It was a boisterous Diners Club Platter’s South African Wines 2014 ‘prize-giving’ last night, with a record 80 wines receiving the much-desired 5 star accolade, selected blind-tasted from double the number of 5-star finalists. It was an evening that honoured publisher Andrew McDowall, and saw new publisher JP Rossouw in action for the first time.
A number of records were set last night, with the largest number of wines evaluated ever, at 7434, there being 49 new entries, and close to 900 producers of wine in the Guide. After an absence, brandy and sherry-style wines were awarded again.
On arrival, sipping Klein Constantia MCC, a number of well-known winemakers and estate owners were visible, giving one a taste of some of the 5 star winners, including last year’s Winery of the Year winner Gottfried Mocke of Cape Chamonix, Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick, Razvan Macici of Nederburg, Anthony Hamilton Russell, Johann Laubser of Delaire Graff, and Ginny Povall of Botanica. We commented that it was wonderful to see so many women winemakers amongst the top 5 star recipients! Once we were allowed to enter the venue at the Vineyard Hotel, the wines were displayed in groups, for one to taste and to see the 5 star winners by their presence.
David Hughes sang the praises of Andrew, and his direct involvement with 29 of the 34 Platter’s Wine Guides. He described Andrew as a man ‘massive in character’, who has a nickname ‘Grunter‘, who got himself smuggled into a Nederburg Wine Auction via the boot of a car when he did not receive an invitation, who fell onto a cannon at the bottom of the steps of the Mount Nelson when he slid down the bannister at his 40th birthday party, a man one can trust when he gives you his word, ‘and a hell of a good guy‘, warning JP that he has big boots to fill in taking over from Andrew. There was roaring applause for Andrew.
Andrew looked well, and his dry humour was on full form, saying that the romance with Diners Club last year had led to marriage during the year. He was full of praise for his ‘young, strong and virile’ successor JP. He was proud that the edition was printed locally and not in Singapore. He revealed the ‘Walker Bay blue’ cover, saying that they had considered calling it ‘Pendock sea sick’, which brought the house down! He praised editor Philip van Zyl as the ‘most ethical man’, which led to applause from the floor. The 80 5 star winners include 7 brandies, up from 62 last year. I asked Andrew what he would be doing with his time, and he said he wasn’t sure, but getting better at bridge is one of his goals.
The surprise of the evening for me was interacting with JP, not the friendliest person in the past, who appeared transformed and as outgoing as I have never seen before, coming to chat, sharing news about a new recommended restaurant opening, saying that he will not be publishing a Diners Club Rossouw’s Restaurants (part of the Platter’s publisher package is that they have bought his publication too) this year, and that he will not have enough time to do reviews going forward, but that he will appoint a team of tasters to do so for him.
The top news of the evening was that Winery of the Year 2014 went to Mullineux Family Wines, its new company name Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines and its association with Analjit Singh only having been announced a week ago. It was a great shame that they did not attend, the function clashing with the Swartland Revolution in Riebeek-Kasteel, where they are based. Viticulturist Rosa Kruger was a charming representative for Chris and Andrea Mullineux, collecting their four 5 star certificates (as well as for Eben Sadie). I asked Philip how they chose Mullineux & Leeu ahead of Cederberg and Nederburg, which also had four 5 star wines, and he explained that in the blind tastings the Mullineux wines had more ‘very good‘ qualitative evaluations, and that they had been recognised with eleven 5 star wines in the past seven years. The Guide acknowledges the performance of the Mullineuxs as being a chance success, as both Chris and Andrea had different career plans (accounting for him, astronaut for her), and their success in the past seven years ‘places them firmly in the league of the greatest modern-era wineries‘.
The Red Wine of The Year for 2014 was announced as Newton Johnson Windansea Pinot Noir 2012 (‘rich, fragrant, warmly sensuous’, according to its evaluation), while the White Wine of The Year for 2014 is DeMorgenzon Maestro White 2012, a blend of Chenin Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, and Chardonnay (with an evaluation of ‘perfectly balanced for delicious current drinking or keeping’). The Superquaffer of the Year for 2014 is Boland Kelder Five Climates 2013.
Newton Johnson Vineyards scored three 3 five stars, while Cape Chamonix Wine Farm, DeMorgenzon, Fable Mountain Vineyards, Klein Constantia Estate, Kleine Zalze Wines, Sadie Family Wines, Stark-Condé Wines, Tokara, Reyneke Wines, and KWV each achieved two 5 stars. First time 5 star wines are from Alvi’s Drift Private Cellar, Chateau Naudé Wine Creation, Eikendal Vineyards, Hilton Vineyards, Opstal Estate, Raats Family Wines, Richard Kershaw Wines, Sijnn, Silverthorn Wines, Spioenkop Wines, and Windmeul Cooperative Cellar.
