PJ Charteris and his wife, Chrissi, from Charteris Wines, are our favourite Pinot Palooza power couple. Not only do they make absolutely banging wines over in Central Otago, but they’re vibrant, fun and just great to hang out with (that’s both the wines and the winemakers!). If you were at Sydney’s event in 2017, Chrissi was the one dancing and singing along to Valerie, played by the Hot Potato Band.
PJ has been making wine for 30+ years, and has been in Central for the last 10 of those. The business is very much a hands-on, whole family affair, run by PJ and Chrissi, their two young kids, two dogs (Archie the Groodle and Manu the Staffy) three guinea pigs, two goldfish and a 17-year-old cat named Puku. Puku, who is the sister cat of the one at Maude Wines, has a particularly important role as head of the Inter-Winery Feline Relations department.
As for the humans: “Management meetings are held over the family dinner table, the kids graffiti on all our media sample boxes before we can get them out the door and insist on adding their own descriptives to our tasting notes, which is hilarious,” says PJ.
As it’s such a small business, there’s no cellar door on-site at Charteris. However, if you’re interested in a private tasting, Chrissi and PJ would be more than happy to meet you for lunch at a cool local bar or restaurant. Alternatively, if you’re interested in buying more than 50 dozen, they’re happy to meet you anywhere from “New York, Tokyo or Bluff.” But there are definitely plans for a tasting room as they get bigger: “A tin shed with a long table in it for tasting, eating, sparkling conversation or dancing on. Watch this space!”
Read more about them below, and don’t forget you can also keep up with them on Facebook and Instagram. Sign up to their mailing list to be kept across all things Charteris and email them at firstname.lastname@example.org for info on their Wine Club.
Aside from at Pinot Palooza and online, you can find Charteris wines at restaurants like Otto Ristorante, Queens Hotel, Coogee Pavilion, Chiswick and Tetsuya’s in Sydney, and the Lake House, Jackalope on the Mornington Peninsula, the European and Lucy Liu in Melbourne. Retailers like Five Way Cellars, Vintage Blue, Blackhearts & Sparrows and the Prince Wine Store also stock them.
Why do you do what you do?
If I (PJ) was to start anywhere it would be my fascination for pinot and the region of Central Otago. We decided to have a crack at our own label and I wanted to see how far I could push the boundaries with pinot noir particularly. That was back in 2008. Having our best mates like the Dineens from Maude Wines and Blair from Felton Road there for us from day one is also why we love what we do so much: the combination of awesome people who are also striving to make great wine from one of the most majestic locations in the world makes it a no brainer.
Winemaking and humility go hand in hand because it is so easy to fuck it up and as you learn you grow and you never forget the mistakes, you just take it on board and continue to improve. Now after 30 years of making wine I’m still growing with each harvest but the cool thing is I’ve found my groove, my style and my expression for our own wines.
What style do you think characterises the wines of your region?
With a generation of understanding the pinots of Central Otago today are showing a new and exciting level of finesse and complexity across the fruit depth which has always been in place. World Class pinot noir or I like to call the style ‘The Devil in Silk Pyjamas’.
Tell us three things we need to know about your region?
- Part of Lord of the Rings was filmed in Central Otago
- When the solar winds are blowing you can see the Aurora Australis
- Matt Dicey (winemaker) at Mt Difficulty is a bloody good barista!
What’s the one thing you we must do in your region?
Go frozen chicken curling on Diamond Lake in the middle of winter. Don’t forget to take a nice single malt whisky to keep you warm!
When no one is watching, you drink…
PJ: Coopers Stout. Chrissi: Whisky with fresh apple juice.
My pinots are best for…
…Turning evenings into occasions by bringing the human race, for a few hours to that happy place where men are wise, woman are poets and even ones children begin to look promising!
If your pinot was a music artist, who would it be?
Maceo Parker, James Brown’s Saxophonist. Under the radar, classic but with serious understated groove.
Best music to listen to during vintage?
Dub, Reggae, Pacifika
Where do you pinot?
The Routeburn Falls Hut, in the mountains between Central Otago and Fiordland, NZ or on the couch sharing a bottle with Chrissi.
If not you, who else should people try?
Maude, Felton Road, Rippon, Doctor’s Flat, Mount Edward and so many more…
What song should we listen to when driving to the winery?
And when we’re driving away…?
The one song that makes you dance when the beat drops…
Want to learn more about CENTRAL OTAGO? Check out our regional map HERE.