Steve Langham certainly knows his clientele & how to keep them happy!……..
The Piggs Peake cellar door is as quirky as the wines it nurtures and there never seems to be a slow day. Maybe it is the grunter greeter at the front door… Maybe it is that Steve and his team have a deft hand at keeping the atmosphere lively with visits out back to see what is in the tank or barrel a regular occurrence… Maybe it is that this wine maker is unashamed of making juicy reds that the term big still cannot encapsulate while still remaining true to his white winemaker roots producing fresh drinking whites that can also spend time in the cellar.
It would be hard to find at least one wine in this stable, er … sty .. that you don’t like, from the crisp dry Marsanne to his velvety Pygmalion (Petit Verdot) or monster Wolfie Zinfandel (truly a monster at 17%) through to the crowd pleasing sweeter styled Pigbrusco or the rich dessert wine, Suckling Pig Shiraz. There is a smörgåsbord of styles and varieties to choose from.
While the alcohol levels for some of the red wines tend towards the highest I have seen at 17%, Steve has managed to produce wines that retain fresh fruit flavours while many other high alcohol reds have a tendency to have dead, dried out fruit. And Piggs’ regulars love them! The big Piggs Peake reds have fresh vibrant fruit and refreshing balance. I would drink the high voltage end of the wine menu young to enjoy this balancing act, probably with some succulent steaks or a slab of cheddar style cheese.
Every time I visit Piggs Peake there is always something exciting on the ferment. Last time there was a Werewolf Zinfandel in creation, this time I got to taste some soon to be released concoctions including a Zinfandel blend (it just needs time to integrate the oak some more). There have been several new additions in recent years, Steve confesses that he hates to be bored in the winery and keeps his range fresh by sourcing grapes from other regions within Australia as well as the Hunter Valley, including Mudgee, Orange and McLaren Vale.
Interestingly, Steve told me he produced a 2006 barbera which he believed was the beginning of a fine new inclusion to the range. Sadly, it was more of a visitor as it did not sell well. Over the last few years however, requests for a barbera have been coming in as it is proving itself to be rather more-ish. Hopefully, he might be convinced to do a repeat perform now.
The new additions include the Hunter Valley Pigsblood 2012, a juicy fruit combo of Chambourcin and Shiraz that fills your mouth with very soft jubey berries but is held together with grainy tannins along its long length. Also new is the Pressed Ham Tempranillo from Orange with its rich and spicy charcuterie characters complemented with dark plum and cherry fruit and more than a sprinkle of pepper.
You will rarely find Piggs Peake in your local bottle shop, you might find it on a wine list at your favourite restaurant though. Piggs Peake is one of those small wineries that rely on its cellar door club for its sales. The Lucky Swines Club offers discounts and free delivery plus plenty of other perks and events and has a very loyal membership. There are a number of good Hunter Valley cellar door clubs to be part of and if you love their wines, then The Lucky Swines Club is one of them.
You will find the Piggs Peake cellar door on Hermitage Road amongst what seems to be the fastest growing cellar door clusters in the Hunter Valley. If you are visiting as a group, you certainly should book a time for your visit. Club door club members are often taken out back into the tank room for previews of new vintages and private tastings. This is one busy, and welcoming, tasting room. Although, it is about to get some more needed space in the near future.
Other wines to taste while you are there –
Piggs Peak 2013 Sows Ear Semillon – a crisp ripe grapefruit, lemon and mineral driven style of semillon. Steve likes ripeness in his semillons and this wine has presence, a solid character that is long on the finish. Drink this semillon young or with some short to mid term cellaring.
Piggs Peak 2013 Silk Purse Verdelho – it is good to see verdelho still going strong in the Hunter and this is a pretty one, ripe with stonefruit, pineapple & floral scents but there is a minerally edge. This is a fresh acid style that keeps the lushness balanced. Having tasted it against the 2007, there is certainly cellaring potential here. The 2007 is showing a little waxy development but it is still in its youth.
Piggs Peake 2013 Wiggly Tail Marsanne – a Hunter Valley marsanne that has fresh pear and blossom at its core wrapped with some savoury nut dimension. Added silkiness gives texture and complexity to this elegantly bodied white. Drink it now or put it down in the cellar and don’t bring it up again for at least 5 years or so to enjoy its journey.
Piggs Peake 2013 Pinot Piggio – A Pinot Grigio that is big in flavour with texture, soft acid and ripe white and stonefruit. It is a food wine to enjoy now with seared scallops atop a bed of rocket salad and a sprinkle of crispy chorizo strips.
Piggs Peake 2013 Five Spice GT – GT = gewürztraminer and this one is from Cargo Road (Orange). Resplendent roses, Turkish Delight and tropical lychee are the hallmark of the variety and, in the Five Spice GT, flow from the nose to the palate. A drier style, balanced and long.
Piggs Peake 2013 Cabernet Rosed Pork – a rich offdry strawberry and cream rose. A silky, polished wine that beguiles on its way down. Kick back and relax or take it along to enjoy at that Thai BYO place on the corner.
Piggs Peake 2012 Pygmalion – a velvety petit verdot with a purple hue. Cedar, pepper and black fruit swirl in the glass. Full bodied with powdery tannins and McLaren Vale ripeness makes it a great candidate for some wild boar sausages fresh from the BBQ.
Piggs Peake House of Sticks 2008 Cabernet Merlot – A bold juicy red that offers a youthful mouthful of soft fruited ripe plum, cedar and tobacco. Spicy oak supports the sappy tannins and fresh acid. There is a charcuterie edge on the palate. Enjoy now or cellar some more.
Piggs Peake House of Bricks 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon – there is some merlot to fill out the palate here, not that it needed much help. Rich chocolate, earth, nutmeg and blackcurrant on the nose melds with some additional vanilla spice on the palate. A succulent, bold and generous blend that is ripe and spicy. Enjoy now or cellar some more.
Piggs Peake 2012 Wolfie Zinfandel – Powerful is almost an understatement when talking about this wine that follows the style enjoyed in the United States. The plum, cherry, cloves, pepper and tobacco aromas are hard to miss. A big big full bodied style that is balanced and has an elegance to it and an intriguing Earl Grey Tea finish. Drink while youthful to enjoy this balance of power and freshness.
Piggs Peake Suckling Pig Shiraz – Love shiraz? Need something unique to enjoy with your chocolatey dessert? This is a dessert style shiraz that has a loyal following. Fully sweet with the fleshy body of the variety that means that you can now have your cake and drink it too! Rich berry fruit flows from the front of the palate along the length that finishes fresh. A hedonistic Australian classic!
(Photos : top – winemaker Steve Langham, centre – pigs feature heavily at the Piggs Peake Cellar Door, bottom – drop in to see Garry Wrench at cellar door)