Winemaker - Piggs Peake
Piggs Peake is a funny little wine company…
At the end of 2002 Steve Langham finished his winemaking degree at Charles Sturt University and decided it was time to have a go a running a wine company.
Steve had served his time in the cellars of Allandale Winery under the watchful eye of Bill Sneddon (who has been running Allandale for about 30 years now) and in his six vintages there worked as a grape picker, lab technician, cellar hand and then winemaker alongside famous industry names such as living legend Karl Stockhausen and Peter Orr. Steve often reflects on the day Bill offered him the winemaking role at Allandale.
Steve was employed by Piggs Peake to do the 2003 vintage as winemaker/general manager. Luckily 2003 was one of the great years and so the first release of wines were of very high quality.
Steve’s sister Linda joined the company soon after (that’s right, they are brother and sister not husband and wife) and quickly took over running the place which is why it runs so efficiently. It’s now a running joke at the winery that Steve is in charge.
Steve’s winemaking background at this point had been limited to the six years at Allandale which was a very traditional Hunter producer, but he wasn’t a person to follow tradition.
His first job out of High School was as a Chemical Engineering Cadet for BHP so he understood quite well the concepts of wine chemistry and how science might allow him to bend the wines stylistically.
In 2003 the first “left of centre” wine hit the shelf. It was a white dessert wine based on the German Ice Wine concept. Basically, Hunter Valley Semillon juice was freeze concentrated to mimic the effect of fruit freezing on the vine as it does in Germany. It was then fermented into wine and named I Swine.
In 2004 the dessert Zinfandel (the Suckling Pig) was first produced in an attempt to match wine with red fruits and chocolate. It was an instant hit, exciting chefs and sommeliers who tried it. This was followed up soon after by the bottling of the first Wolfie Zinfandel. The variety wasn’t completely unknown in Australia at this point, but it had a low profile. When the 2005 Wolfie was written up as the greatest Zinfandel ever made in Australia eyes turned towards the little Hunter winery. Then the 2005 Semillon and the 2004 Cabernet Merlot (Piggs Peake’s first Cabernet) were listed in Halliday’s Best of the Best section, the 2006 Cabernet Merlot was written up as the best in Australia and the winery was away.
Steve had made his point and stopped entering shows and sending samples to journalists and just focused on the winemaking at Piggs Peake.