Alkina - The Polygon Project
Last week I was lucky enough to have sat down with Amelia Nolan, the managing director of Alkina wines based in Greenock, Barossa Valley. We did a deep dive into the wines from Alkina and an even deeper dive into their one-of-a-kind, Polygon Project. If you haven't heard of Alkina yet you are in for a treat!
(Alkina Vineyard Map)
Throughout the afternoon with Amelia there was one key theme that we saw in not only the wines but the practices in the vineyard to the ethos of the Alkina team and that was a quest for knowledge. Alkina is about seeking to understand, nurture and ultimately express the terroir from which the wines came from. When Alkina was established in 2015 Amelia had the audacious task of revitalising neglected 70 year old wines and 170 year old stone buildings. Now in 2023 Alkina is a place that expresses terroir and regenerative biodynamic farming. The Alkina teams quest for knowledge would allow the team to do two things:
- 'The first has been to develop management practices that would improve soil health/microbiology, water management, vine health and overall biodiversity of flora and fauna, upholding the values of regenerative rather than just sustainable farming'
- 'The second has been to understand the type and scale of terroir variability across the vineyard, and in understanding this, rely less on the tools of winemaking and more on the knowledge that the secret of creating real terroir wines lies deep within the rocks and soils of our place.'
The topic of terroir came up often during the afternoon with reference to one of the holy grails of terroir, Burgundy. The golden slopes of the Cote d'Or and its limestone rich soils create some of the worlds most prized wines but could we replicate something similar in Australia? To my knowledge no one in Australia has done as deep a dive as the team at Alkina into the terroir on which they grow vines. In 2017 Amelia was introduced to Pedro Parra, a terroir expert and genius - Amelia often said Pedro liked to speak in metaphors and one that stuck with me during the afternoon that Pedro had once said to Amelia was, "You are sitting on a Ferrari but you don't know how to drive it". At this stage Pedro had done numerous studies across Europe, North and South America but so far none in Australia. He has a PhD in Terroir Viticoles from Paris combined with his background in geology and mapping allowed him to bring to life the connection of terroir to wine characteristics.
At first, the team at Alkina started scanning their vineyard using Electro Conductivity Mapping Technology otherwise known as ECM Scanning. The ECM scanning works by sending electromagnetic pulses into the ground at two depths, one at 75cm (topsoil) and the other at 150cm (bedrock). After the ECM scanning is complete this gave the Alkina team a map which only indicated a change from one soil type to another, for example, a change from clay soils to schist soils. With the easy part now out of the way, Pedro tasked the team to excavate soil pits that he could then study - these pits were to be 3 meters long by 2 meters deep! Once the pits were dug Pedro then spent four days living and breathing the terroir of these pits and determined 9 individual micro-terroirs which are now known as Polygons.
(EC mapping of total property with soil pit numbers - 60 HA)
But what did the team at Alkina do with this information? They started making wine from these 9 Polygons and kept them seperate to understand the results in terms of wine characteristics. They confirmed that limestone was the holy grail of soils/terroir, much like Burgundy. They also determined schist added what Pedro calls 'fire' or energy to the wine and higher iron content in the soil can result in less typicity but can add an increased sensation of acidity on the palate.
To this day these Polygons are still fermented separately and the results speak for them selves. Myself and other Tasmanian venue owners, sommeliers and restaurant managers were lucky to have tasted these wines not only side-by-side but with Amelia during this afternoon. The most notable of these comparisons I felt was between Polygon No.3 and Polygon No.5, both made from 100% Grenache and vinified in exactly the same way using 100% whole bunch fermentation and maturation in concrete eggs for 15 months before bottling.
2020 Alkina Polygon No.3 - This came from 0.274 hectares which contained approximately 200 vines with the terroir being made up of deep chalky sedimentary limestone with fractured schist. The wine consisted of red fruits with amaro on the nose and palate but most interestingly the palate balanced between being restrained and powerful - There was a sense of energy waiting to be released.
(Polygon No.3 limestone soil pit)
2020 Alkina Polygon No.5 - This consisted of two nearby parcels making up 0.37 hectares in size however the terroir was made up of heavily fractured micaceous schist that contained veins of iron-rich clay within the fractures. Deeper and darker than Polygon No.3, this wine had a dense palate with velvety mouth coating tannins. A ferrous and bitter cola note also harmonised with the structure in the background from the iron-rich clay.
(Polygon No.5 Iron-rich clay soil pit)
Enough of me babbling on about Alkina and the wines. Although very limited in quantity, we are lucky enough here at Molto to have some of these terroir expressing wines available for you to try.
We also have access to the whole range of Alkina although some are extremely limited.
2020 Alkina 'Polygon No.5' Grenache LIMITED - $310
For any queries on these wines please email firstname.lastname@example.org with which wine you would like and quantity.