Coonawarra wines to try

By Halliday Promotion

5 Dec, 2023

South Australia's Coonawarra is one of Australia's top wine regions, and for good reason. Get to know three Coonawarra wineries and check out their wines to try below. 

With a winemaking history that dates back more than a century, South Australia's Coonawarra is one of the oldest wine regions in the country. Once a place of steel wool sheds, today Coonawarra is known for producing complex wines from its famed terra rossa (red earth) soils. 

Coonawarra began by specialising in shiraz and fortified wines, but it is cabernet sauvignon that is now the king of the region. Drive around the neatly grouped wineries for a taste and an easy touring experience or, if you're looking for more than just wine, consider visiting one of the many bakeries, produce stores, award-winning restaurants or pubs on offer. The three wineries below, Majella, Parker Estate and Zema Estate, are the perfect place to start. 


Majella winery

Director of marketing Peter Lynn says: The Lynn family's connection with winemaking dates back to 1968 when we first planted vines on the idyllic Majella farm property. Nestled on the eastern fringe of the renowned Red Strip region, we initially supplied grapes to neighbouring wineries, swiftly gaining recognition for cultivating exceptional cabernet sauvignon and shiraz varietals. Notably, this vineyard's yield contributed to the crafting of illustrious wines like Wynns' 1982 John Riddoch Cabernet.

In 1991, Majella embarked on its independent winemaking journey with the release of the inaugural 1991 Majella Shiraz. In the years since, the winery's production has flourished, as we transitioned to processing their grapes onsite under the guidance of accomplished winemakers Bruce Gregory and Michael Marcus. Majella's distinct reputation has been built upon crafting wines of exceptional calibre, emblematic of Coonawarra's character, characterised by deep hues and rich flavours.

H. What do you love about making wine in Coonawarra?
PL. Coonawarra is one of the most terroir driven regions in the world…it is all about the soil (red clay over limestone). Combine this with a climate of warm days and cool nights and you can make amazing wine.

H. How do you approach the winemaking process?
PL. Majella is very lucky that in 34 years of winemaking history we have only had one head winemaker, Bruce Gregory. This has allowed Majella to make beautiful, consistent wines that have won many awards and trophies.

Wine to try

Majella bottleshot

2021 Majella Sparkling Shiraz

The colour is a vibrant dark red with a bright ruby hue. Exhibiting a fine bead with attractive fresh plum, raspberry and blackberry aromas with similar black fruit characters and a hint of spice on the complex palate, which is smooth, balanced and luscious with gentle tannins and a generous finish. 

Best enjoyed: This is a great wine for any occasion and goes well with most food styles. We recommend serving chilled like you would Champagne, and serving with bacon and eggs or Christmas brunch.

RRP $40 | Drink now or cellar | Shop this wine |

Parker Estate

Parker Coonawarra winery

Winemaker Andrew Hardy says: Parker Estate is a story of Australian ambition and craftsmanship. John Parker believed that with the right patch of dirt, the right climate and the right clones he could craft cabernet which rivalled that of Bordeaux. And he did. The inaugural release of First Growth in 1988 was met with global critical acclaim. Today, the Parker Estate winery stands tall and proud on the terra rossa soil, acting as a symbol of our commitment to John Parker's vision and ambition. We remain as focused today as John was in crafting the best cabernet for the world to enjoy. 

H. What do you love about making wine in Coonawarra?
AH. Coonawarra is Australia’s best kept secret. Despite the warm, sunny days in the summer, the cooling influence of the Southern Ocean, which laps at our door all year round, ensures seasonal moderation and elegant bright fruit. This cooling influence results in a delicacy and finesse in our wines that surprises consumers year after year. We also get long ripening seasons, which means we can pick at the optimum ripeness – when the fruit is still blue and fresh with a crisp acidity. 

H. How do you approach the winemaking process?
AH. The Abbey Estate is a moderately cropping vineyard at the southernmost end of Coonawarra’s terra rossa strip. Besides some very old vine shiraz, we machine harvest, which ensures we only get berries with no stalks left in the final pick. By the time the berries hit the winery they’ve been cold soaking, which naturally extracts flavour without too much tannin. In the winery we handle each block of fruit individually. After an extended time on skins to build structure in the wines for ageing, we ferment each individual batch, barreling the batches down to their own oak puncheons for maturation. In honour of John Parker’s vision, we source our oak barrels from respected Bordeaux cooperages each year. Every wine is cellar matured for a minimum of two years before release.

Wine to try

Parker Coonawarra bottleshot

2021 Parker Estate Terra Rossa Cabernet

There's good power here, good weight, with warm-hearted blackcurrant flavours as the drivers but with saltbush, garden mint and toasted cedar notes pushing through. It pushes ripeness without overstepping the mark to any serious degree, and it feels mouth-filling and confident throughout.

Best enjoyed: Pairs well with barbecue meats on a sunny afternoon. Serve at 15 degrees in a nice large glass.

RRP $34 | Drink to 2040 | Shop this wine |

Zema Estate

Zema winery

Winemaker Joe Cory says: Zema Estate is a family-owned winery with a proud Italian heritage and a passion for producing premium-quality Coonawarra cabernet and shiraz. Zema is proudly independent, deriving its meaning and inspiration from the sense of trust, security and dependability that comes from family and the feeling that everything it does has been influenced by a rich legacy of stories and culture.

H. What do you love about making wine in Coonawarra?
JC. Coonawarra makes some of the world's best cabernet. I love making wine from premium fruit that has consistent high quality from vintage to vintage. This is aided by Coonawarra’s long and cool ripening season which produces small, concentrated berries. Coonawarra also has a small and passionate winemaking community – we share knowledge, ideas, and support each other.

H. How do you approach the winemaking process?
JC. The strong values that launched our winery in 1982 have not changed – hand-pruning to nurture and foster each individual vine, careful fruit selection, enriching the fruit flavours through selected winemaking techniques, utilising the best oak barrels available, and diligent bottle ageing.

Wine to try

Zema bottleshot

2018 Zema Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

A medium-bodied palate of mulberry and blackcurrant complemented by subtle menthol and well-integrated French oak. Complex and well-balanced with fine-grained tannins to finish. Luscious and juicy, filled with black fruits. Generous yet soft, with an elegant finish.

Best enjoyed: Enjoy a glass with a home-cooked Italian meal, particularly filet mignon or duck. 

RRP $29.99 | Drink to 2033 | Shop this wine |