Plateau, Brighton – Wine Tasting

by Eshé Brown
Plateau French wine bar and restaurant

Plateau, Wine Tasting Review

Laid-back weekly wine tastings and stunning small plates

When I first started drinking wine my default would be a glass of Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon; failing that was available I’d order “a dry white” and hope for the best. Thankfully, with the increase in wine flights and great restaurants in Brighton, I’ve learnt a lot in recent years.

There are those who will (wrongly) try to tell you what wine is good and what isn’t, but the truth is, unless a wine is off, there is no such thing as good or bad wine. There’s just the wine YOU enjoy drinking!

And the best way to discover the wines you like and don’t like?  Treat it like dating in your early 20s – go to a party, try as many as you can, before settling for the one you want to take home.

Monthly wine parties

If you’re looking for a place to party drink, head to Plateau – a French restaurant and wine bar (or as the French say, bar à vin) in The Lanes, just around the corner from Food for Friends.

For around a decade Plateau has been quietly going about its business, getting rave reviews and gathering loyal customers, and this is all down to the two owners, who a very passionate about what they do and who they chose as part of their team.

The best natural, biodynamic and organic wines are handpicked and served alongside some of the most exquisite small plates and plateaus (plates to share) that you’ll find in Brighton.

Although Plateau draws influence from France, the wines served come from all around the world, and often from local independent producers. From crisp and fruity local whites – to quirky modern reds from across the pond, you’ll find plenty to get your nose into.

Each month Plateau hosts several wine tastings events, inviting customers to meet the producers of the wines they stock and afterwards, you can buy anything you want more of.

The team also puts on a more casual introduction to wine – every Wednesday (5-7pm) with 5 tastings (not full glasses) for £10. The wines change every week, so pop along regularly and before long you could be a wine aficionado.

Meet the growers

When I went along to the last wine party few weeks’ ago, I met growers, Craig Hawkins of Testalonga and Jurgen Gouws of Intellego, both from Swartland in South Africa, where there is a new wave of modernist wine growers flourishing.

Craig who has been dubbed “best young winemaker” and “one to watch” was first to talk to us, explaining how he started experimenting with making wines in barrels, after working in a vineyard and becoming fascinated in the process.

Today the company produces 50,000 bottles of biodynamic wine a year with a simple principle – keep things simple and “make wine from grapes”.

“Stay Brave”, “Follow Your Dreams” and “Keep on Punching” sound like the motivational quotes you’d see on Instagram (and they are) but they are also the names of three of the Testalonga wines.

It’s a bold and rebellious way to make your wine stand out and I like it, just as much as I like the graffiti-style of typography on the bottle label.

The second grower to speak was Jurgen who rents a vineyard to produce the Intellego wines. During the talk, he explained how he focuses on looking after the vines so very little is needed to be done at the harvest – something he believes many winemakers in South Africa forget to do.

To give an example of this, as well as the grapes, Jurgen plants crops to encourage the soil to retain water. He also picks the grapes early to avoid acidity building up, tasting the grapes himself to decide whether they are ready.

We tried three wines from each of the producers and personally I preferred the light whites to the skin contact wines and the reds. Skin contact is where the skin isn’t removed in the production process giving the wine a stronger flavour and a deeper amber colouring.

The Testalonga, “Baby Bandito – Keep on Punching Chenin 2017” (£16) was my first choice being very delicate and smooth on the palate and easy to drink. However, I would also very happily order the “Intellego Chenin Blanc 2016″ (£20) again too, an acidic wine with a heavily perfumed aroma and hints of citrus fruits.

Plates to share

Nibbles are provided at the wine parties but if you need something substantial to soak up the wine, I recommend treating yourself to the tasting and dinner package, which is shared amongst all guests.

I opted for this and on the table were a selection of bites including, Sardinian coppa (cured pork shoulder), thick crunchy stalks of asparagus with a brown crab meat mayonnaise, juicy heritage tomatoes with radish and wafer-thin sourdough toast. As well as two plateaus (sharing plates), one meat and one fish.

The Plateau Poisson impressed the most with crispy cod cheeks in a seafood sauce, a beautifully moist grilled monkfish with curry, yoghurt, salt cod and fennel flatbread with taramasalata. (The greedy child in me really wanted to eat this whole dish to myself.)

The Plateau Viande came with pork loin and belly, a fennel fondue, bavette (flank steak), anchovy mayonnaise, wild rocket, confit duck, cucumber and spring onion.

Altogether it was a feast in the truest sense of the word and next year Plateau will definitely be top of my voting shortlist for the Brighton’s Best Restaurants Awards.

Verdict

Rating: Must Go | Worth A Try | Give It A Miss
Price: £20pp with 6 wine tastings or £55pp with dinner.

I learnt a lot about the technical process of wine production and meeting the producers offered something unique to the other tastings I’ve been to in Brighton. If you’re a complete beginner you may be better starting off with the more informal weekly tastings and working your way up to the monthly events, which feel a little more geared to the advanced wine drinker. On the food front, if you haven’t eaten here yet don’t let it slip through the net, the laid-back and effortlessly cool ambience makes it work equally well for a business lunch, romantic dinner or just great food with friends.

Need to know
Plateau’s next event: Unusual grapes and how they reflect their provenance, is this Wednesday, (May 30th), at 6:30pm.

Plateau
1 Bartholomews, Brighton, BN1 1HG
www.plateaubrighton.co.uk

*Disclaimer: I was invited to Plateau but with or without an invite, my review remains the same – fair and honest.


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