Coonawarra: the elegant home of Australian reds

Coonawarra is one of the most remote wine regions in Australia. Hidden deep in the South Eastern corner of South Australia, close to the Victorian border, this undervalued gem is surrounded by thousands of acres of pastoral land.

While for many years Coonawarra was the undisputed king of Australian cabernet, the emergence of Margaret River and the global move toward richer, sweeter reds has turned many away from the elegant brilliance that is Coonawarra. Away from the limelight, though, the vignerons of Coonawarra have been working away and continuing to make many of Australia’s finest cabernet sauvignons.

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Leafy regional accents and fine-grained tannins are hallmarks of classic Coonawarra cabernet

Coonawarra has a long and proud history of winemaking, with the first wines planted in 1890 by John Riddoch. The Redman winery from those times still operates to this day. In 1891 the famous Wynns gabled winery was built and in the years since, Wynns has certainly carried the flag for this region, both in Australia and around the world.

Coonawarra is incredibly unique as a wine region. It is one of the country’s original cool climate wine regions, situated not far from our Southern coastline. On this coastal flat are planted row after row of cabernet, merlot and shiraz, with a smattering of chardonnay, riesling and other grape varieties. But it is what lies beneath these vineyards that is most unusual – dark red, iron rich and ancient terra rossa soils underpinned by limestone.

The richness of this soil combined with limestone’s highly valued water holding capacity, prized in regions such as Champagne, allows these soils to craft the highest quality of wine.

What always stands out in the great cabernet sauvignons of Coonawarra is their understated power and elegance. The cool winds driving off the Great Australian Bight give a freshness and power to the wines which, combined with their significant tannins, allows the wines to age beautifully for decades.

While Wynns has always been a standout performer in Coonawarra, the last decade has seen these wines gain an even higher reputation, driven by chief winemaker Sue Hodder and vicitulturist Allen Jenkins. These two have not only revitalised the old vineyards but also returned Wynns to its classic, mid-weight ageworthy style.

While the Wynns Single Vineyard releases are brilliant, it is the iconic John Riddoch Shiraz that steals most of the headlines. The quality of these wines is phenomenal, but perhaps Wynn’s greatest achievement is its Black Label Cabernet.

Subtle, long-lived and still a great bargain, Wynns Cabernet remains one of Australia’s greatest wines.

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Feature image: coonawarra.org