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Margaret River winemaker's 'albino' wine

L.A.S Vino's Nic Peterkin creates wines based on the flavours he wants, instead of beginning with the grape

The Margaret River wine region in Western Australia is typically known for its cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, chardonnay and blends of sauvignon blanc and semillon.

But one renegade winemaker from the region, Mr Nic Peterkin of L.A.S Vino, is flipping the script and forging his own path, with the likes of Albino PNO (a pinot noir- chardonnay blend) and The Pirate Blend NV (made with three Portugese grape varieties).

The 31-year-old comes from a line of famous Margaret River winemakers. His father is Mr Mike Peterkin of Pierro and his maternal grandmother is Ms Diana Cullen of Cullen Wines.

But his wines are distinctly different from his family's, or anyone else's in the region, for that matter.

He says: "I had a dream to make wine and to create flavours that people weren't exploring in Margaret River."

For instance, there is the delicious Albino PNO, which is not quite a rose, despite its salmon hue.

Mr Peterkin, who has a master's degree in oenology and worked on his family's properties, says: "Mostly with wine, you start at the beginning with the grape and you have an idea about how you can best express that grape.


Mr Nic Peterkin, who is from the Margaret River wine region, uses different grape varieties from other winemakers and exports internationally instead of selling from a cellar door. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

"But I started at the opposite end, with the flavour, where I said I wanted to create strawberries and cream in a glass ," he says.

So he used pinot noir and chardonnay grapes.

He explains: "How do you create strawberries? If you pick pinot noir early, you get the acidity and aroma of strawberries. How do you get cream? If chardonnay goes through malolactic (secondary) fermentation, it turns from malic to lactic acid, or the acid of milk.

"If you put it into new oak, you can sometimes get vanilla, and if you leave in the yeast and stir that in-barrel, you get a creaminess," he says of his method.

While he acknowledges that he is probably not the first person to do this, he points out that in another famous wine region, Champagne in France, blending pinot noir and chardonnay is done all the time to create champagne.

"So why shouldn't that work for a dry white?" he asks.

It is all part of the ethos of his brand, L.A.S Vino. L.A.S stands for luck, art and science.

"You really need to know the rules before you can break them," he says.

Even the way he operates his wine business, which he started five years ago, is rule-breaking and unconventional.

When he started, he wrote a list of everything that was traditional and expected in Margaret River wine and Australian wine.

"Everybody owns his own vineyard and winery, makes only traditional varieties of the same wine every year, has a cellar door and puts his name on the label," he says. "On each one of those things, I wrote the opposite of that."

Hence, he decided to get grape varieties different from what everyone was using and, instead of selling from a cellar door, he decided to export internationally.

He likens it to "the Airbnb of making wine" as he does not own a winery. Instead, he uses grapes from other vineyards and the excess space of wineries to make his wines.

"I don't have any assets, but I use the excess capacity and what's already there," he says. "It's risky, but you're also not competing with anybody."

Details are everything for Mr Peterkin, who says his parents are supportive of his unconventional methods.

"People often ask what's the one thing that's important in winemaking, but there isn't one thing," he says.

Unlike mass-produced wines, he handpicks grapes, chills the fruit after picking, sorts them by hand and even hand-stirs the barrels.

"So it's completely different from a wine that's been machine-harvested, put in a dump truck, with the maximum amount of juice squeezed out of each grape, adding in additives and then pushed out in volume," he adds.

To keep things handcrafted, he makes only 200 dozen bottles of each wine.

Other wines in his range include the CBDB, or Chenin Blanc Dynamic Blend; Chardonnay and a Barossa Valley Syrah.

L.A.S Vino wines are distributed here by Bottles & Bottles (www.bottlesandbottles.com.sg), which has stores islandwide, including in Parkway Parade and Raffles Place. The wines range in price from $56 for the Albino PNO 2016 to $74 for the Chardonnay.

Ultimately, Mr Peterkin is in pursuit of authenticity, which he says is characteristic of the new wave of Australian wines.

"People want a reflection of who they are in what they drink and my wines aren't the kind you just glug," he says. "There's more to them and I want people to think and feel when they drink my wines."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 11, 2017, with the headline 'Renegade winemaker'. Print Edition | Subscribe