Where do we begin?
We could start the Atlas story in any number of places. At one of Adam Barton’s formative winemaking jobs, in McLaren Vale, Coonawarra, the Barossa, Western Australia, the South of France or California’s Central Coast. Before that, at the University of Adelaide, where he studied oenology. Or in the Hunter Valley, where he first discovered the magic of wine, in a glass of 1965 Lindemans Hunter River Burgundy.
We could go back even earlier, to Amy Lane’s childhood in the South Australian Mid North, on the arid, sandy paddocks that have been farmed by her family for generations.
But where Atlas began in earnest is on a 26-acre block of land, a vineyard planted with Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, on the eastern slopes of the Clare Valley. The year was 2007. Adam and Amy made an investment in Clare, an investment in their future, and Atlas Wines was born.
Vineyards, fruit, provenance
Their vision for Atlas was pretty simple: to produce great wine from the highest-quality fruit available, not just from the Atlas estate vineyard but from vineyards with exceptional provenance in the surrounding regions. In searching out these vineyards, Adam has come to know intimately the complexity and diversity of the Clare Valley, and how the unique characteristics of different sites – geology, soil, groundwater, climate and weather, aspect, slope and more – produce fruit with unique qualities. It’s these qualities that he has sought to express through the wines he has made.
The Atlas house style
As such, the Atlas house style is a carefully composed mosaic of the best parts of the region: the red wines, sourced primarily from the Atlas estate vineyard at White Hut in the north and Schobers’ vineyard at Auburn in the south, are elegant yet powerful, and well structured; the whites, sourced from Churinga vineyard at the northern end of Watervale and Gullyview vineyard at the southern end, are finely structured, aromatic and pure.
Alongside these range wines is a selection of single-vineyard wines, only produced when a vineyard’s fruit is deemed worthy of celebration on its own. Adam’s winemaking approach in these cases is typified by careful curation and nurturing of the highest-quality grapes, the utmost care and attention to detail, and minimal intervention. To date, these wines have been produced from Shiraz grown in the Atlas estate vineyard and Riesling from the Churinga vineyard.
It takes a village
Over the course of ten vintages, Adam and Amy’s original vision has materialised in a folio of wonderful wines and a matching folio of accolades, including being named as one of the ten best new wineries for 2013 by James Halliday. And as those vintages have passed, the business has grown, steadily and organically, with an attitude of generosity and fairness.
Atlas Wines is intentionally not a vertically integrated company – at its heart, Atlas is about building long-term relationships with trusted partners. With suppliers and grape growers. With the creative agency that designs their labels. With its distribution partners. And with local tradies like “Hucko” and “Bullfrog”, who keep Atlas’s machines running and make sure grapes, wine and equipment get to where they need to go.
Sharing the rewards
Adam puts it like this: “It’s probably a bit old-fashioned, but it’s just what Amy and my values are. We want to work with people who want to work with us, and vice versa, and we want those people to do well too. Everyone has to win, and everyone has to leave something on the table for the next person.”
The wine family
“We’ve worked really hard for ten years. The reward has been the growth of our business and the wines we’ve made,” says Amy. “During that time, we’ve had kids and grown our own family, but we also have this wine family around us, and those people are very much a part of our success and a part of our life.”