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.
With rolling hills, lush and productive farming land surrounded by forest and bush, Alkoomi is a hidden gem. A family-owned winery dating back to 1946, "Alkoomi" is a local Aboriginal word meaning "a place we chose".
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.
Alkoomi's Environmental Stance
In recent years, Alkoomi has embarked upon a journey to minimize its carbon footprint. The installation of a 30kW solar energy panel on the roof of the winery, together with a major upgrade to the tank refrigeration system has certainly enhanced its sustainability and bodes well for the future of this family business. 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. Weed control in the colder months, during vine dormancy, is left to sheep grazing. The routine minimal spray program is close to organic status and the on-site dams are used efficiently to prevent vine stress during extended dry periods, without sacrificing the naturally low yields that produce concentrated flavours.
Q&A with Winemaker Andrew Cherry
Winemaker Andrew Cherry had a degree in chemistry from the University of Western Australia, but it wasn't until he was working in a Michelin starred restaurant in the heart of London, that he had his winemaking epiphany. He promptly completed his oenology post-grad at the University of Adelaide before setting out for a vintage in Beaujolais. He worked for several years in the beautiful Clare Valley and enjoyed a vintage in Tuscany, before joining Alkoomi in 2008. He took on the role as senior winemaker in 2010.
How did you get into wine?
After completing a degree in Materials Science I travelled to Europe and ended up working in a Michelin starred restaurant in London. Upon returning to Australia I promptly completed my oenology post-grad at the University of Adelaide before setting out for a vintage in Beaujolais. I worked for several years in the beautiful Clare Valley and enjoyed a vintage in Tuscany, before joining Alkoomi in 2008.
What do you love about wine?
The variety, the complexity and its ability to describe a place by taste and smell alone.
What’s your favourite go-to wine for drinking?
Riesling from anywhere!
What would be a special one of yours that you would open when friends come over?
2017 Alkoomi Victrix Chardonnay.
What do you like about your region?
Frankland River is one of the most remote viticultural regions in Australia and is home to rolling hills, rich and productive farming land, natural forest and bush, abounding with unique native wildflowers.
If you had to describe your winery or wines to people have never tried it before what would you say?
Alkoomi means ‘a place we chose’ in the local Aboriginal dialect and we strive to produce wines of elegance and finesse that reflect the cool climate of the region.
What are you goals for the brand in the future?
We have expanded our plantings of Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Malbec as they are wonderfully suited to the location. In the spirit of trialling new varieties for our brand we have new plantings of Gewürztraminer, Grenache and Touriga and they are coming along spiffingly.
What’s a wine you’ve produced that your most proud of and why?
The Melaleuca Riesling was created to celebrate our 40th anniversary and the fruit comes from our oldest block of Riesling planted in 1971.
When you need to relax and unwind and get away from the wine world, what do you do?
I enjoy woodworking. Taking roughly hewn boards of Jarrah or Wandoo and carefully shaping them into finished furniture is supremely rewarding. Although I am also partial to a few hours in front of the Playstation joining friends from around the country (and the world) destroying hordes of marauding aliens together!
If you could go anywhere for a holiday where would it be and what would you drink there?
I would love to visit Canada. I’d rent a car and drive across the whole country, sampling the wares along the way.