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APRIL 2024

Alkina is potentially the most exciting new project to hit the Barossa Valley in recent times. It’s the originality of its approach to the traditional grape varieties and wine styles of the region that is so arresting.

The Chilean soil scientist and terroir expert Pedro Parra, who is behind the Alkina philosophy, staged a masterclass for wine trade members in Sydney during his latest visit to Australia. It was one of the most eye-opening tastings/talks about wine I’ve attended in years. Not everyone need agree with Parra’s views but nobody would deny they are interesting.

The big surprise for me was how different, and indeed how inferior, the clay wine showed compared to the schist and limestone wines. This appeared to back up Parra’s prejudice against clay. A theme that cropped up repeatedly was his disdain for clay soils. Sorry: if that’s the truth, much of Australia’s wine community may as well give up now!

Alkina is in the Greenock area of the north-western Barossa Valley. There is clay among the soil types at Alkina, but the wine produced from it is excluded from the most important wines (the ‘polygons’), but used in blends. The soils Parra prizes at Alkina are limestone, quartzite and schist. Grenache, shiraz and mataro are the main grape varieties. Grenache, with its lightness and subtle tannins (compared to shiraz), is the grape that expresses the differences in terroir most clearly.

Of the three tastings Parra and Alkina’s resident winemaker Amelia Nolan presented, the most impressive was grenache (the others were of Alkina shiraz and Pedro Parra’s Chilean reds). The four grenache wines were all 2022 vintage: Polygons 2, 3, 4 and 5, all tiny sections of what they call the Old Quarter, which was planted in the 1950s. All were fermented with 70% whole-bunch inclusion. The big surprise for me was how different, and indeed how inferior, the clay wine showed compared to the schist and limestone wines. This appeared to back up Parra’s prejudice against clay.

I tasted the wines semi-blind, not referring to Alkina’s notes and not knowing what they meant at that stage anyway.

Polygon No 2 Grenache Ex Libris (160 bottles produced) – 92 POINTS

The lightest colour. Clean, fragrant, very grenache varietal, ripe and not herbal. Supple, fine-grained tannins. A delicate wine of fine texture and balance with a superb perfume: the lightest wine and drinking well now. - Soil: hard schist & wind-blown limestone. Pedro’s comment: the lightest wine with the least depth.

Polygon No 3 Grenache (795 bottles produced) – 98 POINTS

Deep colour but still translucent. More graphite, ironstone aromas, trace of pepper. Voluminous, full-bodied, big firm tannins, serious structure but elegant, very long palate. Black cherry but not straightforward. Fuller bodied than Wine 1. - Soil: limestone & schist.

Polygon No 4 Grenache (160 bottles produced) – 89 POINTS

Deep dark colour but not too dark. Sweet jubey/boiled lolly aromas, a fruity grenache with a big ball of fruit in mid-palate then firm/astringent tannins, which grate somewhat. Moderate length: drops away quickly.  - Soil: clay with degraded schist. Pedro’s comment: short, simple, bitter.

Polygon No 5 Grenache (806 bottles produced) – 97 POINTS

Deep red-purple but not too dark. Dusty terracotta earthy nose, black cherry beneath. Rich, dense, concentrated palate, Hefty, big-boned, powerful, masses of tannins but very good tannins. The most structured wine.  - Soil: fractured schist & clay.


Alkina uses a Burgundy system to classify its soil types, thus:

  • Limestone and schist - Elegant and perfumed, with red fruit and chalky tannins, extremely special and unique - Grand Cru level.
  • Fractured schist with clay (and iron) - The most powerful with darker fruit, big tannin structure and a lot of energy. A feature is orange peel/blossom and exotic spice - Grand Cru to Premier Cru level.
  • Hard schist with limited fractures - Lighter wine with less tannin and structure but still fine and elegant - Premier Cru to Village level.
  • Clay with few or no rocks - Generous fruit, energy and power with a sense of acidity from iron in the clay, but without the finesse or structure of the wines from the areas with rocks - Mostly Village level.


I wrote in some detail about the Alkina project in October 2022 and won’t repeat any of that here, but suggest readers click here to read it. I’ll conclude with a quote from Italian oenologist Alberto Antonini, who also consults to Alkina:

Alberto’s six enemies of terroir focused winemaking:

  1. Over-maturation of the fruit (picking too late)
  2. Over-extraction of the fruit in the winery
  3. Use of chemicals in the vineyard
  4. The winemaker’s ego
  5. Over-use of new oak, which covers the characteristics of terroir
  6. Making wine for the market.