrow strip of land gain the notoriety they deserve for their wines which showcase outstanding quality at very affordable prices. In my opinion, I consider Coonawarra to be one of the best value regions if you’re looking for an outstanding red that is going to impress with a full punch of flavour and always over deliver on its price.
Top picks that showcase classic Terra Rossa notes:
Wynn’s “The Siding” Cabernet – Coonawarra
Wynn’s “Black Label” Cabernet – Coonawarra
Jim Barry Cover Drive Cabernet – Coonawarra
Kingston Estate Cabernet – Coonawarra/Clare Valley
Wakefield St. Andrews Shiraz – Clare Valley
Jim Barry “McRae Wood” Shiraz – Clare Valley