When bushfires earlier this year wreaked havoc on winemakers across much of eastern Australia, Jim and Daisy Chatto knew how they felt, for their winery had suffered the same fate the year before. Smoke had settled on their beautiful 1.5ha Huon Valley vineyard overlooking Glazier’s Bay in Tasmania’s far south, irredeemably tainting all of the grapes awaiting harvest.
Jim, widely admired by his confreres, was able to secure pinot noir from Pipers River (the Bird Vineyard) and Tamar Valley (Marion’s Vineyard), and came up with three totally different wines. So happy has he been with the results, he will include the wines as part of his ongoing portfolio. What he didn’t do was emulate the legendary Maurice O’Shea at Mount Pleasant in the Hunter Valley by using pinot noir alongside shiraz.
Well before the bushfires, Jim and Daisy had planned a three-month stay in Burgundy to work with fellow Australian Jane Eyre, a winemaker at the celebrated Dominic Lafon domaine. Discussing the impact of the fires as they prepared to depart for France, Daisy said: “Why don’t we make some wine for Chatto?” After a moment’s hesitation, the answer was: “Why not?” The 2019 Premier Cru Red Burgundy they made in October last year will arrive here for release next April.
Were it not for Covid-19 the Chattos would be in Burgundy right now, fermenting a 2020 Gevrey Chambertin from a vineyard discovered and contracted last year. Jane Eyre is babysitting the grapes and will carry out fermentation à la Chatto’s instructions; she is coming to Tasmania next vintage to make pinot noir at the Chatto winery.
All of which has the Chattos thinking: why not New Zealand? Oregon and/or Sonoma? Planning for New Zealand is under way and they’re humming with excitement about the future. It’s a classic example of turning disaster into opportunity.
2019 Chatto White Label Pinot Noir
Sets the scene for its single vineyard siblings; indeed, for Tasmanian pinot noir of effortless purity and balance. The varietal expression of red/purple fruits and incipient spice is framed by a precisely judged glimpse of new oak and tannins. 13.5% alc, screwcap 96 points, drink to 2034, $45
2019 Chatto Bird Grey Label Pipers River Pinot Noir
The relatively light but bright colour announces an ultra-fragrant bouquet of red berries and rose petals, the elegant, light-bodied but intense palate with a hint of pomegranate and sour cherry. Its freshness is admirable, as it its length. 13% alc, screwcap 96 points, drink to 2029, $65
2019 Chatto Marion’s Grey Label Tamar Valley Pinot Noir
The strikingly deep crimson-purple colour is typical of Marion’s Vineyard and the Tamar Valley. It’s full-bodied and built for the long haul, plum and blackberry fruit coalescent with ripe tannins and oak. Balance is the key. 13.7% alc, screwcap 96 points, drink to 2039, $65