East Coast Wine Trail

East Coast Wine Trail
East Coast Wine Trail

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Exciting times for leading Tasmanian pinot producers


These are exiting times for Tasmanian vignerons/negociants Jim and Daisy Chatto, who are leading lights in the cool-climate pinot noir sphere. 

Jim's contract as group winemaker at the recently sold McWilliam's Wines Group expired at the end of April, leaving him free to concentrate on his own vineyard in the Huon Valley, and his burgeoning business as a consultant across the island state. 

This year also marks the 20th vintage that the couple has made pinots under their own label - and they are currently releasing five new wines from the 2020 vintage as of May 1, with a further three to follow in August. 

Chatto's reputation - he was Gourmet Traveller WINE winemaker of the year in 2019 - means he is able to source some of the most-sought-after fruit in the Apple Isle to complement the wines from his own Isle Vineyard, overlooking the Huon River in the deep south of Tasmania. 

Chatto's CV stretches through Tamburlaine, First Creek and Pepper Tree in the Hunter and includes an early spell at Rosevears Estate in Tasmania. He made his first wine under the Chatto label using fruit from the Glengarry vineyard in the Tamar Valley two decades ago - and the Glengarry grapes again feature in his new releases. 

Daisy Chatto, meanwhile, is a native Tasmanian and former trade marketing co-ordinator for Brokenwood Wines. 

The pair moved to the Huon just over a decade ago - building a beautiful sustainable home overlooking the vines - with Jim commuting regularly between Tasmania and the various McWilliam's vineyards. 

"Now I can concentrate completely on our own vineyard - and the fruit that comes in from our grower friends, as well as doing some consulting," says Chatto, a leading wine show judge and renowned palate. 

The Chatto Wines range starts with the entry level lutruwita blend ($45), a melange of fruit from the north and east of the state that includes no fewer than five different clones. It is a wine of amazing weight and texture; with intensity, and plushness to ensure it is immediately accessible. lutruwita is the indigenous word for Tasmania,

Then comes the "Grower" range of four remarkable different pinots (all $65): Bird from a vineyard at Pipers River planted by regional pioneer Andrew Pirie; Glengarry, from an East Tamar vineyard planted in 1991 that Chatto first sourced fruit from over two decades ago; Marion's, planted in 1979 on the West Tamar (one of the oldest plantings in the state); and Max Kitchell's Seven Inch, a micro vineyard that lies 750 metres from Isle and produces tiny quantities of stunning fruit. 

Bird is the choice for lovers of elegant, Burgundy-style pinots, bright and ethereal; Seven Inch is the other early-access wine choice, spicy and beautifully balanced. These were my personal favourites. 

For those with patience, Glengarry offers purity and a slatey minerality, while the Marion's is altogether, bigger, darker and gutsier with 10% whole bunch and a long way to go. 

The August releases will comprise the two estate wines: the brooding, intense Isle ($90) and the blackcurranty Intrigue ($70), made using eight different clones and named after a famous racing yacht that was built on the property that now houses the Chatto winery and cellar door (open by appointment only).  

They will line up alongside (of course) a pinot noir from Savigny-le-Beaune that Chatto made with French-based Australian Jane Eyre in Burgundy in 2019 (above). 

There is also a side project, Mania, in conjunction with Nicholas Crampton and Fourth Wave Wines. 

Pinot noir will continue to be the focus, although Chatto is not ruling out making a chardonnay "for family and friends". 

"It is good to get your head under the bonnet and specialise in one grape variety," he says. "But there will always be a big range. If you only make one variety then you have to offer people a choice of styles."

The current range is the culmination of 25 years of winemaking experience and six years of searching for the perfect site for the home vineyard. 

Planting began in 2007 and the first vintage from 2012 was released in 2013 to immediate acclaim. Many Chatto wines sell out soon after release. Hesitate and you miss out.  

Chatto already helps out some Tasmanian producers with advice, but says he still has "room on his dance card for consultancy work". Along with time to spend with the couple's two young daughters.

For full details see www.chattowines.com/

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