Alkoomi Wines is situated in the most isolated wine-growing region in Western Australia – 330km south of Perth and 80km inland from the far south coast, just outside the tiny town of Frankland River.
The ethos of Alkoomi’s vineyard management has always been to favour quality over quantity, and to manage the property in an environmentally sustainable manner.
The climate and deep, well-drained soils (gravelly loams) are similar to those of Bordeaux in France. The long, cool ripening conditions are perfect for the production of grapes of intense varietal character.
The original 1220 hectare property was purchased by Sandy’s grandparents, Vic and Netta Lange, in 1946 and initially operated as a mixed grain and livestock farm. It was grandma Netta who chose the name “Alkoomi” for their rugged property, on land over two million years old – a local Aboriginal word meaning “a place we chose”.
Their son, Merv Lange took over the property on Vic’s retirement, but it wasn’t until 1971 that Merv and his wife, Judy, made the bold decision to plant just one hectare of Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, and a little Shiraz and Malbec. Following their initial vintage of just 4 tonnes in 1976, the vine worked its magic on the Langes and, instead of just selling their grapes, they decided to make the wine themselves, building a winery in time for the 1979 vintage. Soon Merv and Judy began to taste success with many awards at wine shows around Australia, becoming ambassadors for the emerging Frankland River wine region. In 2005 both Merv and Judy were awarded the WA Wine Press Club’s coveted Jack Mann Memorial Medal for their outstanding contribution to the wine industry and for pioneering the Frankland wine region.
The year 2010 saw a change of hands at Alkoomi, and with that some changes in direction. The business is now in the capable hands of Sandy and Rod Hallett, (Merv and Judy’s daughter and son-in-law), both of whom have been instrumental in the successful running of the vineyard and winery for many years. Their enthusiasm and passion for Alkoomi, their inherent knowledge of the business, together with far reaching plans and ideas for the expansion of the company, augurs well for the future. Their three daughters, Laura, Emily and Molly have a similar respect and love for Alkoomi and together the family will ensure that the business continues to grow on the strong foundations laid by Merv and Judy some forty years ago.
In the lead up to Alkoomi’s harvest, samples from each block of fruit are brought into the winery laboratory to monitor acid and sugar levels. However, every picking decision is only made after walking up and down the rows of vines, tasting the fruit in the vineyard. The grapes are harvested in the cool, early morning with the aim of retaining the primary fruit freshness from juice, through fermentation, to bottle. In the winery, each individual parcel of fruit can be fermented separately, from the old vines planted in 1971 through to the anticipated fruit from new vines planted in 2014. This allows the wines to truly show their inherent regional personality and depth of varietal character.
In 1956 Dr Harold Olmo, the renowned Californian viticulturalist, had highly recommended the Frankland region for the planting of vines and the legendary West Australian winemaker, Jack Mann, had concurred. Dr Olmo had identified that the climate and deep, well-drained soils (gravelly loams) were similar to those of Bordeaux in France. The long, cool ripening conditions were perfect for the production of grapes of intense varietal character. With this in mind, Alkoomi’s initial planting in 1971 of just one hectare under vine has been successfully transformed into 105 hectares (259 acres) of estate vineyard.
The ethos of Alkoomi’s vineyard management has always been to favour quality over quantity, and to manage the property in an environmentally sustainable manner. The wall-to-wall grass policy, using select clover and rye grass between rows and under vines, has a three-pronged outcome. These plantings naturally outcompete weeds, sustainably manage soil microbiology and improve water retention by mulching.