Wine | Chatto's amazing new challenge | John Lewis

Jim Chatto: Tasmanian, national and international success is his aim.
Jim Chatto: Tasmanian, national and international success is his aim.

AS McWilliam’s chief winemaker, Jim Chatto, 44, is in charge of the group’s nation-wide portfolio – but now he’s also taking on the Tasmanian Kreglinger, Pipers Brook and Ninth Island brands and South Australia’s Norfolk Rise wines.

The remarkable move was announced last week by McWilliam’s CEO Jeff McWilliam and Kreglinger Wine Estates CEO John Hosken. They said that Jim would take charge of the entire Norfolk Rise, Ninth Island, Pipers Brook and Kreglinger vintage sparkling production as well as overseeing the McWilliam’s Wines Group portfolio.

That includes McWilliam’s Margaret River Evans and Tate, Barwang Hilltops and Riverina Hanwood brands and leading the team at the Mount Pleasant winery in Marrowbone Rd, Pokolbin.

The Kreglinger wine operation is part of the Belgian family-owned Kreglinger group, which has been buying Australian wool and sheepskins for 113 years and has long-established European wine interests, including French Pomerol producer Vieux Chateau Certan.

Kreglinger’s entry to Australian wine came in 2001 when it took over the Tasmanian Pipers Brook operation founded by winemaker Andrew Pirie and acquired the Norfolk Rise vineyard in South Australia’s Mount Benson Region.

A wine science graduate of Charles Sturt University, Jim Chatto has been highly influential in Hunter winemaking, having worked at Tamburlaine, First Creek and Dr John Davis’s Pepper Tree Wines group before joining McWilliam’s in 2013. He was lauded by James Halliday as the driving force behind the selection of McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant’s as winery of the year in the 2017 Halliday Wine Companion Awards.

Jim’s first winemaking job after his Charles Sturt graduation in 1999 was at Rosevears Estate in Northern Tasmania

He and wife Daisy and their two children now have their base in Tasmania’s Huon Valley, where they have established a home, a pinot noir vineyard and the Chatto wine brand.

Jeff McWilliam said Jim had been “a fantastic asset” to McWilliam’s and its winemaking teams had flourished under his tutelage.

“We are thrilled to offer Jim all the opportunities to continue to develop his passion for both Kreglinger Wine Estates and his own label Chatto Wines in Tasmania while continuing to bring his next level winemaking skill to our company,” Jeff said.

Jim said when he first went to Tasmania in 1998, Pipers Brook was undisputed leader in innovation and quality and since then the industry had many exciting new producers pushing the envelope.