Pierro was planted in 1980 by Dr Mike Peterkin, a Roseworthy graduate who was at the time making wine for the Cullens (it was whilst there that he was the first in Australia to make a Semillon Sauvignon Blanc blend.) He intended to specialise in Riesling, however a friend who was a nurseryman had been let down on a large order of Chardonnay and Mike took it from hum as a favour, with very fortuitous results.
Mike was anything but conventional when it came to establishing Pierro. In fact, in many areas of the vineyard he went completely against the customary methodology. While studying at Roseworth he was influenced by the alternative and somewhat unfashionable ideas of Richard Smart, an advocate of canopy management and the controlled use of irrigation to reduce vine stress. Much of what both men preached and acted out has now become standard practice in many Australian vineyards.
From day one he has had firm – and somewhat contrary – view on vineyard management. Although it still remains controversial, Mike is pro-irrigation, believing that its limited and sensible use in the vineyards brings improvements in much the same was as the careful use of refrigeration in the winery. He believes that the lack of water in the three months prior to harvest in Margaret river causes vines to close down for long periods during the day, Controlled watering, which averts this, will result in the finished wine having more aromas and flavour.
Unlike a number of other vineyards in the region he planted north-south orientated vine rows, which he judged would receive up to 20% more sunlight. He also introduced vines with half the normal width between the rows and two-thirds the breadth. This was to make the vines more competitive, balance their fruit yield and promote flavours intensity. Soil, aspect, and a high number of vines per hectare are the critical factors for achieving high quality at Pierro. The vines all face the sun on the mid-to low slopes of the rolling gravel hills formed by the dissecting creek system.
The soils are moderately deep laterite gravel with interspersed granite, over ancient base rock with friable pink clay merging into a shattered rock layer. These granite soils are some of the most open, warm and well drained in the area, allowing great root penetration and exploration.
Pierro was the original high-density vineyard planting in Margaret River and also one of the first in Australia. Vine density ranges from 4,000 to 5,500 vine per hectare, compared to conventional Australian vineyard of 1,900 per hectare. Mike emphasises the primacy of viticulture in determining wine quality. For him, winemaking involves team effort, with everything from pruning to hand-picking to bottling contributing to the character of the finished wine. here is a man who doesn’t crush grapes; he hugs them into the bottle! Mike also continues to develop the winery with state-of-the-art technology. The winemaking philosophy has always been to combine the traditional hand made techniques of the Old World with the modern technology of the New World Therefore all the fruit is picked carefully by hand and then chilled to 5 degrees centigrade before pressing to retain the fruit flavours and aromas. The fruit is then handled in the winery in small batches so each particular vineyard area can receive the attention it deserves.