Sip Your Style

SIP YOUR STYLE ARTICLE  –  By Jackie Helliker

Posted on 1st December 2011


The winemaking process is intricate, sensitive and involved. A great winemaker ensures that the stylish sip that ends up in your glass is at its best, delicious and is reflective of the individual grape variety and the environment where it is grown. The key role of the winemaker is to nurture the little berries from the vineyard to your glass, whilst converting the juice into wine and ensuring preservation of natural characteristics, balance and great style is achieved.

Peter James Charteris, or better known to most as PJ (after knowing PJ personally for over five years I had to actually ask someone what PJ stands for) is one such winemaker renowned for his winemaking skill and style. Voted by his peers in 2010 as Hunter Valley Winemaker of the Year, PJ is a passionate, articulate and dedicated industry contributor and figure. For the past 12 years, PJ was winemaker at the highly regarded Hunter Valley winery Brokenwood Wines. PJ has an impressive history in the wine industry both locally and globally, and is well respected as a senior judge at wine shows around Australia. Now, PJ looks forward to his new challenge, as owner and winemaker of his own label, Charteris Wines. 

Charteris Wines currently makes pinot noir only and sources the delicate grapes from Central Otago, New Zealand, (chardonnay and riesling fans, watch this space!). The production is small yet elite; producing 140 dozen and retailing for $60 per bottle, with the second vintage to be released soon.

So how does one decide the right time to leave one of the country’s most reputable wineries to go it alone? “Essentially it came down to the right time to focus more energy and time into Charteris Wines,” explained PJ. “Christina (my partner) and I were ready for a change in lifestyle. We believed it was the right time to take on a new challenge as a family.” PJ and Christina are the proud parents of a young daughter, Sienna.

PJ and I discussed the philosophy behind Charteris Wines and how he chose the location in New Zealand to source his pinot noir fruit.  “Being a Kiwi I have always had a strong attachment to pinot noir,” said PJ. “We found this vineyard from which we could source some really high quality pinot, and away we went.” The style PJ is aiming for is elegant and subtle in its nature, based more on complexity and elegance rather than powerful characters. “We are looking for something with complexity at its core, and real elegance,” PJ added.

When PJ sips in style it depends entirely on what mood as to where you might find him, and of course, what you might find in his glass. “Depending on the time of day or the mood, dictates whether we are drinking mojitos, or a nice glass of champagne or a beautiful glass of Charteris pinot noir. As for where, it would be anywhere with my wife Christina and baby Sienna.”

Since style is such a vital component of a winemaker’s expression, I asked PJ what style meant to him, “style is something that never changes, great style will always be great style whereas fashion is something that comes and goes and changes from day to day. If I can reflect real style in my wines, I think that is something people will respect and seek – and will hopefully give our label some real longevity and a life of its own,” PJ elaborated.

When asked which wine variety he would most resemble, he not surprisingly quickly responded with pinot noir, “because great pinot noir always has elegance, sophistication and complexity, but most important of all, approachability,” said PJ. A lot of top qualities to live up to – but if anyone is good for it, it’s PJ.

Look out for Charteris Wines on wine lists in exquisite restaurants such as Rockpool Bar and Grill, Tetsuya’s and Otto Ristorante (all Sydney). Or contact PJ and Christina directly at [email protected]. Otherwise, quality wine retailers such as Ultimo Wine Centre and Annandale Cellars in Sydney will help you get a splash of this fine drop in your glass, and for Melbourne folk, try City Wine Shop.

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