Parra and Nolan have just tasted the 2019 grenache and declare it to be “very good”.
“It is difficult to say it is an Australian wine,” says Parra, “but it is easy to say it is a schist wine. This is iron-dominated rock but in some places you get a ‘vomit’ of other geologies – and the results can be extraordinary.
“Only one per cent of Burgundy is Grand Cru. We are trying to find our one per cent. We’re trying to understand how to ‘cook’ with these ingredients. We are taking the focus away from the winemaker as ‘hero’. This is the key to unlocking the best, authentic ‘mineral’ wines we can.
“Burgundy is the aspiration, the concept.
“The aim is to have one polygon in any year that produces exceptional results. It should be possible to make great wines – even in a bad year.”
Parra gives as an example the 2002 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino – most of the wines for that year were no good, but if you’re making 30 wines you only need one to be great.
Asked if the ‘old world’ aspiration fits with the ‘new world’ wines Australia is known for, Parra responds firmly.
“This [Barossa] is the oldest terroir I have ever worked in. Burgundy is only 20 million years old. From the perspective of terroir, ‘old world’ and ‘new world’ makes no sense.”
As Nolan and Parra work their way through a tasting of straight grenache from four different terroir polygons, with experienced local taster David Ridge providing critique and context, their dedication to finding the influence of the terroir in the wine is obvious. They agree the harvest was left a little late the previous vintage and it could be the opposite has happened this year.
“It is important to reach a balance in every step,” Parra explains. “Grenache tends to be alcoholic – but it is possible to harvest a little too early as well. It is about finding the ‘window’ for harvest, then pare back, understand, then blend. Single vineyard if you want to express the individual terroir but a blend can be better, even though it is less reflective of the vintage.”
Nolan also points out that they receive ongoing and “invaluable” advice from winemaking consultant Alberto Antonini who oversees the winemaking for most of Bulgheroni’s wineries around the world.
“Alberto has encouraged us to work with unlined concrete vessels. We use tulip-shaped tanks from Nico Velo in Italy which are ideal because they do what oak does in terms of being living, breathing vessels, but they don’t impart flavours.
“We don’t want evident oak character in our wines because it masks the beauty and uniqueness of what we want to show: the expression of the terroir,” Nolan says.
She explains that, of the nine individual polygon wines made from the 2018 vintage, two grenache wines will be released as single polygon wines in mid 2020 along with a blend made from some of the other polygon components. The tasting room at Alkina will open in October this year.