If you’ve never had a drink with PJ Charteris, you really must. He loves his wine and knows his onions. He’s worked with some of the true greats throughout a long career, and has lost none of that exuberant passion for the culture and enjoyment of the good juice.
Indeed, the way he brims with youthful enthusiasm could make you forget the length and breadth of his experience. “No matter what the variety, what the style, PJ has already been there and done it,” as James Halliday puts it. Who knew, for instance, that back in the day he was at the heart of the Yattarna project, lending his skill, judgment and vision to Penfolds’ ambition to compose Australia’s definitive Chardonnay?
This is a man who spent his early career roaming the globe, learning his craft with the likes of Lindemans in the Hunter Valley, Rouge Homme in Coonawarra, Knappstein in Clare, Adelsheim in Oregon, Flowers in California and Paul Jaboulet in the Rhône Valley. When he returned to Australia, he seized the opportunity to deepen his knowledge of regional and sub-regional diversity with Lindemans in Mildura and Penfolds in the Barossa. In 1999 he became winemaker at Brokenwood in the Hunter, where he furthered his reputation over 12 happy and distinguished years.
But his real love – besides wife, business partner and drinking pal Chrissi Pattison – is his homeland of New Zealand. It was with great joy and excitement that they kicked off their own label a decade ago. It’s no surprise that the wines marry the regional stamp of Bannockburn, Central Otago – its intensity, depth and personality – with a sense of swagger, purity and sheer drinkability.
It was a great pleasure for us to taste through the latest line-up with PJ and Chrissi a couple of weeks back. This comprises two brand-new releases – the 2014 rendition of the Astral Chardonnay and museum-release 2013 edition of Winter Pinot Noir – as well as the sublime Riesling and a Central Otago Pinot that boasts great poise and finesse, but not at the expense of charm and generosity.
2015 Charteris Hunt Vineyard Riesling RRP $37
I like the quote from a previous release that this riesling is meant to be “thirst quenching and thirst creating at the same time”. This 2015 release is made slightly drier than previous versions.
It boasts an incredibly long finish and bracing acidity – and yet it remains highly delicious, even smashable. It’s a great wine to drink. It tastes of grapefruit and lime, slate and spice, and the flavour it conjures and the length it parades send it straight into ‘exciting’ territory. A smidgen of sweetness helps counterbalance the acidity but there’s a whole lot more to this wine besides. 94 points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front October 2017
2014 Charteris Astral Vineyard Chardonnay RRP $53
It’s from the Bannockburn sub-region of Central Otago and it jumps straight into the wild side.
It’s concentrated. It’s a blaze of struck match funk. It has grapefruit and sweet lime, peach nectar and barley sugar. It explodes, it sizzles, it burns and it blooms. It can’t be pigeon-holed other than under the heading An Experience. It’s not-so-much sulphides soaked in water, as sulphides nestled in a spread of flavour. It all feels harmonious but it also feels a bit much, the latter likely a personal response only. 93 points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front October 2017
2014 Charteris Pinot Noir LUC RRP $44
Central Otago pinot noir from various blocks of the Winter Vineyard. This wine is not to be confused with the specific Charteris The Winter Vineyard release.
It feels just a little more serious, a little more structured than previous releases. It’s still a ripper wine to drink. Neat, fresh, composed, varietal; all those good things. Forest berries, spice, cloves and a snapped-twig element. Juicy. It’s in a really good place. The wine’s smoky, foresty heart is most appealing. 92 points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front October 2017
2013 Charteris Winter Vineyard Pinot Noir RRP $74
Charteris’ Winter Vineyard Pinot Noir has had an incredibly consistent run of high quality releases. Here’s another.
Bankable quality. It’s a long, stringy pinot with the flesh to match; always a fantastic combination. Nuts, herbs, forest berries, woodsmoke and a cocoa-like hit. Three years old but lively and fresh; you’d pick it as a much younger wine. There’s a subtle meatiness here too, florals even. I wouldn’t drink this now, I’d cellar it, and I’d expect big things. 95 points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front October 2017