Alexi Christidis named his label Chalari, meaning ‘relaxed’ in Greek, as part homage to his father and part mission statement for making unforced wines unbound by convention. Working out of a makeshift winery in true garagiste style on his property in Roleystone, in the Perth Hills, Christidis sources fruit from the Swan Valley and Frankland River, amongst other regions, with a lightly sparkling rosé and riesling, a pét-nat made from vermentino and a skin-contact chenin blanc currently on the roster, while the tribute to his father continues with a take on Retsina made from Swan Valley chenin blanc resinated with Greek pine sap.
Christidis has a Bachelor of Environmental Science to go with his Bachelor of Wine Science (Charles Sturt University), along with some WSET wine qualifications, and “various boring IT certificates.” Those self-derided IT qualifications were what shaped his first career pursuit, but wine has a way of extracting people out of certain and stable career paths into the uncertain and unstable world amongst the vines. Before settling down, he took on various roles “in minor capacities across various wineries in the Perth Hills,” worked vintage in Champagne and consulted in the Peel Region, which borders Perth’s Metropolitan area to the south of the capital.
Christidis’ first wine under the Chalari label came from the vaunted L’enclos du Tertre (formerly Clos du Tertre) vineyard in Frankland River, when legendary viticulturist Lee Haselgrove gave him access to a couple of tonnes of fruit. A stuck ferment ensued, but the wine eventually pushed through, and he reckons it’s in a very good place right now – if you’re lucky enough to find a bottle.
While he lists Paul Hoffman from Swan Valley Wines as somewhat of a mentor, it’s his late father that Christidis attributes much of his approach to. “More around the attitude of you can do anything and f#@k anyone that thinks you can’t. This also applies to doing your own general electrical and plumbing work.”
This attitude suffuses his winemaking approach for Chalari, too, with a resolutely independent attitude. “Minimal intervention is a term that gets flung around, but I have fleshed out what that means to me and live by that. To me it means a balance of the art and science of winemaking. Taking something natural, keeping it as natural and as unscrewed with as possible, but recognising that because it’s a natural product, things can happen, and we have knowledge and tech to help with making an excellent product. If needed,” he says.
Although Christidis sources fruit from multiple regions, he has a deep passion for the Swan Valley. “This is an amazing region. The blend of old-school growers who operate on a handshake and the mix of new young and exciting winemakers is incredible. A lot of guys are looking back on the history of the Swan and are going back to those old ways of making wine that suits the region, that had somewhat been lost.”