Platter high-fives to diverse vineyards

Although the 2012 ­Platter’s Wine Guide will be released only next month, the winners of its top ratings were announced this week at the Cape Wine Europe 2011, the enormous tasting of South African wine for professionals held every two years in London.

This year 45 wines rate five stars. They satisfactorily represent the Cape’s wine areas, newer and more established wineries, and larger and smaller ones, patterns neatly illustrated by three producers that each have three wines on the list.

Nederburg is by far the oldest and largest, though it is only in the past decade that it has inexorably risen across its various levels to the point where virtually any wine bearing its label arouses expectations of real satisfaction. Ingenuity White, a blend of eight varieties, has won five stars for each of its four releases to date, a record closely followed by that of Newton Johnson Domaine Pinot Noir with an unblemished three. Two dessert wines, Edelkeur and Eminence, were Nederburg’s other five-star winners, also of the 2010 vintage.

Boekenhoutskloof from Franschhoek, undoubtedly among the country’s top few wineries, is accustomed to Platter glory.

Remarkably, there have been only three years since 2000 that did not feature either its syrah or cabernet sauvignon. This year both are present, from the 2009 vintage, with the superbly elegant noble late harvest 2008.

This year’s third big winner is Mullineux Family Vineyards from the Swartland, in only its third appearance in the Platter guide, a winery for which prestige is already in inverse proportion to its size. The Straw Wine 2010 repeats its achievement of last year and is now joined by Syrah 2009 and the chenin blanc-based White Blend 2010.

Shiraz/syrah is in fact the largest category of five-star winners (seven of them, if we properly include the La Motte Shiraz-Viognier and improperly include the Sadie Family Columella which has 18% mourvèdre). Paarl producer Mont Destin’s Destiny Shiraz 2007 is probably the least known of them.

There are six unfortified dessert wines, all excellent, but the most exciting of all perhaps is the most original and unexpected, especially by those who think that Platter sneers at co-ops and areas like ­Breedekloof. Badslese 2009 is an unoaked wine of great sweetness and great finesse from Badsberg Wine Cellar, made from chenin blanc with a brave 10% admixture of hanepoot. I was on the panel that tasted this category (150-odd wines nominated for five stars by different people were then tasted “blind” and their fates thus decided) and we were united in our enthusiasm.

Five white blends of varying persuasions triumphed, with the only unusual name being Fable Jackal Bird — previously a winner, however — from Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards, now rebranded as Fable. Five sauvignon blancs were awarded, the producers all previous five-star winners, apart from Strandveld, the Cape’s most southerly vineyard. Four Bordeaux-style reds won accolades (Glenelly Lady May 2009 and Miles Mossop Max 2008 were the newcomers here).

Among the other high-fives, one that was particularly worth noticing was the Mentors Grenache Blanc 2010 from KWV. A portent, we can hope (encouraged by KWV’s good performance in the Veritas competition), that this winery is now on the same upward path taken a decade ago by that other once-tired old monster, Nederburg.

Tim James is a taster and associate editor of Platter’s Guide. The full list of Platter five-star winners is at wineonaplatter.com

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