PLANTAGENET Wines at Mt Barker has been a consistent producer of benchmark wines since setting up in an old apple packing shed in the early 1970s.
Plantagenet Wines is one of only two producers in the Great Wine Estates listing based in the Great Southern region. The other, Howard Park, has camps in both Denmark and Margaret River.
Tony Smith was the founding father of the Great Southern wine scene, having established a vineyard on his farm, Bouverie, at Denbarker in 1968. He then created Plantagenet Winery in 1975.
The first of the Plantagenet wines was produced in 1974 with the release of a cabernet sauvignon. The wine was picked and then transported up to the Swan Valley and processed at Sandalford Winery in the Swan Valley. Those early wines were made under the eye of Dorham Mann, until the Plantagenet winery was up and running in 1974.
Former Houghton winemaker David McNamara was in control of winemaking duties until Rob Bowen took the helm in 1979.
In 1988 reputable winemaker John Wade was lured over to the West by the Plantagenet team, taking over the winemaking duties until 1994. Not long after Mr Wade’s appointment he advertised for an assistant and Gavin Berry, who was working in the Rhone Valley in France, jumped at the opportunity and moved to WA.
Interestingly, assistant winemaking positions were relatively unheard of at the time of the appointment.
Mr Berry took over the top job with Mr Wade’s departure in 1994. In his 10 years as a winemaker he has seen the Great Southern grow from an emerging area with promise into a region that is now in the spotlight across the country and internationally. It is the emergence of the cabernet sauvignon, riesling and, more recently, shiraz varieties and their distinctive points of difference that has highlighted the Great Southern as a world-class wine producing region.
In an interview earlier this year Mr Berry suggested that it was “the emergence of shiraz during the 1990s that really began to have an amazing impact on the region”.
Mr Berry developed a special affinity for shiraz-based wines while working in the Rhone Valley and brought this knowledge back with him to WA.
“The region [Great Southern] was obviously producing a style quite different to those produced in the east,” he says.
“The wines being produced in the Great Southern tend to show less overt ripe fruit characters and, in general, less alcohol.”
One of the most sought-after shiraz wines on the wine scene during the mid 1990s was the now legendary 1994 shiraz, becoming a collector’s item soon after release. Mr Berry suggests it is “the elegance of the cooler 1993 vintage that I would rate just as good – it looks better the older it is getting”.
He also suggests the 1999 and 2001 shiraz wines are worth seeking out.
At this year’s Great Wine Estates Auction Plantagenet will present a barrel of its 2002 cabernet sauvignon.
I was fortunate enough to have Gavin Berry guide me through a tasting of the wine in barrel last week. Sampling the wine from a crosssection of barrels, and both new and older oak, I found it showed perfumed aromas, red berry fruits with attractive cedary oak undertones. The wine seems in harmony with the oak across the sections.
On the palate the wine displayed red berry fruits, with a degree of blueberry and mulberries. Dusty tannins prevailed in most samples, with the wine showing great acid balance. It is an elegant style that had an enticing savoury element.
This is one of the dark horses among the true barrel samples on offer. In 2001 the barrel of Plantagenet cabernet fetched $8,000, and this one’s a far superior wine.
These two current release wines are well worth seeking out.
Plantagenet 2001 Shiraz rrp $38 18.75/20
This wine has ripe, rich dark fruits of dark cherries, damson and a briary note. Spice and chocolate are among a barrage of aromas. The palate displays savoury mulberry, plum and bramble fruits with some fleshy notes. Spice, anise and chocolate make an appearance. Dusty ripe tannins, integrated acidity and balance provide you with the confidence that this wine will continue to shine over the next five to six years.
Plantagenet 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon rrp $38 18.75/20
Concentration and power. Bright fruit aromas, blackcurrant-cassis fruits with notes of red berries and tobacco leaf. Cassis, mulberries fruits combine with chalky fine tannins a tobacco leaf touch and a great length of flavour. The palate is generous and balanced and shows persistence.
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