The Coonawarra region is located in the far south-east of South Australia and has a long viticultural history dating back to 1890.

The region is only 100 kilometres (60 miles) inland, and is exposed to a maritime climate, with dry and moderately cool summers.  The climate is quite unique and persistent cloud cover generally moderates the ripening period temperatures. The terra rossa of Coonawarra is Australia's most famous soil, renowned for its affinity with Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Coonawarra is the perfect place to indulge the senses by experiencing the unique range of award-winning red and white wines - all complemented by the delicious local produce and fine foods served at the cafes, hotels and restaurants throughout Penola and Coonawarra.  The region's cellar doors capture the area's history, culture and traditions. The main wine styles produced in Coonawarra include  Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Chardonnay and Riesling. 

Regional Checklist:

  • The Coonawarra region is located in the far south-east of South Australia.
  • Vines were first planted in the Coonawarra region in 1890.
  • The region is currently home to almost 40 wineries.
  • A maritime climate, with dry and moderately cool summers. 
  • The region's cellar doors capture the area's history, culture and traditions.
  • The famous terra rossa soil is situated on a slight but all-important limestone ridge. 
  • The main wine styles produced  include Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Chardonnay and Riesling.

Regional website:

The region is only 100 kilometres (60 miles) inland and a predominantly maritime climate prevails, with the dry and moderately cool summers ripening most grape varieties to perfection. Its maritime location does not, however, prevent the occurrence of spring frosts that are occasionally quite severe. The extensive cloud cover that moderates the most important ripening period temperatures also sets the region apart from others.

The terra rossa of Coonawarra is Australia's most famous soil, although it is not unique to the region (many parts of the Limestone Coast Zone have similar soils. Vivid red in colour, it is either friable subplastic clay or a shallow friable loam derived from and lying on top of a bed of soft limestone. There are two other soils present in the region. The first is the groundwater or black rendzina clay lying to the west of the limestone ridge and because of its poor drainage this soil is less favourable for the production of quality red wine fruit. The other is the brown rendzina or "transitional", as it is called in the region. This is has similarities to terra rossa in all respects and is planted to red grapes quite successfully.

Cabernet Sauvignon:
Coonawarra produces some of Australia's finest Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit flavours are very concentrated and luscious, covering a broad spectrum from black currant to plum to red cherry to prunes.

Shiraz:  As Coonawarra has achieved growing success with Cabernet Sauvignon, the high quality of Coonawarra Shiraz has tended to be overlooked.  Coonawarra Shiraz produces medium bodied wines exhibiting pepper and spice fruit characters.  There are many fine examples of shiraz, both as straight varietals and blends with Cabernet Sauvignon.

Chardonnay: With its vineyards situated on predominantly limestone, Coonawarra seems eminently suited to this variety and, indeed, produces table wine of great quality and longevity.

Riesling: The quality of Riesling in Coonawarra has never been in dispute. The fragrant, flowery and appealingly fruity style is increasingly gaining recognition.

Vital Statistics:
Map Coordinates:                                           37° 18' S 
Altitude:                                                        60 metres (197 feet) 
Heat degree days, October - April:                   1430 (cut off at 19ºC (66.2ºF) but otherwise not adjusted)
Growing season rainfall, October - April:           220 millimetres (8.6 inches) 
Mean January temperature:                              19.6°C (67°F) 
Relative humidity, October - April, 3 pm:           Average 45% 
Harvest:                                                          Early March - end April


Wayne Stehbens, Senior Winemaker, Katnook Estate, Coonawarra, South Australia

Katnook Estate lies in the heart of South Australia's Coonawarra region, with vineyards spanning 380 hectares of prime terra rossa soil. Since 1980, senior winemaker Wayne Stehbens has continuously crafted Katnook Estate and, more recently, Katnook Founder's Block wines to express the essence of Coonawarra.

One of Coonawarra's longest serving winemakers, Wayne is committed to the unique terroir of the region and its hero variety, Cabernet Sauvignon.

"I believe Coonawarra is the best place in the world to grow Cabernet Sauvignon. The region has all the right ingredients and Katnook has all the right resources to capture the extraordinary flavours of Cabernet and make wines capable of many years' cellaring,” Wayne says.

Wayne is equally excited about the region's potential for Sauvignon Blanc, noting Sancerre-like characteristics. Katnook is one of the few wineries in Coonawarra to nurture this variety. Since 1980, it also has offered Sauvignon Blancs with extraordinary ability to age well − something not generally associated with New World Sauvignon Blanc.

Wayne "fell into" winemaking, tasting and learning while helping his father plant vines in Coonawarra. When his interest turned into passion, he studied winemaking at the Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, gained experience around Australia, and then began his career with Katnook nearly 30 years ago. Working closely with vineyard manager Chris Brodie, Wayne's ability to express Coonawarra has been widely recognised. In Australia he has twice won one of the most sought after awards in the nation, the Jimmy Watson trophy. He has also won a double trophy at London's International Wine and Spirit Competition.

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