Five Star Fever

Friday, 27 August, 2004
Neil Pendock
Tasting for the John Platter guide reached fever pitch on Friday at the Devon Valley Hotel with the blind tasting of 67 wines, nominated by the guide's dozen tasters for the ultimate accolade - a five star score.

It's probably the year's most important tasting as Platter is the SA consumer's most reliable guide and a fixed point, with a 25-year track record, in an industry where wine shows and festivals pop up faster than porcini in a Jonkershoek pine forest after rain.

The nominated wines give a unique inventory of the state of the SA vinous nation: Shiraz was the biggest class with ten nominees and occupied two out of the 17 five-star berths awarded. It was also the hardest to judge with several discernable styles evident. Semillon was the most successful category, with two out of three nominated wines getting the high five.

Cabernet was the big loser with no fivers out of five proposals while
Sauvignon Blanc could only muster one laureate out of seven entries. Two stickies and two Ports confirm the attraction of post prandials, at least among the tasters, if not yet among the SA public. Three producers tied as top performers with two winners each: Vergelegen (both white, which raised eyebrows), Rust en Vrede (if the Ernie Els blend is included) and Hamilton Russell, who were rewarded for both their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

No fewer than eight wines were from the 2003 vintage, which is a remarkable confirmation of quality and consistency. The mechanism of awarding a five star rating is a simple one: eleven tasters each gave a 'yea' or 'nay' to the nominees and wines that achieved six or more votes were confirmed as five star stunners with the runners up rated four and a half, by default.

No SA wine competition would be complete without a dose of controversy and this year's Platter tasting was no exception. Several of the wines proposed, and a couple which made it through to five stars, had noticeable Brettanomyces character, which would have been totally unacceptable to an Australian show judge, but which SA tasters nevertheless found appealing.

Seven of the nominees were Cape Wine Makers Guild Auction wines, with only one of their number making it to five star status - a success rate of 14% versus 25% for the tasting as a whole and while no Pinotage was rewarded, the Steytler Vision 2001, a Cape blend, was one of two 'other red blends' to get the nod.

For a list of the Platter Five Star Wines see: