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Alkoomi explores a vision of splendor

JUDY Lange describes her husband Merv as the “ideas man”, for it was he who first thought of diversifying the family’s farm business.

And a good thought it was, too, as the success of the Alkoomi label attests.

With the wool industry looking a bit sick during one of its cyclical downturns, Merv noticed the (then) Agriculture Department had begun trial plantings of grapes nearby.

Despite the fact that, at that stage, Merv and Judy had not drunk a glass of wine between them, and in spite of the raised eyebrows of many in the district’s farming community, the Langes backed their judgement and, in the early 1970s, established Alkoomi – ‘the place we chose’.

The first vintage in 1976 was made at Plantagenet Winery, with just three tonnes crushed. This year Alkoomi crushed about 1000 tonnes.

The Langes’ own winery was built in 1978 without the help of bank finance (the bank couldn’t see a future in wine production in the area, which in itself shows how Merv’s ideas were a little ahead of their time). In those formative, years Judy looked after the vineyard and Merv the winemaking.

“We are quite proud of the fact that in those first few years we were able to win medals,” Judy said. “Our first wine to win a gold medal at the Perth Royal Show was a Malbec Rose, and the cabernet sauvignon won the Sheraton award in three consecutive years for the vintage 1982, 1983 and 1984 wines.”

Alkoomi today is still a family owned and operated winery, with most of the family taking an active part in the day-to-day running. One of the grand-daughters has a fantastic palate, Judy said. Their son, Wayne, looks after the viticulture and son-in-law Michael has been making the wine for the past eight years.

Alkoomi Blackbutt 1998 rrp $65.00 18.75/20 points

Bonza blackbutt. This is the sort of drop that makes you sit up and take notice of what to expect from wine that comes from old vines. With wine of this quality, wineries like Alkoomi will firmly stomp their feet on the Australian wine market in the next few years. With its 100 per cent Frankland fruit, the Blackbutt displays earthy red fruit and black-currant aromas. The palate is awash with ripe black cherry and blackberry fruits. Fine tannins, well placed acidity and smart oak simply ooze along the finish that is some-where past the black stump. Fabulous Frank-land! Knowing the quality of fruit in 2001, I will be itching to get hold of Blackbutt 2001.

Alkoomi Jarrah 1998 Shiraz rrp $39.99 18/20 points

Judy promises me that Alkoomi will only produce this wine when the fruit is of a quality they are totally happy with. Shiraz grapes within the region are still establishing themselves as Australian benchmarks, but how long will it be long before the Frankland area challenges the rest of Australia for producing the best shiraz? The Jarrah Shiraz heads down the Rhone Valley-like path. Fragrant red and black cherries with some medicinal spice prick up your senses before you find a palate that shows a marriage of fruit, tannin and acidity. Soft, approachable and textured, the palate leads you down a long and winding road and gives you a hint of the journey this variety has begun to embark on at Frankland.

Alkoomi Sauvignon Blanc 2001 rrp $18.99 18.5/20 points

Many will already know the pedigree of this wine. Judy tells me that Alkoomi was one of the first to plant sauvignon blanc in the region, mainly due to the fact that she quite liked other wines she had tried made from sauvignon blanc, both French and Australian. What a lucky break for those who like sauvignon blanc, as this would have to be one of the most consistent performers of this variety in Australia. It’s smack-bang full of ripe gooseberry and garden-fresh herb aromas that lead you into the secret garden of lip-curling zingy fruit.

Alkoomi Wandoo 1999 Semillon rrp $31.99 17.5/20 points

Alkoomi broke new ground in making this wine by pushing outside the square, producing an example of just how good this variety can be. The 1998 vintage was well received across the country, particularly in NSW, the “home” of semillon. I am still coming to grips with this wine, but it has its rewards. Aromatic herbaceous and mineral aromas are joined by a touch of vanillin oak nuances. The fruit on the palate is clean and full of citrus flavours and, although a little austere for me at present, this is a wine to look forward to over the next few years.

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