Plan B! Wines give merchants a different flavour of Western Australia. It’s a place where crazy ideas can take hold, and nothing is taken too seriously … as long as the wine tastes great. Thankfully, on Terry Chellappah’s watch, that’s never likely to be a problem
Terry Chellappah does not mince his words. “I think as an industry here in Western Australia we’re sometimes guilty of churning out very safe, predictable, well-made, clean but boring wines, for a long time,” he declares.
Chellappah founded Plan B! Wines in 2003 partly to prove that things didn’t have to be this way.
“The most important part of our business – apart from being deadly serious about what’s in the bottle and what’s in the glass – is that we are trying to have fun,” says Chellappah, speaking to a group of UK independents via a Wine Merchant Zoom tasting. There’s an interesting collection of guitars on the wall behind him; we implore him to take one down and give us a performance, but he resists. It’s a morning for wine, not music.
“Everything is very light-hearted about the way we bring the brand to the market,” he says.
“We’re trying to do it with a sense of humour and something that’s going to be memorable for the gatekeepers and the consumers – it’s really important that we engage with them.
“The wines offer good drinking and really good bang for buck for the consumer.”
Plan B! DR Riesling 2018
“There’s nowhere to hide when you’re making Riesling,” says Chellappah. “We’re trying to grow the most pristine, brightest, cleanest fruit we possibly can, get it into the winery as quickly as we can, and press it while it is as cool as can be and as gently as possible.
“It’s only the third vintage of DR dry Riesling we’ve made. The reason it took us so long to make a dry Riesling was that we were struggling to keep up with production of off-dry, it was going so well.”
The fruit comes from three vineyards in the Great Southern region. “It’s technically dry, but the wine does have a touch of residual sugar and we retain that because we do want a little bit of weight, texture and aromatics and a bit more flavour,” Chellappah explains.
“We want the wine to have really bright, zingy acidity but we don’t want it to be so tight and so linear that it isn’t fun in the glass.
“On the nose there’s citrus blossom, orange blossom … it really is quite aromatically lifted. I love the texture in this wine. This is delicious with seafood. It’s a great wine for sitting in the sun.”
Plan B! OD Riesling 2019
This off-dry Riesling represents Plan B’s signature style. “It’s an absolute crowd pleaser,” says Chellappah.
Made with free-run juice from Great Southern vineyards, it has a residual sugar level of 27g/L but the natural acidity of the fruit balances it beautifully – and at an alcohol level of just 11.5%.
“We pick this Riesling a little earlier so there’s bright acidity,” Chellappah says. “The acidity is really important. The key to this wine is the play between natural fruit sweetness, natural acidity and the pH.
“You want the acidity to cut in and give line and length and structure on the palate. Getting that balance right is the key. It’s a lovely drink on its own and it works with so many different food styles. We like it with spicy, Asian or Indian food. Also with Gorgonzola or good blue cheese, to work with the saltiness. That’s a killer pairing.”
Plan B! Modern Red 2017
For most – perhaps all – of our Zoom tasters, sampling a blend of Shiraz and Pinot Noir was a new experience.
“It’s a little bit out-of-the-box and fun to do, so it fits Plan B! perfectly,” Chellappah says. “We call it Modern Red but I think it’s a really old-fashioned wine style.
“Going back to the ‘60s and ‘70s in Australia, we used to make medium-bodied, light, bright, aromatic red wines. As the years have gone by, we’ve started to make bigger, oakier, more extracted, fuller wines because everyone wanted bold, ‘in-your-face’ wines.
“Our reds are more restrained, more elegant, more savoury and medium bodied. The Great Southern is a prime Shiraz region: we recognise that we’re not going to make great Pinot Noir where we are, but the two go really well together.
“It’s got some of the aromatics and some of the silkiness from Pinot, but it’s got the structure of the Shiraz. This sees very little new oak – it’s mainly in older oak. Pinot brings the cherry, strawberry-like flavour. The Shiraz gives it body and spice.”
Plan B! Tempranillo/Viognier 2017
“I travel a lot, we drink quite widely and I still have not seen or tasted or heard of another blend like this,” says Chellappah.
The fruit comes from 20-year-old vines grown at 220m altitude in the Geographe region of Western Australia.
“The first vintage we made of this blend was 2007, which is still drinking really well. Just before bottling, when we were looking at the barrels, we thought the tannins were a little bit rustic and I said jokingly, ‘it needs a bit of Viognier to silken off the palate’. There were a couple of barrels and we grabbed a bit and were just amazed.”
All it takes is a 2% component of Viognier – a variety that tends to be rather rich and unctuous in Western Australia – to have the desired effect. “It lifts colour and gives the wine an aromatic lift too, as well as texture and silkiness to the palate,” says Chellappah.
Feature sponsored by Vintrigue Wines, the specialist indie division of Lanchester Wines, which imports Plan B! into the UK.