Winemaker of the Year?

I was looking analytically through the list of Platter five-star winners, and it seemed to me that if there were a Winemaker of the Year emerging from the results, then the victor would be pretty clear. There isn’t such an award, of course, though there is a Platter Winery of the Year award, which is at the sole discretion of the editor, Philip van Zyl (and never discount Philip’s knowledge of the field: I reckon he samples far more submitted wines than anyone one else – double-checking what others have done, adding an opinion to the many wines around which there is blind and sighted consultation, or simply striving to keep abreast of what his team of tasters are doing).

And I suppose that there would be a case for declaring Duncan Savage of Cape Point the Winemaker of the Year (he took Cape Point vineyards, deservedly, to Winery of the Year in the 2008 edition). This year he had three five-star wines [my correction after comment below]. But, impressive as this is, they were, in fact, all variations on one limited theme:  sauvignon alone or with semillon.

On the other hand, Eben Sadie won only two five stars – but with totally different wines. Moreover, it would be possible to argue that he figured to some extent as an inspiration behind three of the other wines, which is arguably a great and more significant achievement. I don’t think that Chris and Andrea Mullineux, who made the five-star Mullineux Family Straw Wine would dispute Eben’s influence (it is, more or less, why they are there in the Swartland now), even if the Mullineux genius for making a sweet wine from Swartland chenin is original – remember their Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards Vin Pi which got five stars last year?).

Similarly, it was Chris Mullineux, inspired by the Sadie Palladius, who inaugurated, at TMV, the Swartland White, a 2008 vintage of which (made by Callie Louw, another Perdeberg-influenced boy) got five stars this year, under a Woolworths label.

Old Swartland chenin features in another five-star wine, the Rall 2008. Winemaker Donovan Rall has been quoted as claiming his one vintage working with Sadie as pivotal in his winemaking development.

So. Just a thought. But I’m maybe biased, as a serious Sadie wine admirer (and purchaser and drinker!) going back to the first vintage of his own wine.

Something else worth pointing out is that Boekenhoutskloof recorded its tenth five-star for red wines (the Cab this year), which is also a record.  (Cape Point Vineyards must be the easy victor for white wines).

My modest analysis of the latest Platter five-star results also revealed a slight victory for white wines over red this year. They’ve always been close (especially when ports are excluded and it’s just a matter of unfortified wines), but this is perhaps the first time that the probable, arguable critical position that the Cape produces better white wines than red has been thus expressed. The score is 21 to 20, by the way. If one omits fortified wines, it would be 21 to 17 in favour of whites.

As to regions, Stellenbosch is splendidly triumphant with 12 of the 41 wines. The Cape Peninsula (Constantia and Cape Point) did well for its comparatively tiny size with five winners, Franschhoek had three (there are still some people who stupidly sneer at Franschhoek’s wines, saying that the best of them are imported from elsewhere), as did the Swartland. Elgin had two, and so did the larger Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. WO Paarl – Zip.  Despite Distell (and it’s about time they paid more attention to terroir as their ambitions and quality rise) the number of wines without smallish declared origins was minimal, by my reckoning – four from Distell, one each from Rall and Spier. That overwhelming reflection of terroir on the labels of Platter five-star wines is in itself perhaps the most  impressive achievement of all, it occurs to me.

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