James Halliday, The Weekend Australian Magazine September 23-24 2017
Jim Chatto has a razor sharp palate, a quicksilver mind and an outgoing personality. There are other winemakers in Australia with similar talents, but none has the X-factor of being able to turn the impossible internality, and keep everyone in the loop happy.
Chatto is now chief winemaker of McWilliam’s Wine Group and Kreglinger Wine Estates (Pipers Brook) and co-owner with his wife Daisy of his eponymous Tasmanian vineyard, which is as tiny (866 dozen) as McWilliams is large, with Pipers Brook in between at 70,000 dozen.
There was a time was when the large wineries would not tolerate any of their winemakers making wine on their own behalf, no matter how small. But chief winemaker for two major wine groups and his own family venture? It’s truly without precedent.
The other day Chatto launched the ’16 Chatto pinot noir, the Huon Valley White Label and the Isle Black Label, tossing yet more balls into the air. The four-course degustation lunch pitted Chatto (’13) and Chatto Isle (’14 and ’15) in a blind tasting against Grand Cru and Premier Cru burgundies of Mongeard-Mugneret.
He came away a happy yet humble man, saying:”I’m just at the start of a long journey. I know that I’ll make better wines as I absorb the multitude of lessons and experience year on year. Even more, I know by the time my daughters are was old as I am now, they’ll be making better wines than those of today,”
Chatto only has 1.5ha of vines, with two clones (777 and 115) on the best soil going to the estate based Isle Black Label. The other part has eight clones, supplemented by yet more in the form of very small amounts of contract-grown fruit for the White Label – including the Abel clone (5% of the total volume of this wine), which has Chatto buzzing with excitement. His children had better keep a close eye on the old man.
Review 2016 Isle Pinot Noir
Cherry and plum both contribute to the bouquet. The palate is altogether serious, with a remarkable mouthful built around the foundation of precisely calibrated tannins and hints of forest. Great purity and intensity.
98 Points; to 2031
HuonHooke.com – Huon Hooke 4 September 2017
2016 Isle Pinot Noir
A lightly smoky aroma with black and red cherry nuances beneath. The texture is silky soft and gentle, beautifully balanced. There is sweet fruit in the middle and a delicate but intense and quite firm structure. Plenty of supple, ripe tannins. The balance and texture are what distinguish it. It’s not especially concentrated but certainly a lovely pinot. Like the white label, I suspect it will grow in stature with a little time in bottle. (Jim Chatto rates 2016 his best Tasmanian vintage to date.)
95 Points; to 2022
The Winefront – Campbell Mattinson 28 July 2017.
2016 Isle Pinot Noir
This is the famous Chatto Black Label Pinot Noir, for your eyes only, or Isle Vineyard by it more formal name. It’s in a standard 750ml bottle, of course, stated as 0.75L: so euro. The back label says that its from “a tiny vineyard in far south Tasmania”. It then has the tagline “making serious pinot fun”, which I reckon they could lose, especially given that these Chatto wines are fast becoming established in the very top tier of Australian wine. This will be released on August 1. Expect a stampede.
If this doesn’t mature into a super, super wine then I’m a monkey’s uncle. It’s seriously good gear, built to age. It’s strung tight, it’s spokes of tannin spinning through dry liquorice, sour cherry, musk, crushed dry spices and herbs, it’s ripeness served cool but complete. Sweetness and savouriness share the melting pot. Nothing is mushy and yet everything is in it’s rightful place. It’s best drinking years are some ways off but there’s no need for guesswork: everything is clearly laid out and arranged; tasting it now is like observing the mis en place of a master.