JUST THE FACTS
Price: R320 (as of Sep 2016)
Winery: Bouchard Finlayson
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Wine Region: Walker Bay
Country: South Africa
Ponce Factor: High
Occasion: Solo time. Just you, the universe, and this bottle of wine.
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If you read nothing else
Top of the table in a blind tasting against some of SA’s finest Pinot Noirs. Beating out both Hamilton Russell and Catherine Marshall, this PN boasts gorgeous vanguard aromas of red licorice, ripe plums and cherry fruit, all elevated to the level of sublime by complications of smoky oak spice on both the front and back end.
There aren’t very many wines that can charge R300 for a bottle and still deliver good value. But this is surely one of them.
What is the Platters Wine Guide?
Journalists John Platter and his wife Erica published their first little wine guide in 1980. Since then, they have sold over a million copies, and won “Best Worldwide Annual Wine Guide” on two occasions. Almost 40 years after inception, the Platters have handed over all the legwork to a distinguished team 16 sommeliers, wine entrepreneurs, journalists, architects, wine authors, and WSET judges. The larger team not only allows a more thorough covering of the vast South African wine industry, but also pools the combined expertise from a wide range of wine-related industries.
Biased or belligerent?
When a movie critic slates a film for being an embarrassment to the academy, or a soul-sapping, time-sucking torturous two hours of cruel and unusual punishment, the public, by and large, do not cry foul and issue withering accusations of impartiality. Instead, they choose to either agree or disagree with a given verdict.
On occasions, Platter’s too, has been accused of lacking objectivity, but usually these criticisms are levelled by people who misunderstand why the guide exists in the first place. It is not a purely qualitative assessment of the liquid within the bottle, disembodied from the people and institutions that actually make said liquid. And it is also not an impartial blind assessment of the wines listed.
So what is it then?
For the people by the people about the people.
Platters is, instead, an in-depth look at the individuals, vineyards, wine philosophies, production techniques, and the wineries themselves, that all act together to deliver a wine experience. This includes elements both inside and outside the bottle
Because the guide is written by humans, who all have their own biases and stylistic preferences, it is no wonder that certain wineries and winemakers (who may appeal to these biases) seem to garner more coverage than others.
But it should be remembered that Platters is written by a large panel of judges of different ages, genders, cultures and professions, and so any apparent biases that do emerge in the final product have only done so because they have managed to impress enough of the panel to successfully motivate for said prominence. In other words, if the guide says that something is awesome, it might (just maybe, perhaps, possibly) be exactly that.
One big fat 5-star exception.
Having said that the wines are not rated in blind tastings, there is an exception to this process.
All wines that receive ratings of 4.5 stars during the first few phases of judging then go into a final round of judging, which is performed entirely blind. It is only during this blind tasting that any wine is awarded 5-star status. In Platter’s own words, a 5-star wine is “Superlative. A South African Classic”, and one can rest assured that the ever-elusive final half-a-star is awarded purely on the quality of the contents of the bottle. A comforting thought when forking out R320 for a bottle of wine!
About the Author
Jono Le Feuvre is not a bean counter. He is a bean roaster. Bean roasters carry far more street cred & get to speak at bizarre niche gatherings of enquiring-but-unhinged-minds. They also usually have addictive tendencies. When he is not roasting beans he is pulling corks. Or deftly removing screwcap enclosures. But you can read more about him here.