Pierro, the thoroughbred of chardonnays
Pierro is one of Margaret River’s greatest chardonnays, and I was recently fortunate enough to taste the last 10 vintages of Pierro Chardonnay, 2006 to 2015. The outstanding feature of the line-up was the consistency of both quality and style. With minor fluctuations, they were remarkably consistent, and none rated below 93. The 2014 is current and the 2015 is the next release. I didn’t taste the 2016 as its components were still in barrel.
The wine is always 100% estate-grown on the Pierro vineyard on Caves Road at Willyabrup (Pierro always gives it two Ls), immediately adjacent to the Willyabrup Brook. Most of the vines (95%, according to Pierro) are Gingin (Mendoza) clone. All vintages were barrel fermented and aged on their yeast lees and allowed to undergo a full malolactic fermentation.
These are rich, full-bodied, typical Margaret River chardonnays, normally weighing in at 14% alcohol and never slipping below 13.5. Not for Mike Peterkin the pared-back, restrained style which some makers are achieving by harvesting earlier at lower Baumé, and/or using newer clones instead of the region’s traditional Gingin clone.
They are generous, rich, almost opulent wines in classical Burgundy style, but they are not as full-blown – or as oaky – as the more old-fashioned Aussie chardonnays. It is fair to say that even those who espouse the rich, generous Margaret River chardonnay style (including Leeuwin Estate with its Art Series) have tightened and refined their chardonnays in recent years, without sacrificing the variety’s essential richness. Finally, the wines age superbly, assisted of course by their screw-caps.
Emphasising the consistency of these wines is the fact that when I do back-tastings such as this one, it usually happens that time has revealed some deficiencies in some vintages and opened up gaps in quality that may not have been apparent when the wines were young and full of youthful vigour. Not so, Pierro. All 10 wines rated either a gold or high silver ribbon, scoring between 93 and 95 with the current release 2014 rating 96.
I well remember Mike Peterkin’s earliest efforts with chardonnay in the early 1980s. They were vinified like any white wine of the day, cold fermented in stainless steel tanks. Dissatisfied, and after studying how chardonnay was made in Burgundy, Peterkin opted for in-barrel fermentation and ageing on lees, with full malolactic, and the transformation in the wines (beginning with the famous 1986) was immediate and stunning. Since then, the wine has established itself as Pierro’s flagship wine and one of Margaret River’s classic chardonnays.
As a postscript, a few words about Pierro’s second chardonnay, Fire Gully. This has been produced for many years and is always a good and well-priced wine in a lighter, fresher style, with less apparent oak. The fruit always comes from the separate Fire Gully property on Metricup Road only a kilometre from Pierro. It seems to me better than ever these days, and I rated the 2015 at 93 points. The new release coincides with a new label, which I think is an excellent design, distinctive and different.