Monday, November 22, 2010

Platter dont taste good!!!

After all the media hype and discussions about the new 2011 Platter Wine GUIDE and all the “amazing” 5-Star wines that they have selected this year I am going to write something I might regret, maybe shouldn’t do but have felt about writing for about 6 years since joining the wine industry. So in the spirit of all the Gibbs controversy I am also going to take a leap and give you my opinion (not the Burger Family from Rietvallei Estate) on Platter and why this “GUIDE”, yes GUIDE, is NOT good enough for such a competitive industry.

The Platter Guide (PG) is still, after so many years, so regional and Wine of Origin (WO) driven that it is not showing the wonderful wines from the Cape Winelands, but rather being so biased to certain producers and regions its worrying. Yes it is a sighted tasting and there have been so many discussions about sighted or blind tasting, but can none of these judges still taste the wines on merit?? I mean is it so difficult to use your ‘wine knowledge’, because that’s why you were appointed and chosen to be a judge, and judge the wine on merit and not where its from or by who it is produced?

NO consistency:
For some producers it is ONLY the consistency in ratings and not necessarily the wine. How can a producer keep scoring the same ratings every single vintage or maybe even a half star better than the previous one??? Then some people talk about this vintage being so tough, last vintage being amazing but the wines score the same. Wow, so South Africa doesn’t have vintage variations it seems??…or mainly on this side of the mountain I should say. By this side I mean Cape Town’s side of the Du Toitskloof Pass. It must be very difficult when you see the label in front of you and think, “geesh, I can’t give this wine less than 4*, I mean look who is the producer”. So the way I see it, if your Cab Sauv has scored 4.5* and you are located in the preferred Wine of Origin(WO) then you will have to put balsamic vinegar in the next vintage to score less than 4* in the following years guide. We bottled Wines for someone with their own brand, the same wine was rated 3.5* and 4 * in this new issue under different labels, interesting isnt it??

If anyone can come to me and say that this doesn’t play a role in the amount of stars you get awarded for your wines then I say bulls#@t. If your winery is situated in the preferred WO then you already have 2*, now all you need is a decent label, decent name and half good wine to get the other 2*, in total: 2*+2* = 4*
Half the problem here is that if the tasters go and have a look at the WO on the label of the specific wine it will probably (not always but a very good chance) state WO Western Cape!! Why, because they bought in grapes or wine to lift the quality and volume of what they can produce. This is why I have been so vocal and adamant about what an Estate Wine actually is and how tough it is to make sure that each vintage that you bottle is on par. There is a huge divide in the industry about WO and where your brand is located and this is hopefully changing with young, more open minded winemakers entering the industry. Unfortunately Platter will not change in the same way.   

Softening the Judges:
Call it what you like but this is also a huge issue. Some producers being able to spoil their judge before the actual tasting of their wines for PG starts and in some instances the judges actually go to the winery to taste. No need to submit samples we will come to you or wait, why don’t we do dinner Saturday and we can chat about the wines you are submitting this year. Is this fair? NO, not according to me, because this is where the mind games start. If you think I am making this up, think again, all these things and more are happening except few will admit it. Bribery is what they call it in certain places.

Why am I saying all this?
The industry needs to be educated by something like Platter not “played” by it. There is NOTHING fair in Platter, but they expect producers to walk into a client who doesn’t really know anything about wine but believes that Platter will be his Magic 8-ball to see whether he can list this wine. Only to find that it is 3 stars…”sorry man but I only want 4 star Wines on my wine list”? Now how do I convince this guy other than telling him that Platter is a glorified telephone directory with info about the producers and maps to see where each producer is situated and the ratings are not worth the paper it’s printed on. A person once came to my stand to taste our Esteanna 2007 that scored 4 Stars, but I told him to forget about Platter rating, taste the wine and tell me what you think…he bought it because he learned more about the wine, where we are and what we do. At least I could tell one person NOT to trust in Platter, but I can only hope that more people will also do that. OH and before I forget, there was a wine rated in the 2011 Platter that we don’t even do anymore and didn’t submit samples, can someone tell me how that works?

It sounds like Sour Grapes hey? Damn right, because I know the quality of producers outside of Stellenbosch, Durbanville and Paarl and of places that the industry used to see as the factory of their brands and quite frankly will never talk about Top Quality coming from these regions, because guess what, that’s where they get all their wines from and if they were to compliment the wines then they will have to pay more next year and that isn’t clever business practice is it?
For some time now i have wondered, what if i dont submit any of my wines to Platter for tasting but just list all my details and wines that we do while stating, Not Tasted. Do you think we will lose listings or sales if we dont have a Platter rating?  

