Coonawarra is home of the renowned terra rossa, a 2km wide and 25 km long cigar shaped strip of red, fertile soil. Terra rossa soil is by far Coonawarra’s most famous aspect of its terroir, as it’s scarce throughout the world. The topography of Coonawarra is undoubtedly unusual. Unlike most quality wine regions, it has no rivers or valley slopes and is dead flat. A small cigar-shaped sliver of land, Coonawarra owes its uniqueness to a ridge of limestone covered with exceptionally fertile red soil that sits above an ancient reservoir of pure water
Latin for red earth, terra rossa is a rich red loamy soil, ranging from a few centimetres to 1.5 metres and overlays chalky limestone up to 2 metres thick, provides an ideal drainage system. Below this, calcareous clay extends for 2 to 3 metres and beneath that lies water.
Terra rossa soils impart great fertility to fully ripen the berries, particularly with hallmark cassis, mint and minerality from the limestone soils.
A little more about Terra Rossa...
The Limestone Coast hosts a landscape derived from the break-up of Gondwanaland, whereby the separation and movement of the Australian continent away from the Antarctic continent produced a seaway (the Southern Ocean). Basins associated with this new continental margin became subject to sedimentary infilling. It is upon these varied deposits that the Limestone Coast Wine Zone has developed. Our famous Terra Rossa soil is incredibly robust. It has maintained its great characteristics for thousands of years, while other soils often degrade and become less suitable for producing high quality wines. Our region's soil profile can be viewed at the entrance to Katnook's Cellar Door and is made up as follows:
Top layer – 40 to 50cm of shallow red loam. This layer has great structure for Cabernet Sauvignon, it holds moisture for the vine to grow and ripen grapes and allows air to circulate which is good for vine health.
Middle layer – 30cm of very hard limestone called calcrete, much like marble. This layer restricts the vine from uncontrolled growth. We can therefore direct vine energy to growing berries with exceptional flavour, including one of best flavour profiles in the world for Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon.
Lower layer – up to 90 metre deep friable, softer limestone. This deep limestone layer stores the underground water we need to irrigation the vines, while the grapes ripen and deliver exceptional flavour.
For detailed information about the soils and climate of the region, click here to view Unearthing Viticulture in the Limestone Coast.