It was flattering that the team from South Africa’s respected Platter Guide chose to announce their latest 5 Star awards at the Cape Wine Europe tasting in London recently. The presence of a number of the UK’s top journalists at the tables in Earls Court, tasting what are supposed to be the Cape’s finest wines, was testament to the clout of the annual publication.
Speaking to editor Philip van Zyl about the methodology used to select the 45 wines, it was clear that he takes his role extremely seriously. Producers’ wines are reviewed, sighted, by the guide’s team of reviewers, who can nominate as many potential 5 star wines as they like. “The instruction to tasters is to avoid nominating speculative wines,” he said.
In other words, they have to believe the wines have a chance of emerging from the pack. This year 139 wines were pre-selected and then tasted (or retasted) blind by 13 judges, split into two teams. They can then choose as many, or as few wines as they want. The winners were down from 52 last year, which may indicate more rigour in selection.
One criticism that can be legitimately leveled at the Platter Guide is that many of its judges lack international experience. They may know the Cape wine scene but they have little clue about the wider world of wine. How does Cape Sauvignon stack up against examples from, say, San Antonio or the Awatere Valley? Are its Pinot Noirs world class? How revolutionary are its white blends?
That said, I think the Platter Guide does a professional and honest job. As I know from my involvement with the Top 100 South African Wines, you will be criticised locally which ever wines you select. Choose famous names and everyone accuses you of being conservative; pick wines from wineries that are less familiar and you are accused of ignoring the classics.
If the Platter Guide has a weakness, at least in my view, it is that it is too indulgent. Too many wines get four stars or more. I also think that, in the past at least, the panels were insufficiently critical of virus characters in Cape red wines, possibly because of what Australians call “cellar palate”.
How did this year’s 5 Stars stack up? The first thing to say is that there were obvious omissions from the list – nothing from Adi Badenhorst, Cape Point, Eagle’s Nest, Teddy Hall, Waterford, Le Riche, Hamilton Russell, Klein Constantia, Cederberg, De Morgenzon, Diemersdal, Morgenster, Raal, Ken Forrester, Rust en Vrede, Ernie Els, Ataraxia, Raats, Paul Cluver, Quoin Rock, Rustenberg, Rijk’s, Saronsberg, Simonsig, Tormentoso, Vergelegen or Zorgvliet. Indeed, you could have a lot of fun compiling an alternative selection of 45 winners.
Overall, the list is more than decent. There are some wines I wouldn’t have chosen, but quite a few I would. (I’ve listed my own scores in brackets below). The stand-out categories were the sweet wines, the Bordeaux-style reds and the white blends. I’d also like to have seen at least one Pinotage, more Chardonnays and Chenins and fewer Sauvignon Blancs and (over-oaked) Shirazes.
The best thing about the Platter 5 Stars is that they encourage debate and reward some very good wines. In what remains a comparatively young wine industry, still feeling its way internationally, that’s no bad thing.
Platter 5 Star Wines for 2012
Warwick 2008 (4)
Boekenhoutskloof 2009 (4 ½)• Graham Beck Chalkboard #3 2007 (4)• Stark-Condé Three Pines 2009 (3 ½ )
Cape Chamonix Reserve 2010 (5)• Newton Johnson Domaine 2010 (4)• Oak Valley 2009 (4)
Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2009 (5)• Fairview The Beacon 2008 (3 ½)• Mont Destin Destiny 2007 (3 ½)• Mullineux Family Syrah 2009 (5)• Saxenburg Select 2007 (3 ½)
Bouchard Finlayson Hannibal 2010 (4)• De Toren Fusion V 2009 (5)• Glenelly Lady May 2009 (5)• La Motte Pierneef Shiraz-Viognier 2009 (4)• Meerlust Rubicon 2007 (4)• Miles Mossop Max 2008 (4 ½)• Sadie Family Columella 2009 (5)
De Wetshof The Site 2009 (3 ½)• Jordan CWG Auction Reserve 2010 (4)
Beaumont Hope Marguerite 2010 (3 ½)• Diemersfontein Carpe Diem 2010 (4)• Vins d’Orrance Kama 2010 (5)
KWV Mentors 2010 (4 ½)
Graham Beck Pheasants’ Run 2011 (4)• Hermanuspietersfontein No 5 2010 (5)• Kleine Zalze Family Reserve 2010 (4)• Steenberg CWG Auction Reserve The Magus 2010 (5)• Strandveld 2010 (4 ½)
Fable Jackal Bird 2010 (4 ½)• Flagstone CWG Auction Reserve Happy Hour 2009 (5)• Mullineux White Blend 2010 (5)• Nederburg Ingenuity 2010 (3 ½)• Tokara Director’s Reserve 2010 (5)
Méthode Cap Classique Sparkling
Colmant Brut Chardonnay NV (3 ½)• Topiary Blanc de Blancs Brut 2009 (4 ½)
Badsberg Badslese 2009 (5)
Dessert Wine Unfortified
Boekenhoutskloof Noble Late Harvest 2008 (5)• Fleur du Cap Noble Late Harvest 2010 (5)• Mullineux Family Straw Wine 2010 (5)• Nederburg Edelkeur 2010 (3 ½)• Nederburg Eminence 2010 (5)
Boplaas Family Cape Vintage Reserve 2009 (5)• De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve 2009 (4 ½)