That the Riverland region of South Australia is now being re-imagined and reinterpreted is, in part, due to the efforts of one man – Ashley Ratcliffe. As a viticulturist, he knew that not only were some of the best Riverland vineyards undervalued but that many were planted to the wrong varieties for the climate.
In 2003 Ashley and Holly Ratcliff purchased a small 8-hectare vineyard in the Riverland, South Australia. The vineyard was called Ricca Terra (Italian for ‘Rich Earth’). The soils found throughout the vineyard are red earth over limestone, which have the reputation for being very fertile. The primary intent after purchasing the vineyard was to plant grape varieties appropriately suited to Australia’s warming and drying climatic conditions (Chardonnay was not one of these grape varieties). The second intention was to manage their vineyards in a manner that would produce high quality wines. This resulted in the elimination of machine pruning and harvesting and incorporating organic farming principles. After leaving Yalumba to set up Ricca Terra, Ashley began investigating the potential for obscure alternative varieties in his chosen region. Mediterranean varieties that retain acidity in the heat, such as Fiano and Arinto have struck a chord, as well as Nero d’Avola, Negroamaro and Tinta Barocca, which thrive in warmer climes.
The Ratcliffs have made a name for themselves initially as the source for many of Australia’s most well-known next-gen wines focused on these alternative varieties. Producers from hours away in McLaren Vale sought out the fastidious farming of the Ratcliffs and their selection of unusual grapes.
Today Ricca Terra’s spread of vineyards is in excess of 80ha, and they are one of the largest growers of climate adaptive grape varieties in South Australia, while focusing on the growth of their own estate wines. The Ricca Terra label showcases these interesting varieties and their suitability to the changing (read, warming) climate. Whether straight varietal wines or creative blends, every wine is deliciously approachable and superb value for money.
In 2021 the Australian wine world took notice of the hard work and determination by awarding Ricca Terra the inaugural Young Gun award for Innovative Vineyard of the Year.