Platter 2018

However rigorous and fairly set up a blind tasting may be, it is impossible to discount an element of luck (or lack of it) in the results.

Be that as it may, Bruwer Raats has put in a spectacular performance in Platter’s South African Wine Guide 2018, launched this evening at the Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town. His successes are thoroughly deserved: a quintet of five star wines and Winery of the Year under his own label; two in association with his cousin, Gavin Bruwer Slabbert under B Vintners Vine Exploration Co and last, but certainly not least, the iconic MR de Compostella, the result of a 13 year partnership with Mzo Mvemve. That’s an incredible eight five star wines Raats has a hand in. If there was a little luck, individual bottles of wine having their own say in matters, there’s definitely also a lot of understanding and skill from Raats. Bravo Bruwer and your partners too.

Platter 2018 – it’s red!

In any other year, Richard Kershaw MW (Richard Kershaw Wines) or Eben Sadie (whose Sadie Family Wines has already been a Winery of the Year), with four five star wines each, would have battled it out for top honours; they are also worthy awardees.

What the lack of a tie did avoid, yet again, was a decision from Platter editor, Philip van Zyl, about selection of Winery of the Year. I wrote last year; ‘But the format has always been the winery with the most number of five star wines, luckily there’s never been a tie … But the time has come to change this format.’ Despite several ideas put forward to both van Zyl and publisher, JP Rossouw, sadly lack of decision-making ruled and, although this year has provided a new and clear winner, rumbles of dissatisfaction continue from wineries with fewer wines in their range. Any producer who submits to Platter should have the chance of being awarded this honour. And to make it quite clear, I respect those, for whatever reason, who choose not to submit; it’s an entirely voluntary and free process, as sad as it is not to see a wider range of South Africa’s most exciting wines missing from Platter pages.

As for all those starry wines, chenin blanc again beat all-comers for most five stars; 17, a repeat of last year’s total. With that dominance – chardonnay was chenin’s closest white rival with nine – you could be forgiven for thinking the White Wine of the Year is most likely to emerge from those 17, but they were trounced by Chris Williams’ The Foundry Grenache Blanc 2015, one of a tiny handful of varietal grenaches, though adding character to and gaining popularity in white blends. Williams’ success not only gives grenache blanc a further boost but less mainstream varieties as well.

Less mainstream, but not niche; that descriptor I’d tag onto Craig Sheard’s Elemental Bob Grenache Blanc 2016, which includes some verdelho but, more importantly received skin contact, slotting it under the Alternative category. That five star award is another positive first for Platter.

A less positive move in my opinion, is to print scores out of 100 on the five star (95-100) and highly commended (94) seals. Firstly, it diminishes the five star rating (is it even relevant now?), always regarded as the ultimate rating in Platter, let alone the Wines of the Year, but it’s also confusing to have a score; most won’t understand how it’s arrived at and what about the lower star ratings. As a taster and someone who takes a lot of trouble in trying to convey the style and quality of each wine in (a very limited number of) words, I’m beginning to wonder whether actual notes are obsolete. I’ll watch reaction to this new move with interest but to my mind it’s ill thought-through, wasn’t conveyed to the tasters at any stage, and certainly doesn’t get my approval.

Less grumpily, I note there’s generally a good mix of varieties and styles across the five star board from MCC (I’m particularly happy to see three up there – it seems such a difficult style to find consensus) to Port styles. Sad not to see Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Pinot Noir there though; this breaks the wine’s record, consecutive eight year run of five stars since the maiden vintage.

My own input and that of two colleagues on the five star tasting was to determine which of 74 shirazes and 16 semillons deserved that valued rating: general positives in shiraz are less new oak and less extraction, allowing the wines a more natural, supple flow. On the downside, acid additions are often clumsy. Really pleasing is that the nine wines we selected come from both warm and cool climates, something they well express. We set an equally high bar for the semillons, a variety that tends to be unyielding in youth, a difficulty we did encounter; this didn’t stop us from giving enthusiastic nods to three (with a few more years on them, it could have been more) but all 16 showed distinctive style and great personality. It was a taxing yet fun two days.

One of the major lessons I learn from this annual tasting is generalising about a vintage is dangerous; most agree 2015 is excellent, producing ageworthy wines but there will always be exceptions. This edition’s Red Wine of the Year, Nederburg’s II Centuries Cabernet is a 2014 – there are others too from this talked-down red wine year – is a timely reminder that it often pays to follow individual producers rather than a vintage per se.

There are vintages, styles and producers a-plenty to choose from in this, the most numerous to date of five stars in Platter; 111 from just under 1000 in the blind tasting and around 7000 tasted sighted for the guide in total.

Congratulations to all.

WINERY OF THE YEAR

Raats Family Wines

RED WINE OF THE YEAR

Nederburg II Centuries Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

WHITE WINE OF THE YEAR

The Foundry Grenache Blanc 2015

DESSERT WINE OF THE YEAR

Klein Constania Vin de Constance 2013

FORTIFIED WINE OF THE YEAR

Beaumont Family Wines Starboard Dessert Wine NV

 

