Wine Australia - Australian Wine Made our Way
There’s a revolution underway in the Riverland wine region, and vigneron Ashley Ratcliff is leading the charge with his alternative varieties and groundbreaking wines.
As a viticulturist and winemaker, Ashley is unashamedly authentic and unafraid to fail. He started his career almost three decades ago, working with big names in Australian wine, including Orlando and Yalumba. He completed a degree in viticulture and a master’s in marketing and won major industry awards for his viticulture work in drought-prone regions, including the Riverland. Now he’s helping to reinvent this powerhouse wine region.
REIMAGINING THE RIVERLAND
Keen to start his own vineyard but deterred by high prices in the Barossa Valley where he grew up and still lives, Ashley turned to the Riverland wine region. In a vast region where wines were underappreciated, Ashley saw an opportunity.
In 2003, he and his wife Holly bought a vineyard and planted emerging varieties that would thrive in the Riverland’s warm climate, with a focus on Mediterranean varieties. They produced top-quality fruit, and when Ashley started making wines under their label Ricca Terra, he made premium wines that challenged people’s perceptions of the Riverland.
“What I enjoy most is that we’re challenging the norm in a region that’s known for bulk production,” says Ashley. “And we are showing pretty quickly that this is a premium winegrowing region.”
On rich soil (Ricca Terra means ‘rich earth’ in Italian), Ashley and his team now grow nearly 30 grape varieties, including the white Arinto and red Tinta Barocca. With its fresh, vibrant wines, Ricca Terra became the first Riverland winery to get a five-star rating in the Halliday Wine Companion.
Since launching Ricca Terra, Ashley has been named Viticulturist of the Year by the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology and Gourmet Traveller WINE, and Riverland Winemaker of the Year. Experimentation and self-belief are at the heart of his success.
“The only way we can learn about new varieties is to plant them and make wine,” says Ashley. “Some have been very successful, and some have failed. But at the end of the day, to move forward, you have to make change.
“We want to be seen as the people that are having fun and trying to make change and creating an image for our region that’s a bit different.”
Check out the video below...