I am asking anyone reading this blog to reply to me and inform me of ANY natural, dry wine, (not dessert of fortified) that has received 5 Stars in Platter from the Robertson Wine Valley in the history of Platter.
Unfortunately I cannot confirm any so please help me with this and I am open to anyone that can inform me of any 5 Star Wines from the “other side of the mountain”.

Thanks for reading, I hope i didnt shock you too much.

Colyn The Leg Truter
Twitter:  colyntruter


  1. Perhaps the PG is not much than “a glorified telephone directory with info about the producers and maps to see where each producer is situated” but that is of significant value in and by itself. Yes, many of the winery ratings on the West side of the mountains may be unduly inflated, and the wineries have an unfair advantage because they are much closer to the wine writer’s homes than those through the DTK Tunnel. But the key thing is what can you and your brother/sister wineries in outlying areas do about it?

    First, does it not make sense to invite out the key reviewers, put them up for a couple of nights or more in Robertson, and ply them with all the kindness, attention, and information/insights about your and other superior farms possible? This will take time and money, but it is probably necessary if you are going to compete in what you have already identified as an unfair fight.

    Secondly, perhaps there should be a program to reimburse the Tunnel tolls if a visitor buys a case or more of wine. (Face it, even though parking in Stellenbosch isn’t free, there are no tolls between there and Cape Town proper.) Your visitors are also spending a lot more on gas and wear on their vehicles than if they ventured only the Boland.

    Thirdly, there may be a need for a permanent live entertainment venue in Greater Robertson to give people an additional incentive to make the drive and stay over. The more reason people have to come and stay at your area, they more successful everyone becomes. (The Robert Mondavi Winery gained a great following in early years for their Sunday night concerts on the lawn. And then the press started to publicize the winery’s entertainment successes as a news story.) As an uitlander, I barely know the territory or certainly don’t have all the good ideas. But it strikes me that the superior farms working together could accomplish a great deal and improve the Platter chatter to their benefit.

  2. Go Colyn! ek stem 100% saam jou Man! Die platter is n glorified Telefoon gids op die stadium met klomp ou ballies wat hul "gunsteling" wynplase voorkeur gee.


  3. David,
    Thanks for your input. The problem really isnt how far we are from Cape Town, which is a very short 150km but more the Old Political Regime in the Industry that has reign for so long. The Robertson WIne Valley has four very distinct Wine Weekends to attract people and so does the Breede River Valley. I have to admit that when you talk to young winemakers and viticulturists under the age of 40 they talk very positively about other regions and the old "bulk" regions. There has been a huge surge in quality from "the other side if the mountain" and we have two of the biggest brands in South Africa. Unfortunately the whole rating thing and what the older generations perceive as being quality production will take time to go away. In short, there is enough evidence to show that Robertson has one of the best and coolest climates in SA, with some of the best growing soils and has proven with other regions that you dont need to drop yields to 5 tons a Ha to produce quality. That is a huge "trick" that the industry has played on itself...

    Thanks again and we hope to see you in Robertson at some point.

  4. Hi Colyn,
    I must agree with you, and find it somewhat frustrating. I import SA wines into Taiwan and currently stock two Robertson wineries, one of which is our biggest seller. Robertson wines tend to show fruity characteristics, which is very well suited to local tastes. Unfortunately the local market also pays special attention to no. of "stars" a wine can boast, it's a rather superficial market in this respect.

    Luckily, if you mention Platter, people will look at you blankly and start looking for the plate of food. It's fairly unheard of. The story is what sells and I try not to mention PG.

    Thanks for the blog. Confirms some of the stick Pendock has been giving.

  5. Hi Colyn,

    After reading your article on your blog I would like to make the following observation.

    It is very confusing when a wine list is presented to a customer containing wines with accolades and wines with no accolades as it could sway a person to buy the higher scorer, believing that this is the more superior wine. In many cases the wines with no accolades far exceed the expectations of those with higher ratings.

    Why is it that a wine that looks like Idi Amin's tunic with all the medals etc on a shelf is the chosen one when in a number of instances the vintage is not that which received the awards. The persons responsible for putting these award stickers on should be more careful in spotting the correct vintage that was judged.

    Restaurants in areas suffer from the same problem as the wine industry. Those that do not cause a fuss and carry on regardless supplying some of the best gourmet foods get no recognition. One seems to have to bow and scrape to those so called fundies to be able to get a mention.

    In ending I would like to mention that I am a keen fan of the wines of the Robertson Valley and would agree with your comments. It concerns me and many others who think the same that why does an area that hosts Wacky Wine Weekend, Wine on the River and the Robertson Slow not get the recognition they deserve.