Serving wine in optimal condition does not happen by accident. At home, we are able to control factors such as the temperature of the wine and also the amount of air exposure that the wine receives prior to drinking (either via decanting or leaving the bottle open).
I also take care to ensure that I use a high-quality wine glass to present the wine in the most favourable light. For years now, the Vinum – Chianti glass from Riedel has been my preferred glass.
Unfortunately, the same care and attention is not always given to wine by others. Examples include: wholesalers who store their wines in an industrial shed with no refrigeration, retailers who display wines in a hot window or in a display cabinet with a halogen light that heats the wine all day.
Restaurants are also hit and miss, with the temperature of the wine being the most common problem (Red wines to warm and white wines to cold). Another bugbear is when wines available by the glass are not fresh. I have been served wines that have been open for four days and have lost all fruit. Sure, the staff are happy to open a fresh bottle if asked, but the customer deserves better.
I do feel sorry though for wineries offering tastings mid-week when customer numbers are low. Having worked hard to produce the wine, there can be a reluctance to discard half-used bottles within a day or two of opening.
The financial implications are obvious. This is a double-edged sword though, as serving oxidised wines will give potential customers a less than ideal experience. The problem is exacerbated during the Australian summer, when high temperatures accelerate the deterioration.
It was a visit to a couple of wineries in late January that really highlighted the effect that this can have. Tasting the red wines at one unnamed winery was a real challenge. The bottles were sitting on the counter and the temperature was over 30 degrees. When combined with a bottle that had been opened for three days, it is not surprising that I did not really appreciate the wines.
My last stop for the day was Plantagenet Winery in Mt Barker, and what a revelation it was. Yes, the tasting room was air-conditioned, but the wines were also stored in optimal condition. For example they have two fridges for to store their tasting wines: one at 12˚C for wines such as the Chardonnay, and another much cooler for the Riesling etc.
Whilst Plantagenet has an extensive range of wines available, this review focusses on the premium wines labelled as Plantagenet, as well as the Juxtapose range, which is aimed at the restaurant market.
Overall, the wines were of very high quality and represent excellent value for money.
Plantagenet – Riesling – 2014 (18). Floral fruit notes on both the nose and palate, yet there is a steely backbone that adds structure. The textural components on the palate are a highlight, with an almost talc-like minerality. The gentle lime-like acidity adds to the excellent length (now or in 10 years) (RRP $25).
Plantagenet – Sauvignon Blanc – Juxtaposed – 2014 (17.5). Tropical fruit characters to the fore on the nose. Whilst the fragrant, floral fruit is the focus here, there is just enough lees and barrel ferment characters to add depth and make this really interesting.
Plantagenet – Chardonnay – 2014 (18). A complex wine. The nose opens with fresh stone-fruit, yet there are attractive worked* notes. The palate is rich, textured and long, opening with melon and stone fruit and finishing with a lick of toasty oak. A mainstream style that will be at its best in a year or two. (RRP $25).
Plantagenet – Pinot Noir – Juxtapose – 2013 (17.5). Fragrant red fruit characters lead the charge, with a savoury undertone redolent of spice. The chewy, textured fruit is allowed to shine here, with little in the way of oak apparent. A touch of mineral-like tannins add depth to the finish. Excellent current drinking. (RRP $28).
Plantagenet – Shiraz (Syrah) – Juxtapose – 2012 (17.5). True to the style of the Juxtapose range, the Syrah shows forward, fresh and vibrant fruit, framed by bright acidity. Good texture, with subtle oak adding depth. The fine acid and tannins carry the finish. Good drinking! (RRP $28).
Plantagenet – Shiraz – 2012 (18.5). Perfumed, ripe red berry fruit characters over licorice and supple spice. The palate stands out for its superb structure. Fine, savoury, tight and firm, yet this retains a degree of approachability. The silky tannins add to the mouthfeel, and the length is exemplary. (RRP $45). A recent bottle of 1996 Shiraz highlighted just how well these wines age.
Plantagenet – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2012 (18+). Mint, red currant and spice meld together on the nose. The mint carries though to the palate, where it is complemented by delicious, savoury herbal notes. The serious fruit has real depth and, combined with dusty tannins, confers excellent length to the palate. Whilst this needs years to reach its best (and score even higher points), the supple mouthfeel and balance make this approachable now. (RRP $45).
* Worked notes refers to characters that develop as a result of winemaking efforts. This includes the use of oak maturation, barrel fermentation and lees stirring.