Coonawarra Cabernet festival showcases region’s signature variety

Image courtesy Coonawarra Vignerons

The Coonawarra Cabernet Celebrations Wine Festival commenced last week, with activities such as blending workshops, progressive dinners and international masterclasses to keep visitors and locals entertained all the way through October.

A highlight on the Limestone Coast’s event calendar, the festival is designed to showcase and celebrate Coonawarra’s signature variety, Cabernet Sauvignon, and boasts a program of over 70 events across 5 weeks, with no small number of Cabernets and other wines to be tasted as part of festivities.

Image courtesy Coonawarra Vignerons


The program focuses attention on the Cabernet wines being produced in the Coonawarra Wine Region, emphasising the elegance, drinkability and aging ability of Coonawarra Cabernet’s, whilst also highlighting the evolution and versatility of the variety.

The month-long festival, hosted by the Coonawarra Vignerons, commenced on Friday 29th September and will continue through to the end of October, with special events and tastings experiences on offer at cellar doors and wineries across the region.

Heidi Guyett, events & marketing manager of Coonawarra Vignerons said there will be plenty of opportunities for wine aficionados, foodies and families alike to explore and experience Coonawarra, whilst enjoying the world-class wines, country hospitality and sense of community. And, with October offering up five weekends, organisers have themed each one to appeal to a wide variety of tastes.

“Our member wineries have gone to great lengths to offer an exciting array of events. From family fun days to high end wine dinners, vertical tastings to blending workshops, winery tours, masterclasses, and long lunches, the region will offer visitors (and locals alike) the opportunity to experience and discover the best of Coonawarra.”

“Aside from tasting the exquisite wines of the region, festival goers will have the opportunity to dine and meet with winemakers and boutique winery owners, go behind the scenes in the winery and even sample wines that are yet to be officially released, all the while learning about the process and the passion that goes into Coonawarra’s famed wines,” Guyett said.

Image courtesy Coonawarra Vignerons


Rymill cellar door team leader Tammy Duncan is looking forward to welcoming families for a fun filled afternoon.

“If the kids are entertained, we know it makes an even more enjoyable day out for the parents, and as the wine flows, so does the fun! It’s a perfect way to kick-start the school holidays and celebrate the long weekend!” said Duncan.

The festival will see themes around blending wine and the marriage of Cabernet Sauvignon with other varieties, a weekend tribute to the original festival – which historically took place on one single weekend, along with an exclusive look at new release wines – ‘from barrel to glass’, wrapping up with a ‘showtime’ theme on the weekend of the local Penola show.

“Coonawarra’s wineries go to great lengths to make sure that there is a variety of offerings to suit a whole range of visitors. From lawn games to nature play, cooking classes, chocolate, cheese and wine tastings, as well as live music, there’s so much to choose from! The hardest part really will be deciding where to go first!” Guyett said.

One of the highlights in the 2023 festival program is “The Family Feast”, a progressive luncheon which will see guests wining and dining at not one, but three iconic Coonawarra family properties. Guest will enjoy a delectable 3 course feast, all the while moving from the Redman Family winery to the DiGiorgio Family vineyards and finishing at Zema Estate for dessert.

Another of the feature events in the calendar is the Combined Wineries Cabernet Decade[nce] Tasting, which has long been a highlight in the festival program. The collective showcase, hosted by the Coonawarra Vignerons Association, brings together 15 producers and winemakers in one location to taste and compare wines 10 years and older alongside current release Cabernets.

“Not all of Coonawarra’s producers have cellar doors, so this is a great opportunity for them to be involved in the festival, and for guests to taste their wines and meet the faces behind them,” said Guyett.

The International Cabernet Masterclass also returns as a feature event in the October program. Hosted by the Coonawarra Vignerons, the masterclass will present a premium selection of Coonawarra wines alongside four International Cabernets from regions such as Bordeaux, Napa Valley and the Toscana.

Leading the session will be a panel comprising of winemakers Sue Hodder of Wynns Coonawarra Estate and fifth-generation winemaker Andrew ‘Ox’ Hardy, along with Master of Wine Andrew Caillard MW.

“This tasting will explore the history of Australian cabernet since the earliest days of colonial settlement and the progress of regional cabernet styles into current times,” said Hodder.

“12 wines that epitomise varietal and regional identity will be featured and I look forward to presenting outstanding examples of the variety from around the world, whilst also focusing on the elegance, identity and diversity of Coonawarra Cabernet.”

For those venturing to the region, navigating your way around Coonawarra is a breeze with the region’s cellar doors all scattered along one stretch of road, and a shuttle bus hop-on hop- off service is available each weekend of October to transport festivalgoers to and from events. Tickets for the service can be booked online, and prospective passengers are encouraged to secure their seat in advance.

The festival is made possible by the South Australian Tourism Commission through Events South Australia with funding made available through the Regional Events and Festival Program.

With spring in full flight, there’s no better time to soak up Coonawarra. Take the time to celebrate, educate + activate your senses from 29 September – 31 October 2023.

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