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ATR winemaker Adam Richardson talks Grampians Shiraz

18 May 2021

With cool weather here, there’s nothing more heartening than a good glass of spicy, elegant Grampians Shiraz.

Rich in history, the Grampians boasts a crop of pioneering wineries and emerging wineries, earning it a reputation for producing some of Australia's finest wine. Situated in Great Western, ATR Wines crafts beautifully balanced Shiraz and cutting-edge blends from alternate varieties. We had a chat with ATR winemaker Adam Richardson who gave us the low down on Grampians-style Shiraz.

Can you give us a little history lesson on Grampians Shiraz?

It’s been recorded that vines were first planted in Great Western in the 1860s. Shiraz was not the powerhouse that it is today. Early winemaker preferences in the area were for Sparkling wines. In my understanding, Shiraz did not peak in style and character until the 1960s when Seppelt, Best’s and a new-comer, Mount Langi Ghiran produced what I think are iconic cool-climate Shiraz styles.

The heritage of Shiraz and the new style of wines is what sparked my interest in the region.

Why is the Grampians region ideal for Shiraz?

I put it down to two things - climate (albeit a changing factor nowadays) and something that’s not typically considered - people.

With beginnings in Sparkling wine production, the region’s cool climate is also well suited to elegantly styled and well-structured Shiraz resulting in wines that age long and gracefully.

The second and most important factor is the character of the people who have grown grapes and made wine since the very beginning. Planting a vineyard and investing in winemaking is a huge risk whether it was in the 1800s, 1900s or 2000s. Without the pioneering spirit of the early producers, or the continued belief of subsequent generations of grape growers and winemakers, there would be a lot less Grampians Shiraz for us to love.

The Grampians is famed for its Shiraz. What makes it so special?

The two factors above I think work fantastically well together to make our Grampians Shiraz a great style of wine. I think the more involved you are behind the scenes, the more you appreciate the hard work that has caused us to become a premier wine destination.

The bright spirit of this generation of winegrowers will forever play a role in Grampians’ wine production and its direction for the future.

What are the key characteristics of a good wine and, specifically, a great Shiraz wine?

Simple, for me it’s in this order – balance, elegance, interest, complexity and ageability. The same criteria apply to all wines, not just Shiraz. And in fact, these are key criteria for all things in my life. From my cheese to my people.

How long have you been making Shiraz?

Since the mid-90s in cooler climates in Australia and internationally.

What can we expect when tasting Shiraz from your vineyard?

Hopefully you will be able to taste what I mentioned above - an interesting twist on the traditional Grampians-style Shiraz with a focus on balance, elegance, complexity, ageabilty.

Tell us more about your approach to Shiraz?

I do my best to let the vineyard do the work. I allow its natural character to shine from its growth on the vine, through to fermentation and ageing.

I joke to my friends that I’m a “lazy” winemaker, but I think there is something in my carefully considered, minimal intervention approach that allows the site, vines and yeast to drive the style rather than me - as the winemaker - trying to force his personality into a bottle.

What food pairs well with Shiraz?

If we focus this question on Grampians-style Shiraz, then the answer is - more than you think. The balance of our region’s wine means the typical stereotype of food pairing doesn’t always apply.

I can’t think of anything better than Grampians Shiraz paired with roasted meats, strong flavoured cheese, or dark roasted veggies. I’d also recommend a meal such as beetroot salad followed by a grilled dark-skinned fish (such as tuna, salmon or mackerel).

What are your Shiraz recommendations?

I drink just about all the local Shiraz because I like them. Despite all local wines fitting perfectly into the broader style we call Grampians Shiraz, they are remarkably unique and echo its grower, maker and the earth from which they came. If I must name some, I’ll call out my closest neighbours - Miners Ridge, Grampians Estate, Best’s and Seppelt St Peters.

Sip and savour The Grampians Way with a visit to our wineries cellar doors, or purchase wine online here.