Nov
18

Peter Simic: Founder of Winestate Magazine

Winestate magazine is the southern hemisphere’s definitive guide to wine and was founded in 1978 by Peter Simic and is Australia’s oldest wine publication. Peter himself was in Hong Kong at the time of the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair to actually showcase a wine that he himself makes on a small 8 acre plot of land situated south of the McLaren Vale called Parawa Estate.

Amongst other things it is Australia’s most expensive wine (it retails at around US$1,100 a bottle) and only 2400 bottles of Parawa Ingalalla Grand Reserve 2007 have been made. It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and, although probably a wine that I will most likely never be able to afford myself, it’s a bloody nice drop of wine! Heralded by Andrew Corrigan MW as deserving “to be placed among the great Cabernets of the world”” it is indeed a fine wine and fits the title given to it by its owners as a wine that is “French Style, Australian Character”.

We sat down with Peter to talk to him about the origins of Winestate magazine and in the process had a taste of the wine and thus, conversation meandered into the wine itself. Here’s what Peter himself had to say:

WTHK: What was the inspiration for creating Winestate magazine?

PS: “I was manager of the South Australian Wine Information Bureau for three years prior to starting Winestate in the mid-70’s. At the time it was the beginning of wine education with Len Evans who had started the Wine Information Bureau (WIB) in every city and they brought in young turks like me to launch this wine education program. I was lucky because back then we had winemakers like Max Schubert, Peter Lehman, Brian Barry and John Vickery who came in and did lectures for our students and it was a great way to learn first-hand from great winemakers at the time. I did offer the WIB to do a magazine called Winestate back then but they said it was never going to work, so a year later I did it myself and it did work! Here we are 35 years later”!

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WTHK: Where did the love of wine originally stem from?

PS: “Well my parents were European, my mother German and my father Yugoslav Serbian and we drank wine at home a bit. As a young guy I liked wine and I worked in marketing and I guess the two just came together. At that time it was mainly Sherries and ports being drunk; Chardonnay was only just coming in, Cabernet was not so big – it was mainly Shiraz. It was amazing, but the early days of the Australian wine trade”.

WTHK: Your work both print and on line, but where do you see the future?

PS: “Of course online is the future with the modern technology we have these days, we can’t deny that. But the future lies with the ‘good people’. There are a million bloggers out there that are ‘experts’ and there is a place for good bloggers – but they have to be good. In the future the market will sort out who is good and who is not good”.

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WTHK: How do you assess the state of the Australian wine market in Asia at the moment?

PS: “Personally I think Australia has been slow to come into Hong Kong and China, they took the easy route going into the UK and America because they are English speaking. I give great credit to the Chinese students who went to Australia, did their studies, became passionate ambassadors for Australian wine and Australia is very lucky that these students carried the flag for Australian wine in Asia. In the last few years Australians have realised they have to be present in Asia – and credit to the French, they realised that a long time ago – and fortunately in the last five years there has been a rapid growth in the popularity of Australian wine in the region. I believe in the next five years Australia will overtake France as the number one wine in Hong Kong and China in terms of volume because Australian wines suit the food here and the palate of the people here better”.

WTHK: So the Parawa Estate. Tell me a little more about it.

PS: “As I said; my wine magazine is my wife and the wine is my girlfriend and they both give me a lot of trouble! Although the wine is very young from a vineyard point of view, when I was manager of the wine bureau 38 years ago I did some research on the best regions of South Australia to grow vines. Parawa weather station was one of these regions I found to have great potential. In the late 1990’s Professor Gladstone did a study of viticulture and the environment and found that, south of McLaren Vale there was the potential to make great Bordeaux style wines. We became the source vineyard that sold to nurseries and we ended up with 38 clones for just 8 acres. It was an experimental vineyard to start off with. We planted in 2001 and in 2007 we thought ‘wow, this is really good’ so we put the wine for 4 years in oak! This wine now is made up of 16 clones – 5 Cabernet Sauvignon, 5 Merlot, 4 Cabernet Franc, 2 Petit Verdot and 2 Malbec. So it’s a very complex assemblage! What made the decision to release it as a Grand Reserve was we put it in a Winestate blind tasting against Lafite 2007, Latour 2006, Mouton 2007 and Margaux 2007 and it scored higher than all of them”!

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WTHK: What does the future hold for Parawa Estate?

PS: “We made a Syrah in 2008 because it was a hot year – that has a little bit of Petit Syrah in it as well. We did not do an Ingalalla 08 or 09 but we do have the 2010 in barrel which we are still looking at and will leave for probably another 6 months and if we decide too “declare” the vintage it will not be available until 2015. Funnily enough 2010 was an exceptional year for Cabernet, as it was for Syrah – but the same decision applies, if we declare that wine it also won’t be available until 2015. We will only release wines under our two prestige lables  when we feel that the wine is truly worthy. Fortunately my wife looks after me very well; so mu girlfriend has to be on her best behaviour”!

For more information you can e-mail Parawa Estate on info@parawaestate.com.au or visit their website www.parawaestate.com.au