The Vintage Journal
Alkina | "A New Story on an Old Place"
Andrew Caillard MW, The Vintage Journal, July 12, 2022
Alkina is described as a new story on an old place. Located on the western ridges of the Barossa Valley near Greenock, the 60-hectare property was previously a 40- hectare mixed farm with 6 hectares of 1950s Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro and Semillon plantings, and an adjoining 20 hectare vineyard block with plantings back to the 1970s. Since its acquisition by Argentine billionaire vigneron Alejandro Bulgheroni, the land has been meticulously surveyed, remodelled and further planted with additional vines (2016-2017) to produce micro-cuvées based on individual vineyard plots called polygons. The work has also included the construction of a dam and the renovation of the 1850s homestead and outbuildings. A small 60 tonne winery with all the latest gadgets was completed in 2017.
Alkina (an indigenous girl’s name meaning Moon) is managed and directed by Amelia Nolan, a Roseworthy graduate in wine marketing (1995), and who has worked for Alejandro Bulgheroni since 2012. Her low-key profile is surprising considering her career successes in London and achievement in positioning Alkina into the upper echelons of Australian fine wine. Nonetheless, star Italian winemaker Alberto Antononi and Chilean soil scientist Pedro Parra, both micro-terroir specialists, are the fire-power behind this extraordinary project where literally no rock has been left unturned. Through meticulous mapping of the soils and geology, they have established several micro-terroir polygons and matched some of these soil/ rock profiles to single Lilliputian cuvées. Others have been earmarked for blends.
The vineyards are farmed using organic and biodynamic principles. Of the 43 hectares under vines, all are now fully certified by NASAA with the Owen’s block receiving certification in 2022. Although the vineyard is divided into 42 blocks, the polygon mapping has also resulted in fine tuning where some tiny areas of vineyard are left out of the single polygon vinifications. This approach to viticulture would have been impossible some years ago, but the development of electro conductivity mapping and other technologies have allowed a more forensic approach to vineyard management and harvesting. But it’s very intensive and requires significant attention to detail. Some would say it’s a little over the top, but the results suggest Alkina is onto something.
The winemaking is typically low key with care not to over extract. Whole bunch vinification techniques are employed to “cool down the energy” derived from the underlying schist rock. Batch vinifications are kicked off with wild yeasts and maturation takes place primarily in “Nico Velo” tulip-shaped concrete fermenters. Concrete eggs, Italian Amphorae, Georgian Qveri and large inert French seasoned oak foudres are also used and matched to the size of each batch. This approach to winemaking is becoming quite common place in many parts of Europe and the US now, but still remains relatively novel to the Barossa, although it should be pointed out that concrete tanks, large wooden vats (and hogsheads) were fashionable for decades until the introduction of stainless steel in the 1970s. Winemaking aside, it is the approach to viticulture and parcel selection that makes this project genuinely interesting. Investment and fresh ideas also bring a sense of energy and ambition.
While Alberto Antonini and Pedro Parra bring great intellect and pace to the project, the works and days at Alkina is the remit of Amelia Nolan and her team comprising Estate and Winery manager Johnny Schuster, the highly respected sales and marketing executive Dan Coward, and Business Manager Cynthia Loo. Recently I tasted several vintages, released and unreleased. The wines are truly excellent and individual with superb clarity, precision and energy. Reputations take some years to achieve, but Alkina’s ambitions are definitely on track.
2019 Alkina Polygon No. 3 Grenache, Barossa Valley – South Australia
"Medium crimson. Lovely fragrant rose petal, musky plum, raspberry pastille, hint chocolate aromas. Concentrated plum, raspberry pastille fruits, superb mid-palate density, fine graphite/ chalky tannins and integrated fresh persistent acidity. Lacy textures plume out at the finish. Very expressive wine with impressive energy, density and precision. From a 0.274 hectare polygon (roughly 200 vines) lying on a minute outcrop of limestone over schist. Aged for six months in a seasoned puncheon and then stainless steel before bottling. 490 bottles & 50 magnums made. 13.6% alc" 95 points
2019 Alkina Polygon No. 5 Grenache, Barossa Valley – South Australia
"Medium crimson. Intense raspberry, red plum, hint marzipan aromas. Generous and supple with ample red plum, raspberry, redcurrant fruits, superb mid-palate viscosity, fine lacy firm textures and integrated fresh acidity. Finishes bittersweet with rusty firm textures. Superb mineral length. A very good foil to the No. 3. Based on two parcels amounting to roughly 0.37 hectares. 100% whole bunch vinification. Matured in a 500L concrete cylinder for nine months. 595 bottles & 60 magnums made. 14% alc" 96 points
2019 Alkina Polygon 1 Shiraz, Barossa Valley – South Australia
"Deep crimson. Wax polish, blackberry, liquorice, chinotto aromas. Well concentrated and supple with blackberry, chocolate, liquorice root, herb flavours, hint sappy textures and underlying bittersweet/ chinotto notes, Finishes chalky firm and minerally. All fruit and rock. Very different but pure, richly flavoured and precise. 100% whole bunch vinification. Matured in seasoned 400L barrel for nine months. 562 bottles & 50 magnums made. 13.2% alc" 96 points
2020 Alkina Spice Garden Shiraz, Barossa Valley – South Australia
"Deep crimson. Intense blackberry pastille, cherry stone, marzipan, wax polish aromas. Richly flavoured wine with deep set blackberry, elderberry fruits, fine loose knit textures, sweet cranberry fruits, sweet and sour notes, fine vigorous slinky graphite tannins. Very attractive style, touch of roasted walnut. Very bright and expressive fruit driven style. 100% whole bunch vinification. Matured in a combination of a seasoned 400L barrel and 1700L concrete tulip. Only 504 bottles made. 13.2% alc" 95 points
2020 Alkina Old Quarter Grenache Shiraz Mataro, Barossa Valley – South Australia
"Medium deep colour. Fresh red cherry, raspberry pastille, mulberry aromas with demi-glace notes. Richly concentrated red cherry, raspberry pastille, mulberry fruits, fine loose knit chocolaty/ graphite textures. Fleshy and sturdy with very good complexity and mineral length. A multi-polygon blend with 60% Grenache from Polygon 4. Components matured for 15 months in concrete egg, seasoned oak or concrete tulip. 2000 bottles & 50 magnums made. 13.8 % alc" 94 points