Coonawarra Region

Map of Coonawarra Region Map of Coonawarra Region

History of Coonawarra

Coonawarra’s founder, John Riddoch, immigrated to Australia from Scotland during the Gold Rush in 1852 and subsequently acquired an extensive pastoral run in the South East of South Australia.

His decision to select Coonawarra to establish vines, ahead of the numerous options from his significant land holdings, was based on sound scientific principles and extensive feasibility studies on the suitability of soil and climate.

Since its foundation in the late 1800’s, the Coonawarra wine industry has passed through a number of distinct historical periods.

Following Riddochs vision to establish the wine-growing district, which generally prospered until the First World War.

Following the two World Wars, the Great Depression and a decline in demand for Coonawarra wines, many of the earlier producers and growers moved to pastoral and cattle pursuits leaving only a single producer in the district.

Coonawarra's "renaissance" began in 1951 when Riddoch's original winery was purchased by the Wynn family and table wine production commenced in earnest.

Key to the success of the region as a premium producer and icon for Cabernet has been the interest and investment by visionaries and entrepreneurs.

When John Parker, then chairman of NSW winery Hungerford Hill, expanded his vision for their red wine production, he was convinced of the potential in the Terra Rossa soils for producing the best Cabernet in Australia. Inspired by the First Growths of Bordeaux, and working closely with local producers, the wines that came of Parker's intuition have helped to build the reputation of the region.

A new breed of Coonawarra vignerons and winemakers is now building on the past with innovative wines that draw from the rich soils, ideal climate and keen vision of their forebears.

Terra Rossa profile of Coonawarra Terra Rossa profile of Coonawarra


Until approximately one million years ago, the entire South East of South Australia was covered by ocean. Since that time, geological activity and variations in polar ice caps have caused the oceans to recede westward. Now, if travelling from Coonawarra to the coast, you will cross 13 former coastlines, which have become stranded by the rising land mass and retreating oceans.

The limestone that lies under this area is porous and has excellent water retention, providing a valuable source of supplementary water during dry periods. Coonawarra Terra Rossa soil is the oldest and most fertile of the ‘Limestone Coast’ soils, and is composed largely of fine silica particles, aeolian clay and organic matter.

The geological term ‘Terra Rossa’, is of Italian origin, and was named by mineralogist Franz Zippe in 1853.

Cool Climate

Lying south of Latitude 37, Coonawarra has a cooler climate than many other Australian grape-growing regions. This results in a long growing season marked by sunny, warm and dry days followed by cool evenings; an ideal combination for intense flavour development in fruit, for which Coonawarra is renowned.


 Average rainfall: 640mm (30 year average) 

Average daily winter temperature: 9.8 degrees 

Average daily summer temperature: 18.8 degrees 

Average elevation above sea level: 55 meters 

Sunshine hours during the growing season: 1621 hours or 7.6 hours daily 

Temperature summation: 1337 heat degree days (seven months growing season) 

Aridity: 125mm (12 months)