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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Tim Atkin

The long-running dispute over the delimitation of the Coonawarra wine region has been settled - for the time being at least - following the decision of the Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal on 5 October. The dispute dates back to 1984 and has seen the submission of 17 separate boundary proposals, none of which has proved acceptable to all parties. The tribunal's decision, contained in a 77-page document, will now be passed to the Geographical Indications Committee for implementation. There is still a possibility of further appeals to the Federal Court, and even the High Court, but only on matters of legal interpretation. As the ruling stands, Petaluma's Sharefarmers Vineyard, the subject of much controversy within Coonawarra, is included within the new boundary. The findings reject the idea that soil type is the main influence on wine style. "All experts rejected soil as a discriminator for this region, unless one reduced the regional boundary to the outskirts of the cigar of terra rossa soil, which no party agreed was feasible. We have concluded that whether a vineyard is physically on or off the cigar cannot of itself be determinative of whether it is within or outside the Coonawarra boundary." In a joint statement, the Coonawarra Vignerons Association and the Coonawarra Grapegrowers Association have given a tentative welcome to the decision, while appearing to leave the door open for further appeals by companies, such as Mildara Blass and Riddoch Estate, which own vineyards that fall outside the new boundary. "Our task now is to refocus on protection and promotion of the Coonawarra brand'," reads the release. "Nevertheless, we recognise and respect the rights of individuals."