There’s a neat, interesting and gloomily instructive comparison to be made between the top eleven chardonnays in Platter’s 2016 and the top ten in Christian Eedes’s Prescient competition, announced just a day before Platter’s was launched.
Both were judged blind by teams of three people (though the Platter’s tasting of all chardonnays scoring at least 4.5 stars had the benefit of two roving tasters to give advice); they worked with similar-sized line-ups: 58 in Platter’s, 60 in the Prescient (pre-selected by Eedes on grounds of success, reputation, etc) – obviously there was a great deal of overlap in the wines tasted..
First, it’s worth noting that eleven was by far the largest group of chardonnays ever to reach five star status. Perhaps they were being a bit over-generous? But surely the Prescient team were being ridiculously mean in giving not a single wine a score over 94 out of 100 – Cape chardonnays are widely recognised as being a world-class category; there were 8 wines scoring 94 and 2 scoring 93.
So to a bit of analysis.
- The ostensibly startling first point is that the two top sets had only two wines in common: Paul Cluver Seven Flags 2014 and Sumaridge 2013.
- However (or should that be “in addition”?), there were 4 of the Platter five-stars that hadn’t been selected by Eedes to be amongst the 60 Prescient candidates: Dorrance Cuvée Anaïs 2014, GlenWood Grand Duc 2013, Graham Beck Lonehill 2014 and MVH Signature 2014 (the last of those is a new brand – the own-label of Matthew van Heerden, so possibly Christian didn’t know of it, or of its quality).
- Prescient gave sub-90 scores for 4 of the Platter’s five-stars: Buitenverwachting 2014 (89), Haskell Anvil 2014 (88), Newton Johnson Family Vineyards 2014 (89), Sterhuis Barrel Selection 2013 (88). The Platter’s White Wine of the Year, Warwick White Lady, scored 91 in Prescient.
- Only one of the Prescient winners was not tasted by the Platter’s team: KWV Mentors (which was not sent to Platter’s for consideration). Most of the other Prescient top 10 scored five stars in Platter’s.
- Uva Mira’s performance is perhaps worth noting. Uva Mira make 3 chardonnays. Platter’s gave 4.5 stars to the one rated highest by the estate itself, and that one scored a mere 88 in Prescient. On the other hand, Prescient were more enthusiastic about Single Tree 2014, the second-level wine (if you want to call it that – it’s the second-most expensive), and the entry-level The Mira. These two scored just 4 stars and 3.5 stars in Platter’s (I was the taster of these wines, which didn’t make it to the big blind taste-off; and I would defend my comparative ungenerosity).
To me, one startling thing that the two lists have in common is that both of them manage exclude Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2014, which I suspect would be regarded by most critics (certainly me) as a magnificent wine, and undoubtedly one of South Africa’s best of that vintage (2014 being a much better year for chardonnay than for sauvignon blanc and some other varieties). Other notable omissions from both lists would include, I’d say, Crystallum Clay Shales, Iona, Vergelegen Reserve – and others: there are a lot of good chards around.
Otherwise both lists are more-or-less plausible, I suppose – though on the whole I think I’d go for the Platter’s list if I had to choose just one.
What conclusion can be drawn about two teams, working from similar bases, getting substantially different results? Only one, I fear. You’re not going to get anything like a definitive list of the best ten Cape chardonnays by sitting down in front of 60 wines, with no knowledge of origin, house-style and track record, and dealing with them in the space of a morning or so.
Unfortunately, the current procedure at Platter’s is to turn the final lap into the usual lottery of a big blind tasting, so the results are likely to be as more-or-less random as for any similar competition. That seems to me a pity for a guide.
The Platter’s top eleven chardonnays
- Buitenverwachting 2014
- Dorrance Cuvée Anaïs 2014
- GlenWood Grand Duc 2013
- Graham Beck Lonehill 2014
- Haskell Anvil 2014
- MVH Signature 2014
- Newton Johnson Family Vineyards 2014
- Paul Cluver Seven Flags 2014
- Sterhuis Barrel Selection 2013
- Sumaridge 2013
- Warwick The White Lady Chardonnay 2014
The Prescient top ten chardonnays
- Eikendal 2014
- Groot Constantia 2014
- KWV The Mentors 2013 (NT)
- Paul Cluver Estate 2014
- Paul Cluver Seven Flags 2014
- Richard Kershaw Elgin Clonal Selection 2014
- Sumaridge 2013
- Uva Mira The Single Tree 2014 (4*)
- StellenRust Barrel Fermented 2014
- Uva Mira The Mira 2014 (3.5*)