16 November 2010 by Robyn Campbell

The clatter of Platter’s

The newly released 2011 edition of Platter’s South African Wines, oft described as South Africa’s wine bible, as all de-vine texts, has its believers and its heretics.

Inside this year’s politically correct green cover (the theme this year is sustainability) you’ll find an overview of the South African wine industry, styles and vintages, wine tasting terms, a rather Western Cape-centric guide to touring wine country, and an A-Z of Cape wines and wineries.

Special care is taken to highlight producers who are making wine in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.

Twenty-one unlucky souls, many of them Cape Wine Masters, were press ganged into the making of this book. They were forced to taste over 6000 wines from 800 producers; sometimes twice, even thrice, to come up with the Winery of the Year, Wines of the Year, 5-star Wines, Highly Recommended, Buy Now, Drink Later, Superquaffer of the Year, Exceptionally Drinkable, and Well Priced.  It was a beastly job, but someone had to do it.

Criticisms levelled against the guide is that it’s the same pack of cork-poppers every year tasting the wines. That rating wines, no matter whether the tasting is done blind, vertically, or swinging from the chandelier in the cellar, is fraught with personal prejudice; that awarding wines ‘stars’ is little like sticking stars on kids’ foreheads for good behaviour.

Every year, these categories get a couple of wine fundis, and more than a few wine-makers, backs up.

Criticisms levelled against the guide is that it’s the same pack of cork-poppers every year tasting the wines. That rating wines, no matter whether the tasting is done blind, vertically, or swinging from the chandelier in the cellar, is fraught with personal prejudice; that awarding wines ‘stars’ is little like sticking stars on kids’ foreheads for good behaviour.

Some also decry the guide for fostering a tasting public that’s too lazy or too ratings-obsessed to think for themselves, so they simply buy whichever bottle has the most bling on it.

The whingers though, I think, may be missing the point. No other wine producing country (that I’m aware of) annually publishes such a comprehensive guide to their wine industry and winelands.

Moreover, with an app for the 2011 Platter’s available by early December for the Apple iPhone®, iPad® and iPod touch® , getting to know, and knowing where to get, South African wines couldn’t be easier.

On the cover of Platter’s, below the title is a short, judiciously chosen word: guide. That’s all Platter’s is - a guide.

Platter’s may be biblical in its breadth, but the Ten Commandments it isn’t. If you’re seeking local wine enlightenment though, you unlikely to go wrong with Platter’s.

Category: Food & Wine

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