AT Richardson: Redefining the wines of Great Western
Wednesday, May 8, 2019 in News
Adam (A.T.) Richardson is making modern expressions of traditional styles, particularly Shiraz and Riesling, in Great Western, Victoria. With decades of experience working in the world’s most notable regions, he’s creating wines of international calibre and regional character in one of Australia’s heritage regions. Along the way, he’s redefining Grampians wine.
A.T. Richardson Winemaking
Richardson was a latecomer to the wine world. In fact, he started out in the Navy. ‘I discovered wine in my mid twenties,’ he says. ‘I’ve always loved cooking and preparing meals for friends, and pairing wine and food together. The more I got into it, I discovered there was such a job as a winemaker.’
After completing his studies, Richardson refined his knowledge of the local industry working with such well-known names as d’Arenberg and Oakridge Estate. While assistant winemaker at the latter, the U.S. beckoned: he was recruited to what was then the country’s second largest winery, E & J Gallo. Here, he was in charge of their ‘research’ program—a science lab of wine, if you will, with grape varietals in lieu of the periodic table, and barrels in place of beakers. ‘I would make about 600 wines a year,’ Richardson says.
Next, he was headhunted by The Wine Group, an American operation responsible for approximately 1.5% of the world’s wine production. With The Wine Group, Richardson was in charge of the annual production of over five million cases of wine from appellations the world over. ‘Argentina, Chile, Marlborough, California,’ he namechecks, ‘Mosel, France, Spain, probably a couple of other places… oh, and Italy. Especially the north.’ Although granted the illustrious title of Director of Global Marketing, Richardson’s work remained very hands-on. ‘I spent ten years travelling around the world, making wines with other winemakers to take back to the US.’
So, how does someone with this background end up in one of Australia’s tiny heritage wine hubs? ‘I spent probably five years looking everywhere around the world to plant my vineyard. I had no particular area in mind, I was really open to it.’ The A.T. Richardson vineyard, set against the weathered beauty of the Grampians National Park, was first planted in 2005. ‘I really wanted to grow Riesling and Shiraz, cool-climate style. And I thought I can come here and make my wine my way. I’ll make wines that are typically Grampians but also uniquely reflect my personality and my style of wine.’
In a region steeped in rich winemaking heritage (think the likes of stalwarts Best’s and Seppelt), Richardson is seeking to redefine Great Western with his unique take on traditional styles. ‘I think of it as a modern edge to the wines. I really focus on elegance and subtlety.’ In his traditional styles, this is reflected in the layered complexity of the Chockstone Shiraz, and the refreshing balance of the Chockstone Riesling.
A willingness to experiment with more esoteric varietals also sets A.T. Richardson apart. When was the last time you saw a Grampians Nebbiolo, or a Durif for that matter? ‘Durifs usually knock your socks off. Mine has layers and layers of intense flavours, but it’s not a beast. It has an assertive personality but it’s controlling itself.’
Richardson’s primary focus, really, is the pure pleasure that can be had from an elegant, balanced glass of wine. ‘A wine’s job is to be drinkable, and I’m not scared to say that,’ he says. ‘We all want to make the most impressive wine we can, but the number one thing is to make the wine enjoyable.’