While working in England in the early 1980s, Bob Richter was exposed to wines from all corners of the world – Chile, Bulgaria, Lebanon, California and Hungary, as well as the classic regions such as France and Italy – all from his local wine store.
This exposure, as well as an appreciation for the great wine writer, Hugh Johnson, set into motion a lifelong desire to work with wine, culminating in the formation of his very own vineyard, Grey Sands.
Upon returning to Australia with wife Rita, Bob attended Roseworthy Agricultural College in South Australia, learning all that he could about the wine industry and its practices. Once he completed his studies, he and Rita moved to Tasmania to start a vineyard from scratch. After a few months of searching and tasting, he found what he believed to be the perfect site for his project – a north-east facing property that was sheltered from the ‘roaring forties’ westerly winds, with soils derived from sandstone, mudstone and conglomerate, with areas of brown clay, deep yellow sands and grey sands.
Planting began in 1988, with the first commercial vintage in 1998. The vines at Grey Sands are dry grown and planted to a high density, and thanks to its hilly location, sit above the worst fogs and frosts of winter. Over the years, Bob has planted over 17 varieties, guided by his whim, intuition, imagination and a knowledge based in plenty of wine-based travel.
From these vines they produce pinot gris, pinot noir, shiraz and merlot as varietal wines, and three boutique blends: The Mattock (merlot, malbec and cabernet franc), Romanesque (aglianico, petit verdot and touriga) and Byzantine (chardonnay, viognier and malvasia bianca).
While the pinot gris has attracted attention for its full body and layers of tropical fruit, it’s The Mattock that continues to receive recognition for delivering a more robust alternative to pinot noir in Tasmania. The 2013 vintage shows a lifted aroma of stewed plum, mulberry and a hint of rose petal, with a fresh, mouth-watering palate of fine tannins and a persistent finish.
Grey Sands isn’t home to a cellar door structure as such. Instead, Bob and Rita welcome visitors to their one-hectare garden to taste their range. Open on the first full weekend of the month from October to April, and by appointment at other times, the property boasts stunning views over the Tamar Valley, making it perfect for an afternoon in the sun. Bob and Rita also encourage guests to bring along a picnic lunch to enjoy in the garden along with a glass of wine.
Grey Sands creates wines with distinctive European influences that are complex, intriguing and made to last. Pop by to try their offering and hear all about the little patch of paradise Bob and Rita call home.