Platter’s Wine Guide enters new era

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Platter’s South African Wine Guide, now in its 35th year, entered a new era last week with the launch of the 2015 edition under new publisher Jean-Pierre (JP) Rossouw and owner Diner’s Club, which has also acquired Rossouw’s Restaurant Guide.

The guide is considered one of the most comprehensive in the world and rates over 6 000 South African wines which, for 2015, were whittled down to 50 five-star wines and one five-star brandy*, sharply down from the previous year’s stellar showing.

“We introduced a new five-star tastings system for the 2015 guide that saw small panels of tasters assessing each allocated category meticulously and in an unhurried fashion. Therefore, producers who have achieved five stars in the 2015 guide can be sure that their wine or wines are truly exceptional. At the same time, there were many very tight decisions and hotly debated wines – making the list of Highly Recommended wines replete with fantastic options that just missed the cut,” says JP Rossouw.

The results appear to suggest that South Africa’s forte lies in blending. White blends featured as the strongest category, as they did in 2014, and while red blends equalled Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, red and white blends are by far the biggest categories in the ‘Highly Recommended’ category (effectively four-and-a-half-star wines), with 38 and 20 wines respectively versus 25 and 12 in 2014.

It was the ‘Highly Recommended’ category that Eben Sadie drew attention to (before seeing the 2015 guide) in his accepting the Winery of the Year award for Sadie Family Vineyards, recognising the inevitable vagaries of wine assessment and the slight margin between four-and-a-half-star and five-star wines on any given day. Sadie becomes the first winery to get a second Winery of the Year award.

De Trafford Blueprint Syrah 2012 and DeMorgenzon Reserve Chardonnay 2013 secured Red and White Wine of the Year respectively, with DeMorgenzon in a rare repeat act after winning the award in 2014 with Maestro, a white blend.

Pinot Noir, the only five-star category to grow in 2015, leapt from one to four five-star wines in 2015 including three newcomers in Creation Reserve 2013, Crystallum Cuvée Cinéma 2013 and Sumaridge 2012 joining perennial recipients Newton Johnson Family Vineyards, all from the Hemel-and-Aarde Valley. Walker Bay was one of few districts to wrest dominance away from Stellenbosch.

Associate editor Tim James wrote: “It has to be a controversial, debatable list, of course. But the new rigour and care taken in selecting five-star winners has been a good thing. If it heralds a general tightening of standards, even better. Cape wine has seen such improvements in the last decade or so that a radical recalibration by Platter’s – from top to bottom – is most desirable.”

Tim Atkin MW wrote: “Platter’s is a very good annual overview – indeed it’s hard to think of a better comparable guide published anywhere in the world – and it takes its task seriously. I sometimes feel that its ratings are a little indulgent – too many four star wines – but its tasters take the time to talk to producers, often visiting them in their cellars to learn about vintage variations and so on.

“The 5 Star wines are often something of a mixed bag, partly because of the way they are chosen. As I understand it, individual tasters assess the wines sighted and can put forward anything they like for a blind 5 Star “taste off” where most of the Platter team takes part. Inevitably, some of the choices feel like committee decisions, where a wine that every one quite likes trumps one that divides opinions. In a sense, the Platter panel is only as good as its weakest and least experienced members. There are a number of first class tasters on the team, but others are insufficiently familiar with wine styles outside the Cape. To put South African wines in context, you need to know how good or bad the competition is. For all that, this is one of the better Platter’s selections.”

Rossouw adds: “Platter’s is different in that it is a wine guide – and not a competition per se. Our expert tasters initially assess the wines sighted, to assist learning as much as possible about the intent of the producer and the wine’s back-story, as well as vital details such as site and climate. But when it comes to the five-star tasting, we shift to a blind tasting format as we are then comparing wines against each other within categories.”

The other wineries achieving five stars for the first time are: Diners Club Bartho Eksteen Academy, Fram, Iona, Oldenburg, Porseleinberg and Flagship (Stellenbosch Vineyards).

Other changes to the guide mean no longer will the four-star and above wines be highlighted in red and for many wines below four stars, only the ratings are listed with no tasting notes. These will be incorporated on the website.

