Coonawarra equals cabernet in the minds of many drinkers, yet a visit to winery cellar doors through the region reveals so much more. Shiraz of stature stands equal to revered cabernet sauvignons as red wine benchmarks of the modern Coonawarra era – take a look at both styles achieving peaks of excellence at Zema Estate, Bowen Estate and Majella for proof. Diversity stretches further than most consumers would expect, with outstanding merlot at Parker Estate and Leconfield, and a scattering of superb white wines at different wineries that embrace their own specialties – sauvignon blanc at Katnook Estate and Rymill, fine riesling at Wynns Coonawarra, rich chardonnay at Hollick, elegant sparkling pinot noir from DiGiorgio.
Put simply, such a sweeping output shows that excellence can be obtained from whatever vines have been planted and carefully tended throughout Coonawarra’s famous 12km strip of terra rossa soil over limestone. It has been this way for more than 100 years, with the icons of Coonawarra’s winemaking history remaining the stuff of legend: some of Australia’s greatest red wines have emanated from Wynns Coonawarra Estate, Penfolds vineyards and Lindeman’s St George, Limestone Ridge and Pyrus vineyards, while the resolute work of the district’s pioneer winemaker, Owen Redman, is continued by his grandsons Bruce and Malcolm at Redman Winery.
Recent champions who have refined the Coonawarra cabernet style include Doug Bowen at Bowen Estate and Pete Bissell, who makes wines at Balnaves of Coonawarra and at Parker Coonawarra Estate with Darren Rathbone . Dennis Vice at Highbank achieves superior blends of cabernet sauvignon with merlot and cabernet franc for wines of great elegance.