AT Reader Alison Perry loves Penola because it’s at the very heart of the Coonawarra.

“There’s such a contrast between dry and dusty, the terra rossa landscape and the lusciousness of the fabulous reds resulting from that famous soil.” The origins of that soil (left) date back around a million years, when a long reef of limestone was exposed above the Great Southern Ocean, which then covered the southeast of SA. It’s the unique quality of this strip, only 16km long and 2km wide, that earns Penola a spot in our Top 100.

“The townsfolk are warm and welcoming and happy to point you to whichever iconic winery you want a tipple in.” – Fleur Bainger

Uncovered by Wynns Coonawarra Estate founder John Riddoch, almost all the highly valuable land is now taken up by vineyards. One of the few major winegrowing regions selected for its fertile soil rather than proximity to large settlements, it’s also Australia’s flattest wine region – and with more than ten wineries within 5km of town, that makes Penola a cyclists’ paradise, with little danger of falling over or exhausting yourself too much.

Where? // 380km (5hrs) southeast of Adelaide.

Did you know? // Alexander Cameron was the first to try and establish an orchard in the Coonawarra in the 1840s. But a few celebratory drinks led to a late planting. Some months later, when budburst seemed unusually late, they found all of the cuttings had been planted upside-down, with their roots extending forlornly to the sky.


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