The 2014 Guide includes descriptions and ratings of more than 60 brandies and husk spirits (grappas), as well as sherry-style wines. The brandy ratings were done by Winnie Bowman and Tim James, with reference to Dave Hughes. The sherry-style wines were assessed by Winnie Bowman and Christine Rudman. The tasters for the wines were Michael Fridjhon, Angela Lloyd, Cathy van Zyl, Winnie Bowman, Greg de Bruyn, Tim James, Christine Rudman, Meryl Weaver, David Biggs, David Clarke, Christian Eedes, Higgo Jacobs, Cathy Marston, Fiona McDonald, Ingrid Motteux, Greg Mutambe, Jörg Pfützner, James Pietersen, and Dave Swingler.
The 80 five star wines in Platter’s South African Wines 2014 are the following:
• Raats Family 2011
• Warwick 2010
• Boekenhoutskloof 2011
• Cederberg Five Generations 2011
• Ernie Els Proprietor’s 2011
• Neil Ellis Vineyard Selection 2010
• Stark-Condé Three Pines 2011
• Chateau Naudé Le Vin de François 2011
• Rijk’s Reserve 2009
• Spioenkop ‘1900’ 2012
• Newton Johnson Windansea 2012 (Red Wine of the Year)
• Newton Johnson Family Vineyards 2012
• Cederberg CWG Auction Reserve Teen die Hoog 2011
• Eagles’ Nest 2010
• Fable Syrah 2011
• Hilton The Dalmatian 2010
• Mont Destin Destiny 2009
• Mullineux Family Schist Syrah 2011
• Mullineux Family Granite Syrah 2011
• Rust en Vrede Single Vineyard Syrah 2011
• Stark-Condé Three Pines Syrah 2011
• Saronsberg 2011
• Sijnn 2011
• Bouchard Finlayson Hannibal 2011
• Chamonix Troika 2011
• Delaire Graff Botmaskop 2011
• Eikendal Classique 2011
• Ken Forrester Three Halves 2009
• Thelema Rabelais 2009
• Windmeul Reserve Cape Blend 2012
• Chamonix Reserve 2012
• Hamilton Russell 2012
• Newton Johnson Family Vineyards 2012
• Richard Kershaw Elgin Clonal Selection 2012
• Alheit Radio Lazarus 2012
• Beaumont Hope Marguerite 2012
• Botanica Old Vine 2012
• DeMorgenzon Reserve 2012
• Jean Daneel Signature 2012
• Kleine Zalze Family Reserve 2012
• Mullineux Family Schist 2012
• Opstal Carl Everson 2012
• Reyneke 2012
• Sadie Family Skurfberg 2012
• Stellenrust 48 Barrel Fermented 2012
• The Foundry 2012
• AA Badenhorst Family CWG Auction Reserve White Grenache Vuilgoed 3 2012
• Simonsig CWG Auction Reserve The Russety
• Cederberg David Nieuwoudt Ghost Corner Wild Ferment 2012
• Klein Constantia Perdeblokke 2012
• Kleine Zalze Family Reserve 2012
• Mulderbosch 1000 Miles 2012
• Tokara Walker Bay 2013
• Constantia Uitsig 2012
• Cape Point Isliedh 2012
• Cederberg David Nieuwoudt Ghost Corner Bowline 2012
• David Aristargos 2012
• DeMorgenzon Maestro White 2012 (White Wine of the Year)
• Fable Jackal Bird 2012
• Fairview Nurok 2012
• Flagstone Treaty Tree Reserve 2011
• Nederburg Ingenuity 2012
• Nitida Coronata Integration 2012
• Rall 2012
• Reyneke Reserve White 2011
• Sadie Family Palladius 2011
• Tokara Director’s Reserve 2012
Méthode Cap Classique
• Klein Constantia Brut 2010
• Silverthorn The Green Man Blanc de Blancs 2010
Dessert Wine, Fortified
• Alvi’s Drift Muscat de Frontignan White 2010
Dessert Wine Unfortified
• Delheim Edelspatz Noble Late Harvest 2012
• Fleur du Cap Noble Late Harvest 2012
• KWV The Mentors Noble Late Harvest 2012
• Mullineux Family Straw Wine 2012
• Nederburg Eminence 2012
• Nederburg Edelkeur 2012
• Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Noble Late Harvest 2012
• Axe Hill Cape Vintage 2011
• De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve 2011
• KWV Cape Tawny NV
• Boplaas Potstill 20 Years Brandy
• KWV 15 Year Old Alambic
• KWV 20 Year Old
• Oude Meester Souverein
• Van Ryn 12 Year Distillers Reserve
• Van Ryn 20 Year Collectors Reserve
• Van Ryn Au.Ra
Diners Club Platter’s South African Wines 2014, www.wineonaplatter.com Twitter: @Wineonaplatter R169,95. Available from mid-November.
POSTSCRIPT 10/11: This Infographic by Winetimes gives a visual representation of the 2014 5 star wines: very large Stellenbosch wine region representation, and the majority are single variety wines.
POSTSCRIPT 11/11: Fleur du Cap PR agency GC Communications has sent a media release, informing us that the Fleur du Cap Noble Late Harvest 2012 is the seventh 5 star wine in a row.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage