Blind devotion

Proud Peel Estate Winery head winemaker Will Nairn. Picture: Elle Borgward www.communitypix.com.au d407629
Proud Peel Estate Winery head winemaker Will Nairn. Picture: Elle Borgward www.communitypix.com.au d407629

Peel Estate’s 2007 Old Vine Shiraz took out the number one spot and trumped the 2007 vintage of Penfolds Grange, which sells for about $600 a bottle, at the 22nd Annual Peel Estate Wines Great Shiraz Tasting on Saturday.

The $290-a-head event, which sold out within the first few weeks of advertising, brought 112 people to the vineyard for a meal and blind tasting of 20 of the best shiraz in Australia, Italy and France.

Participants were asked to rate their top three wines of the day and Peel’s own drop came out on top.

Peel Estate Shiraz and Penfolds Grange are the only two wines to have featured in every single tasting.

This year, $4900 was spent for the tasting just on buying Grange.

Peel Estate head winemaker Will Nairn started making wine at the age of 40 after deciding to stop farming lucerne on his Baldivis property and instead plant vines. He had no formal winemaking training or experience. The risk paid off ” in 2009, he celebrated his 30th vintage.

His 40-year-old shiraz vines are the second oldest in WA, a fact he said played no small part in the taste of the wine.

Karnup’s limestone soil, proximity to the ocean, temperate climate and high quality groundwater also contribute.

‘As the vines get older, they improve; we won best WA red in 1970/1980 and these new ones are better,’ he said.

‘I started planting shiraz vines in 1972 and the first planted in the South-West were in ’68 and ’69.

‘Then everyone was planting cabernet as Margaret River was considered to be very Bordeaux-like.’

In fact, WA’s reputation as a popular cabernet growing region has pushed shiraz to the sidelines, a lucky strike for buyers as it keeps prices down, unlike those sold in shiraz-centric South Australia.

But despite the wine’s great success in Saturday’s tasting, Mr Nairn was humble about the result.

‘It’s not a competition, it’s just an appreciation,’ he said.

‘As long as it’s made it and it looks good, if the wine is voted first or 10th, it doesn’t bother me.’

The top 6 2007 Shiraz:

1st Peel Estate Old Vine
2nd Jim Barry The Armagh
3rd Penfolds Grange
4th Torbreck Run Rig
5th Cape Mentelle
6th Henschke Hill of Grace