MARGARET RIVER WINEMAKER, NIC PETERKIN, BELIEVES ART, SCIENCE AND A LITTLE LUCK ARE THE KEY INGREDIENTS FOR CREATING THE PERFECT DROP.
Nic Peterkin is the vivacious 31-year-old behind L.A.S Vino wine label. A third-generation wine producer, Nic has impressive origins; his mother Shelley is from the Cullen family of Cullen Wines, while his father Michael is a doctor turned vigneron, who founded Pierro vineyard at Margaret River. “Wine was always at the table when we were having dinner, especially with my grandmother, Di [Cullen], when we would go there for Sunday dinners,” he recalls. “Even from the age of five I would smell the wine and guess what it was.” And now the young winemaker hopes to take his own unique brand of wine around the world. Much of Nic’s childhood was spent working in the vineyard and winery at Pierro, earning pocket money over summer breaks. “Looking back at it, it was quite fun and you learn all these base skills so when it comes to the point where I am now, it’s second nature,” he says. Rather than return to the family business, Nic completed a Bachelor of Science and Commerce with hopes to move into finance and banking. However, in his final year a lecturer cautioned him against it as a career due to the financial crisis of 2007–2008. Instead, Nic travelled the world twice and between overseas stints, returned home to Pierro to make wine and save money. He completed a Masters in oenology at Adelaide University when he was 27. “I really enjoyed it, particularly the chemistry of it and being around people that were so passionate about wine,” he says. Nic worked the vintage at Truchard Vineyards in California as well as Casa Madero in Mexico. “I came home with an urge to experiment and try ideas that I’d learnt from other winemakers,” he says. It was at a small wine bar in Parras, Mexico, that he stumbled upon the concept for his own label. He and his friend Oscar were engaged in a heated discussion about the virtues of Australian versus Mexican wine before they eventually agreed that it takes luck, art and science to create the perfect drop. “Luck. Art. Science… L.A.S Vino!” Nic declared, and came home in 2013 on a mission to imbue wine with lashings of personality. Quality was first and foremost and Nic was fortunate that there was an oversupply of grapes at Margaret River at the time. “It was all about getting >
really good fruit and making different flavours and small production,” he explains. He produced two hundred dozen of three batches from the 2013 vintage. “At first I had enough family and friends to buy it out of sympathy but then they came back asking for more and so I thought, ‘This probably isn’t sympathy anymore!’” Before long leading restaurants like Rockpool and Nomad in Sydney were asking to stock the wine, as well as distributors, both here and overseas. And just three years after launching his label, Nic won the 2016 Gourmet Traveller Young Winemaker of the Year. “Once you create something that’s really high quality and a little bit different you get pull. I’ve always tried to make wine that I think I would enjoy drinking: like the Albino Pinot, which is strawberries and cream in a bottle, or the Portuguese Pirate, which is a blend of three Portuguese varieties.” Nic has been based on the coast of WA at Wilyabrup for the past three years and is home from November through to June. For the rest of the year he is on the road doing wine tastings and promoting L.A.S Vino. “I love the flexibility of having my own business and flying around to meet people is really cool,” he admits. “I would never get that experience working in finance.” L.A.S Vino is made at Pierro with minimal intervention and Nic plays with different varieties such as the pinot noir that is actually a white wine with chardonnay in it. “Creativity is the big draw, being able to experiment and see it all the way through to the person drinking it. I love hearing that it’s interesting and delicious,” he adds. After a decade of travel, Nic appreciates a quiet weekend at home spent surfing, cooking with friends or indulging in another great love — photography. “I enjoy Margaret River because there’s less of everything, not more. It’s the subtleties of life that draw you in and until this year I’ve never had to put an address on anything , just my name and they’d get my mail to me. You can go for a run on the beach or surf and there’s no-one there. That’s the appeal.” Life it seems has come full circle: “I had always associated winemaking with hot days in the vineyard or cleaning floors in the winery. I never saw the romantic side of it. Then I found another perspective; building a business up from the ground, talking to the growers, developing blends, getting people to try the wine — the whole process — as well as the hard physical work. I found it actually fits me perfectly; creativity mixed with science, business and travel. This is a perfect career!”