In the words of Jeremy Oliver, one of Australia’s most highly respected wine writers:
“Pierro is one of the few Australian wineries that could claim to have established a trend that many others have followed. Since the mid-1980s Mike Peterkin has crafted a Chardonnay of not only monumental power, but of simultaneously smooth and silky delivery.
“Pierro Chardonnay is the role model for so many of Australia’s more opulent and hedonistically proportioned chardonnays and is a stunning expression of Margaret River Chardonnay.”
Mike Peterkin had initially intended to specialise in Riesling on his Willyabrup plot, so it was a tad fortuitous that Chardonnay became Pierro’s most famous wine.
His vine supplier had been let down on a large order of Chardonnay rootstock, approximately 5000 cuttings, and offered them to Mike at a cut price. In order to help out his friend he agreed to take them.
It was an inspired decision. Today the two finest Chardonnays in the region are Pierro and Leeuwin Estate. Seeing as Margaret River is indisputably Australia’s premier Chardonnay producing region, this is a major honour.
During the last two decades the two wineries have received praise and accolades from around the world for their consistently outstanding efforts with the variety.
Innovation and location have been the key factors in developing the quality of the Pierro chardonnay.
Dissatisfied with the first three vintages of Chardonnay (1983-85), which were carried out following standard Australian winemaking practices, Mike decided to make some radical changes and the Pierro Chardonnay style was born in the 1986 vintage.
Today there are three distinct blocks of chardonnay on the property. About 95% of the Pierro Chardonnay is the Gin Gin clone, which produces the best quality wine, and one that has been particularly successful in Margaret River.
Each block features high-density narrow rows on rocky soil that slope down to the Willyabrup Brook and are orientated to the west and north. The vineyards are managed to maximise fruit, leaf and cane exposure to sunlight; minimise wind damage in the often blustery southern spring; and to heighten flavour development in the summer ripening period.
Irrigation at Pierro is different from other vineyards in Margaret River. Mike attempts to reproduce natural rainfall patterns when watering, giving the vines a good drink when they need it, rather than trickle or drip-feeding. This mimics a typical summer shower.
Vine management at Pierro is designed to achieve maximum balance with good leaf vigour supporting just the right amount of fruit. Such techniques result in healthy, highly flavoursome grapes arriving in the winery for processing.
In the winery Mike puts his Chardonnay through one hundred per cent malolactic fermentation which helps achieve superior texture, mouth feel and a more refined and persistent flavour.
The result is a world-class white. The wine has won many awards over the years and is well entrenched in the top three Chardonnays of Australia. No mean feat for a chap who at one stage of the vineyard development was regarded as a crank for his innovative practices in vine planting and canopy management.
This is a white of great finesse yet impressive power, tight structure yet generosity of flavour; ripe melony, peachy characters yet noticeable restraint and subtlety; an unctuous mouth-feel yet with taut, fine acidity on the finish.
Indeed, it is a fitting ambassador for Margaret River wine and the on-going quest for ever greater quality at Pierro.