“The default position is that all wines scoring less than four stars get only a rating. (This was a space-saving mechanism, basically, as the total number of wines kept on rising and the number of pages available didn’t.) But in practice it looked very strange and unpleasing on some pages where such wines were in the great majority – so, in each range, at least one of such wines is given a short note as well as the rating (not according to any particular system that I’m aware of).

“The remainder of the lower-scoring wines are listed after the rubric ‘Also tasted’, with just the name of the wine and the score. Also, however, any new wine tasted and rated for the first time in the guide is also given a note, even if it scores three-and-a-half stars or less,” says Tim James.

The web-based version of the guide is available at

The five-star achievers for 2015 are:

Cabernet Franc

Warwick Estate Cabernet Franc 2011

Cabernet Sauvignon

Groot Constantia Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Le Riche Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2011

Nederburg Wines II Centuries Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Oldenburg Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Stark-Condé Wines Three Pines Cabernet Sauvignon 2012


Sadie Family Wines Pofadder 2013

Petit Verdot

Stellenbosch Vineyards Flagship Petit Verdot 2010


Flagstone Winery Time Manner Place Pinotage 2012

Kanonkop Estate Black Label Pinotage 2012

Pinot Noir

Creation Wines Reserve Pinot Noir 2013

Crystallum Cuvée Cinéma Pinot Noir 2013

Newton Johnson Vineyards Family Vineyards Pinot Noir 2013

Sumaridge Wines Pinot Noir 2012


Boekenhoutskloof Winery Syrah 2012

Boschendal Wines Cecil John Reserve Shiraz 2012

De Trafford Wines Blueprint Syrah 2012

Fable Mountain Vineyards Syrah 2012

Porseleinberg Porseleinberg 2012

Red Blends

Delaire Graff Estate Botmaskop 2012

Ernie Els Wines CWG Auction Reserve 2012

Hartenberg Estate The Mackenzie 2011

Thelema Mountain Vineyards Rabelais 2010

Vilafonté Series C 2011


DeMorgenzon Reserve Chardonnay 2013

Iona Vineyards Chardonnay 2013

Richard Kershaw Wines Elgin Chardonnay 2013

Sterhuis Barrel Selection Chardonnay 2012

Chenin Blanc

Alheit Vineyards Magnetic North Mountain Makstok 2013

Fram Wines Chenin Blanc 2013

Kaapzicht Wine Estate The 1947 Chenin Blanc 2013

Grenache Blanc

The Foundry Grenache Blanc 2013

Sauvignon Blanc

Buitenverwachting Husseys Vlei Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Diners Club Bartho Eksteen Wine Academy CWG Auction Reserve Vloekskoot Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Reyneke Wines Reserve White 2013


Vergelegen Wines Reserve Semillon 2013

White Blends

Constantia Uitsig Constantia White 2013

David & Nadia Sadie Aristargos 2013

DeMorgenzon Maestro White 2013

Flagstone Winery Treaty Tree Reserve White Blend 2013

Miles Mossop Wines Saskia 2012

Oak Valley Wines Mountain Reserve White Blend 2010

Sadie Family Wines Palladius 2012

Sadie Family Wines Skerpioen 2013

Méthode Cap Classique

Graham Beck Wines Blanc de Blancs Brut 2009

Dessert Wine, Unfortified

Delheim Wines Edelspatz Noble Late Harvest 2013

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Straw Wine 2013

Dessert Wine, Fortified

Nuy Wine Cellar White Muscadel 2013


Boplaas Family Vineyards Cape Tawny Vintners Reserve NV

De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve 2012


KWV 12 Year Old Barrel Select Brandy

* While the 2015 edition lists eight five-star brandies there was only one new entrant.

– Jonathan Snashall

Declaration of interest – the writer served as a panellist in the five-star taste-off.

Abrie Beeslaar, Wendy and Brad PatonAbrie Beeslaar, Wendy Paton, Brad Paton

Andrea and Chris Mullineux, Carl and Kathleen van der Merwe

Eben and  Maria Sadie, Stephan Joubert

Johan Reyneke, Chris Mullineux and Tim James

Rita and David Trafford

Wine of the Year