Savannah Peterson’s key role in 41-year-old wine dynasty’s diverse business

THIRD GENERATION: Savannah Peterson, who runs Savannah Estate, conducts a tasting at the cellar door.

HER name first appeared on a label at the age of five and now Savannah Peterson has become the third generation of her family with a key role in one of the Hunter's most admired, diverse and sophisticated wine businesses.

The daughter of Judy and Colin Peterson and grand-daughter of Petersons founders Ian and Shirley, Savannah has been steeped in the world of wine since she was a child.

In 2000 her dad created a Savannah label and today she runs the 41-year-old wine dynasty's Savannah Estate arm.

Growing up and during school at St Joseph's College Lochinvar and New England Girls' School at Armidale, Savannah was immersed in the rote of vineyards, vintages and the winery.

After a stint in the family firm, she took the customary youthful overseas trip, which included a job in Ireland in a Galway wine bar. That was cut short by COVID-19, bringing her home in 2020 to pick up the reins of the Savannah operation in close collaboration with Petersons' much-admired winemaker Gary Reed, who this year notches up his 50th vintage. With Gary, Savannah has built a varied offering of Hunter, Mudgee and New England table wines, bubblies and fortifieds.

The Petersons' saga began in 1964 when Toronto pharmacist Ian Peterson and Shirley bought a Mount View hobby farm. They had little interest in wine but that changed in the 1970s when farm rates climbed and they reacted by planting vines to defray costs.

Initially crops were sold to makers like Ed Jouault, who created Allandale Hunter Wine Show trophy wines with the fruit.

Buoyed by this the Petersons in 1981 decided to start their own wine brand and build a small winery. Also, in what proved greatly fortuitous, they hired Gary Reed as their winemaker.

In 1987 Petersons burst onto the national and international scene in the Qantas Wine Cup, a contest between Australian and US wines in which their 1986 chardonnay and a Californian entry were joint champions.

Then in 1989 the wine again triumphed with the best chardonnay trophy at the National Wine Show in Canberra.

A host of other awards have followed and since Petersons had its 20th birthday in 2001, Ian and Shirley's son Colin and his wife Judy have spread company's wings beyond the foundation 16 hectares of premium Hunter Mount View vines with the 52.6-hectare Glenesk vineyard at Mudgee and a 10-hectare vineyard, cellar door and guest house at the historic Palmerston estate at Armidale.

Now there's a new chapter called Savannah in the success story.



THE 15.4% alcohol, deep purple, bouquet garni-scented Savannah Estate 2018 Hunter Valley Premium Shiraz and other wines are at and the 312 Mount View Rd cellar. This big red has intense, ripe plum front-palate flavour, middle palate rhubarb, bramble jelly, mint chocolate and mocha oak and a finish of chalky tannins.

PRICE: $70.

DRINK WITH: roast pork.

AGEING: 10 years.

RATING: 5 stars (out of 6)


THIS Savannah Estate 2021 Mudgee Marsanne is pale straw and has passionfruit aromas and plush pear front-palate flavour. The middle shows custard apple, mixed peel and sherbet and the finish has slatey acid. Marsanne's spiritual home is France's northern Rhone area, but it has a long Australian history dating back to Victoria in the 1800s.

PRICE: $27.

DRINK WITH: quiche.

AGEING: four years.

RATING: 4 stars


PETERSONS is renowned for chardonnay and the Savannah Estate 2018 Hunter Valley Chardonnay upholds that quality. Shining brassy gold in the glass, it has honeysuckle and macadamia scents and expressive yellow nectarine front-palate flavour. The middle shows fig, lemon curd, nougat and cashew oak and flinty acid refreshes at the finish.

PRICE: $27.

DRINK WITH: crabcakes.

AGEING: seven years.

RATING: 5 stars

By John Lewis

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