My favourite description of the Platter’s South African Wine Guide is “South Africa’s favourite stocking filler.” I am not sure who said this, but I remember reading it on one of the editions’ inside pages. I like it because of its ambiguity. I know in my family we put a lot of crap in our Christmas stockings, and a Platter guide would be a rather swish stocking filler. I mean, surely it would be better if Platter’s was South Africa’s favourite Christmas present?
If you are on twitter and follow anyone who is interested in wine I am sure you will already know that the guide’s 2013 edition was launched this week, as well as the unveiling of the five star wines, Platter’s red and white wine of the year, superquaffer of the year, and winery of the year. I’ll tack the list on to the end of this column, but let’s quickly go through the highlights.
“Hold on a second,” I here some of you thinking, “you are always going on about how competitions and ratings are silly, contrived, and that it is our own palates we should trust. Why are you making such a to-do about Platter five stars?”
Well, imaginary reader, you raise a very good question. I don’t think that ratings and stars are everything when it comes to choosing or enjoying a wine, nor do I believe that seeing a double gold sticker, or even a five star sticker from platter will guarantee your purchase will be delicious.
However, Platter in its thirty third year, has done a damn fine job in my opinion. I tasted many of the five star wines at the launch and it was hard to disagree with the judges. There were a few wines I found a little surprising, the Spice Route Chenin 2011 and the Raka Biography 2010 for example, were wines that I wouldn’t have scored five stars.
It’s impossible to argue about the Winery of the year though. Chamonix was awarded four five stars, which means that pretty much everything they make is incredible. I am going to have to eat my words about quality wines from Franschhoeck. Nom nom nom. My apologies, Franschhoek.
Gottfried Mocke is making some truly outstanding wines at Chamonix, and it’s great to see them dominating Platter this year. I tweeted before I went to the launch that I was hoping for freshness and purity to triumph over oakiness and spoofulated wines. With Chamonix taking winery of the year, this was (can someone give me a “Hell yeah!”) definitely the case.
As with all awards – and even though I have pointed out on many occasions that this is a little silly – I can’t help but be chuffed for wines that I believe are of five star quality that go on to claim all five. It’s like the football team you support, when they score you cheer, when they lose you feel hard done by.
So I was particularly happy that Chris and Suzanne Alheit’s Cartology 2011 scored the big five stars, as did Adi Badenhorst’s Family White 2010, Beaumont’s Hope Marguerite 2011 and the Mullineux Family Syrah 2010. This last wine was also awarded Platter’s ‘Red Wine of the Year’ accolade.
It’s a fantastic list of 62 wines, and surely an indication of how good our wine is in South Africa. While there were a few rather large ripe wines in the line-up, I thought many were elegant, pure, and fresh. A wine like the Keets First Verse 2010 is a Bordeaux blend that is a miracle of expressive understatement, elegance and fruit purity. Having wines like these in the Platter five star range is something the guide should be very proud of.
While the guide has issues – some moan that the wines are first tasted sighted, but I shall spare you that flogged horse – looking at this list of top performers, I can’t help but feel patriotic, a feeling that I seldom have.
Of course, there are two and one star wines that will give me almost as much drinking pleasure as these five star wines, and I am sure I will go through the guide at some point and exclaim, “How the hell can this get four stars!”. I’ll then happily remind myself that it is just a guide, and not an absolute guarantee of quality, nor is it infallible.
Why should you have a Platter guide under your Christmas tree this year? I definitely wouldn’t buy it if it only had the ratings. Now that would be a silly book. The real value of Platter, for me, lies in the details of “over 900 South African wine producers, merchants and brands, including and over 7 300 locally produced wines.”
The guide is useful because it provides up to date information on tasting room opening hours, wine regions, where to buy wine, where to eat GPS coordinates of producers, and straightforward maps. Even though there is a Platter iPhone app now, it is the one reference book I own that works better than Google search. Believe me, wine farms are not the best at websites.