FIVE STAR WINES

 AA BADENHORST FAMILY WINES White 2015

 ALHEIT VINEYADS La Colline 2016

ALVIS DRIFT PRIVATE CELLAR Albertus Viljoen Chenin Blanc 2015

B VINTNERS

Harlem to Hope 2016

Liberte Pinotage 2016

BARTINNEY PRIVATE CELLAR Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

BEAUMONT FAMILY WINES

Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc 2016

Starboard NV

BELLINGHAM The Bernard Series Small Barrel SMV 2014

BOEKENHOUTSKLOOF WINERY Syrah 2015

BOTANICA WINES Mary Delaney Collection Chenin Blanc 2016

BOUCHARD FINLAYSON Galpin Peak Pinot Noir 2015

CAPE CHAMONIX WINE FARM Troika 2015

CAPE POINT VINEYARDS Isliedh 2016

CAPE WINE COMPANY Erasmus Family 2015

CARINUS FAMLY VINEYARDS Rooidraai 2016

CEDERBERG PRIVATE CELLAR

Ghost Corner Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Shiraz 2015

COLMANT CAP CLASSIQUE & CHAMPAGNE Brut Chardonnay NV

CONSTANTIA GLEN Sauvignon Blanc 2017

CONSTANTIA UITSIG Semillon 2015

CREATION WINES The Art of Pinot Noir 2016

DASCHBOSCH Hanepoot 2015

DAVID & NADIA

Skaliekop Chenin Blanc 2016

Höe-Steen Chenin Blanc 2016

DE TRAFFORD  Blueprint Syrah 2015

DELAIRE GRAFF ESTATE

Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2015

White Reserve 2015

Cape Vintage 2015

DEMORGENZON Chardonnay Reserve 2016

DONKIESBAAI Hooiwijn 2016

EAGLES’ NEST Shiraz 2014

EDGEBASTON David Finlayson ‘GS’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

EIKENDAL Charisma 2015

ELEMENTAL BOB Grenache Blanc 2016

FLAGSTONE WINERY Writer’s Block Pinotage 2015

GROOT CONSTANTIA ESTATE

Grand Constance 2015

Gouveneurs Reserve White 2015

HARTENBERG ESTATE Gravel Hill Shiraz 2013

HERMANUSPIETERSFONTEIN WYNKELDER Kat met die Houtbeen 2015

HIGHLANDS ROAD ESTATE Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2015

JC WICKENS WINES Swerver Red 2016

JORDAN WINE ESTATE

Insepector Péringuey Chenin Blanc 2016

Chardonnay Barrel-fermented 2016

JULIEN SCHAAL Confluence Chardonnay 2016

KAAPZICHT ESTATE The 1947 Chenin Blanc 2016

KANONKOP ESTATE Paul Sauer 2014

KLEIN CONSTANTIA ESTATE Vin de Constance 2013

KLEINE ZALZE WINES Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Selection 2015

LANZERAC WINE ESTATE Pioner Pinotage 2015

LE SUEUR WINES Paradoks 2016

LINGEN Lingen 2014

LONGRIDGE WINE ESTATE Epliktika 2015

MILES MOSSOP WINES Kika 2016

MORESON Cabernet Franc 2015

MOUNT ABORA Koggelbos 2015

MULLINEUX & LEEU

Essence Straw Wine 2012

Straw Wine 2016

MURATIE WINE ESTATE Ansela van die Caab 2013

MVEMVE RAATS MR de Compostella 2015

NEDERBURG WINES

Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 II Centuries

Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot Private Bin 109 2014

NEIL ELLIS WINES Bottelary Hills Pinotage 2015

NICO VAN DER MERWE WINES Syrah 2015

OAK VALLEY ESTATE

Fountain of Youth Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Pinot Noir 2016

OLIFANTSBERG FAMILY VINEYARDS Blanc 2016

ORANGE RIVER CELLARS White Muscadel 2016

PASERENE Chardonnay 2015

PAUL CLUVER ESTATE WINES Close Encounter Riesling 2016

PERDEBERG WINES

Courageous Barrel-Fermented Chenin Blanc 2016

Longevity Natural Sweet Chenin Blanc 2015

PONGRACZ Desiderius 2009

RAATS FAMILY WINES

Original Chenin Blanc 2016

Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2016

Eden High Density Chenin Blanc 2015

Cabernet Franc 2015

Eden High Density Cabernet Franc 2015

REMHOOGTE WINE ESTATE Syrah 2015

REVERIE Chenin Blanc 2016

RICHARD KERSHAW WINES

Elgin Chardonnay 2016

Lake District Bokkeveld Shales CY95 Chardonnay 2016

Elgin Pinot Noir 2016

Elgin Syrah 2015

RIDGEBACK Signature C 2015

RUST EN VREDE ESTATE

1694 Classification 2014

Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

RUSTENBERG WINES Peter Barlow 2012

SADIE FAMILY WINES

Palladius 2016

Skurfberg 2016

‘T Voetpad 2016

Pofadder 2016

SAVAGE WINES White 2016

SHANNON VINEYARDS

Semillon 2016

Mount Bullet Merlot 2014

SPIER CWG Auction Reserve Frans K Smith 2013

STARK CONDE WINES Three Pines Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

STEENBERG VINEYARDS Lady R MCC 2012

STELLENRUST 52 Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2016

THE FOUNDRY Grenache Blanc 2015

THE STELLENBOSCH RESERVE

Ou Hoofgebou Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Vanderstel 2015

THE WINERY OF GOOD HOPE Radford Dale Black Rock 2015

THISTLE AND WEED Duwweltjie 2016

TOKARA Noble Late Harvest 2016

TRIZANNE SIGNATURE WINES Syrah 2016

UVA MIRA MOUNTAIN VINEYARDS The Mira Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

VAN LOVEREN FAMILY VINEYARDS Christina van Loveren Sauvignon Blanc 2017

WARWICK ESTATE The White Lady Chardonnay 2016

WATERFORD ESTATE The Jem 2012

ZORGVLIET WINES Richelle 2015

 

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