Highly Recommended

With the excitement of the launch of the 38th edition of Platter’s South African Wine Guide now over, it’s time to have a closer look at what the guide has to offer apart from the five star wines, the individual Wines of the Year as well as Winery of the Year. 

Everyone heads for the five stars, 111 this year, some of which are made in limited quantities, others long sold out from the cellars. But even if they’re not, the Highly Recommended list is deserving of attention. Many wines here have received five star status in past vintages, but missed it by a whisker this year; they’ve also been tried and tested by the initial taster and the five star panel, so quality isn’t in doubt. How wines make the Highly Recommended list works like this. 

Every wine initially reviewed by a member of the Platter tasting team on the intranet is assigned a star rating and complementary score from the blocks of points out of 100 (as described on p 24 of the print version, ‘How to use this Guide’). Any wine receiving 4.5* or over 90/100, goes forward to the 5* tasting.


These days, this is a massive affair; just under 1000 wines across all categories this year. Organised per variety or style, they are blind-tasted by panels of three with a maximum of 60 wines per panel being poured on each of the two day event.

My panel tasted all the shiraz (74 wines) and semillon (16 wines). We know a score of 95 is necessary to achieve a five star rating; this was agreed mostly by consensus, otherwise a roving taster (either or both Cathy van Zyl MW and James Pietersen of Wine Cellar) help to break the deadlock by tasting and discussing the wine with us. 

Sometimes these things aren’t clear cut; a tiny bit of conviction is missing, so unless we as a panel were 100% sure a wine is deserving of five stars, this is where 94 and Highly Recommended comes into play. This method has been used for a couple of years and given focus to a category previously left to the individual taster during the initial tasting, with somewhat arbitrary results. 

But nothing’s left to chance; changes of mind are possible. Once all potential five star wines have been singled out, they are tasted side by side again. In categories such as Shiraz, Cabernet, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay which are always large and run into the second day, it’s useful to re-assess the first day’s potential five stars alongside Day Two’s selection. It does happen that one, or maybe two, don’t quite live up to initial enthusiasm; they too (reluctantly) get sent to the Highly Recommended category. 

The five star tasting and methodology is as rigorous as one with so many wines can be and given the time constraints. Winelovers should have assurance that the list of Highly Recommended wines includes among South Africa’s best and deserves attention. 

2018 Platter’s Highly Recommended Wines 


- Angela Lloyd