I have defended Platter this week in the face of some criticism, no, lets call it trolling, by a well known critic. He asked if I was now doing PR for the guide, and I imagine some of you may be thinking something similar.
While this is obviously silly – I would be awful at PR – I have been thinking about the guide’s usefulness and its position within the South African industry quite a bit over the last two days. Before going to the launch I tweeted in a rather off-hand manner, that I found it very hard to take the whole thing seriously. It was, in retrospect, a rather stupid comment, and instead of being humorous or irreverent I just looked the fool.
Christian Eedes, another wine writer and former editor of Wine Magazine called me out on it. He was right. While ratings and competitions are inherently problematic, there is not denying the importance of the Platter guide to the South African wine industry. The industry would be poorer were it not around. Knowing a number of the tasters personally I’m convinced they do their utmost to fairly judge, understand and rate the wines they are assigned. Is it perfect? Nope. Can it be? Probably not.
The result is a book that – despite what some say – assists consumers tremendously in the sprawling, confusing, and at times mind-bendingly contradictory world of the South African winelands. If it’s in your stocking this year, you have been a very very good boy or girl.
The five star wines for 2013 are:
• Raka 2009
• Von Ortloff Quintessence 2008
• Warwick 2009
• Delaire Graff Laurence Graff Reserve 2009
• Cape Chamonix Greywacke 2010
• Kanonkop 2010
• Cape Chamonix Reserve 2011
• Newton Johnson Family Vineyards 2011
• Boschendal Cecil John Reserve 2010
• Cederberg CWG Auction Reserve Teen die Hoog
• Delheim Vera Cruz 2009
• Fable Bobbejaan 2010
• Fairview Jakkalsfontein 2009
• Mullineux Family Schist 2010
• Mullineux Family Syrah 2010 (Red Wine of the Year)
• Raka Biography 2010
• Saronsberg 2010
• Simonsig Merindol Syrah 2010
• Dalla Cia Wine & Spirit Company Giorgio 2007
• Fleur de Cap Lazlo 2008
• Keets First Verse 2010
• Ken Forrester The Gypsy 2009
• La Motte Pierneef Shiraz-Viognier 2010
• Mvemve Raats MR De Compostella 2009
• Nico van der Merwe Mas Nicolas Cape 2007
• Sadie Family Columella 2010
• Boschendal Reserve 2011
• Cape Chamonix Reserve 2011
• Hamilton Russell 2011
• Jordan CWG Auction Reserve 2011
• Jordan Nine Yards 2011
• Alheit Cartology 2011
• Beaumont Hope Marguerite 2011
• Botanica 2011
• DeMorgenzon Reserve 2010
• Jean Daneel Signature 2011
• KWV Cathedral Cellar 2011
• Sadie Family Skurfberg 2011
• Spice Route 2011
• Fryer’s Cove 2011
• Graham Beck Pheasant’s Run 2012
• Tokara Walker Bay 2012
• AA Badenhorst Family 2010
• Cape Chamonix Reserve 2011
• Cape Point CWG Auction Reserve 2011
• David Aristargos 2011
• Fairview Nurok 2011
• Flagstone Treaty Tree Reserve 2010
• Miles Mossop Saskia 2011
• Nederburg Ingenuity 2011
• Nederburg Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon Private Bin
• Nitida Coronata Integration 2011
• Rall 2011
• Tokara Director’s Reserve 2011
Méthode Cap Classique
• Bon Courage Jacques Bruére Brut Reserve 2008
• Villiera Monro Brut 2007
Dessert Wine Unfortified
• Fairview La Beryl Blanc 2011
• Fleur du Cap Noble Late Harvest 2011
• Mullineux Family Straw Wine 2011
• Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Noble Late Harvest 2011
• Paul Cluver Noble Late Harvest 2011 (White Wine of the Year)
• De Krans The Last Cape Vintage Reserve Port 2010
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