Platter 2016

It perhaps wasn’t quite as significant as Moses striding down from the mountain clutching the Ten Commandments under his arm but the annual release of the Platter’s South African Wine Guide for 2016 is – after 36 years – regarded as almost biblical. To many in the local wine industry, attaining the coveted five-star Platter rating remains the ultimate accolade, prized more highly than competition medals.

And the 2016 edition saw 83 wines and 12 brandies win bragging rights to being South African examples of world-class or superlative wines and brandies – this at a time when the country’s wines are garnering more and more attention, praise and ever-higher ratings from international pundits.

But those involved with Platter’s – from the seasonally sleep-deprived editor Philip van Zyl to publisher JP Rossouw and all the tasters (and for the purposes of transparency, I am one of their number) – make the point every year that it is simply a guide. Van Zyl states in his editorial: “Sighted tasting has been the preferred approach since the inception of the guide. The reason is that we wish to remain true to the essence of this project – that of being a wine guide and not a competition.”

Andrea Mullinneux, JP Rossouw, Chris Mullineux

The facts are as follows: 8 000 wines from 900 producers – 50 of them new to the guide – were tasted over a six- to eight-week period between the end of July and September.

With five wines awarded five stars as well as the Red Wine of the Year (2013 vintage Iron Syrah) and the inaugural Dessert Wine of the Year for their newest addition, the non-vintage Olerasay straw wine, a Chenin Blanc sweetie made in a multi-vintage solera system, it was a no-brainer that Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines was deemed the Winery of the Year (they were also named Winery of the Year in 2014).

Ever humble and modest, Chris Mullineux took the opportunity to express how honoured they were to be among such great wines at an unprecedented and exciting period in South Africa’s vinous history. Cape Wine 2015 was held just a few months ago, and the New Wave South Africa tasting in London a week later had him looking around and really being proud to count Mullineux & Leeu wines among the vanguard of the best the country can produce. South Africa is surfing a wave of interest that began a few years ago and has seen numerous international commentators and critics praise the ever-increasing quality of the country’s best wines. There’s a very real excitement about what our winemakers are producing and Mullineux & Leeu are playing no small role in increasing the regard for South African wines by the standards they set themselves.

Publisher JP Rossouw with Editor Philip van Zyl

As ever, there were commentators who took the opportunity to point out the notable absences among the ranks of five-star wines. Producers such as De Trafford, Vergelegen, DeMorgenzon, Boekenhoutskloof, Alheit, Jordan, Crystallum, Steenberg, Hartenberg, Kanonkop, Thelema, Tokara and Hamilton Russell, for example. Does it mean these wines have dipped in quality? Certainly not: most can be found in the ‘close but no cigar’ listing of the Platter Guide – the Highly Recommended segment. These wines would have been nominated and tasted blind alongside those which were awarded five stars. The bar has simply been set a little higher…

Perhaps more significant than the absences was the profusion of first time five-star laureates: Anura, Beeslaar, Bloemendal, Constantia Glen, Eenzaamheid, GlenWood, Guardian Peak, Keermont, La Couronne, Leeuwenkuil, Luddite, MVH Signature Wines, Savage Wines, Vondeling, Vuurberg and Waterkloof.

While some of those such as Luddite and Guardian Peak have frequently come close and have a recognised track record for quality, seeing producers such as Savage Wines, Vuurberg, Eenzaamheid, Keermont, Waterkloof and Leeuwenkuil get the recognition they deserve more than vindicates Platter’s mandate of guiding enthusiasts to worthy local wines.

– Fiona McDonald