Sauvignons overwhelm the Platter palates

Sauvignon blanc fans will be pleased to note that there are five examples of their favourite grape in the Platter five-star line-up this year. That’s quite apart from the role it plays as a bit-player in a number of the starry blends. The last few years there has never been more than one, so getting five – out of ten contenders, is pretty impressive, and makes it one of the best-performing categories.

The detail will, unfortunately, have to wait a day or so for the formal announcement of the results, but not longer than that: last year we had to wait till the launch of the book in November to learn of the winners, but this year the producers have to be told urgently, as the wines must be rushed over to London for Wosa’s Mega Tasting in mid October.

We were divided into two panels to taste the record number of 105 candidates, as I thought we would be, and mine didn’t taste sauvignons – so that I can’t claim any credit for those. But we were responsible for the Bordeaux-style white blends and four out of seven made it there, so that’s a bit more sauvignon blanc. And there was at least one dollop of the stuff amongst the four top other-style white blends.

Incidentally, in the pics:  first, looking judicious, John Platter, the founder of the whole project and now only making an appearance as an honoured guest taster at this final lineup.  Then, a mercifully blurred Angela Lloyd (the blur my fault for forgetting to allow the flash to operate rather than hers for forgetting to spit – as you can see).

I’m pretty sure we’ll find that, as usual, white wines did rather better than reds. My overall favourite class was in fact red, but it was the smallest (apart from bubbly with just one): pinot noir. We had three pinots, and I voted for all of them. The rest of my team clearly were a trifle less enthusiastic, as one of them fell by the wayside (but another achieved the rare distinction at the Platter 5-star tasting of being voted for by everybody). Two of the three candidates were from Elgin: Catherine Marshall and Paul Cluver Seven Flags, and one from Hemel-en-Aarde: Newton Johnson’s maiden release of their Domaine Pinot.  I’m sorry that one of them didn’t make it. But the result is testimony, anyway, to a category of Cape wine which (as both Angela Lloyd and Michael Fridjhon have recently pointed out) has shown stunning improvement in recent years. (Incidentally, I’d have thought that Cathy M’s name is one of the more egregious omissions in the CWG membership list, especially given their notorious lack of women; but perhaps she has, like some others, declined to play that game.)

The most disappointing category, and probably that with the lowest success rate of all the larger ones, was shiraz. We had fifteen wines here. It was in fact the largest group of wines, easily beating Bordeaux-style red blends with eleven. But whereas five of the blends made it, only four shirazes did. One of our panel of seven people voted for six of the 15 wines, one voted for two, the rest voted for four or five – so that you can see we were not mightily impressed by the category. One does wonder how some of them came to be nominated…  but I don’t think I’m letting any cat out of the bag if I reveal that the Kango Shiraz which so impressed the tasters at the Shiraz Challenge was not among the candidates. Which is something, at least.

The highlight of the tasting, and a great pleasure, was when the two panels jointly voted for a Wine of the Year from among the six finalists (those which had received the highest number of votes – the other team was larger than ours, so our unanimous pinot didn’t automatically triumph). They were a varied lot: a cab, a pinot, two (non-Bordeaux) white blends, a Noble Late Havest, and, believe it or not, a grenache. All of them were genuinely excellent wines, and it was not an easy choice to make. It was made a tiny bit easier when the powers that be agreed that we could this year have a Red Wine of the Year and a White….

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