Platter 2010 launched, in black and gilt

Platter’s 2010 wine guide was launched last night, 12 November, with 130-odd people politely pushing each other aside in a room that was rather too small (no doubt the season had been expected to be summer enough for the usual outdoors function) to get tastes of the 41 five-star wines in the rather horrible little wine-glasses that most of them were furnished with.

Despite this, it was a great evening as usual, not least for the wine and the chit-chat with some 30 top winemakers present. There was little new to be announced, as the list of five-star wines had perforce been made available prior to their showing at the London Megatasting. And there’d already been pictures published of the book, so some knew that the cover was elegant black with gold lettering. The most important thing was the declaration of the Winery of the Year – the choice of the guide’s editor, Philip van Zyl, and a closely guarded secret. I had proof-read most of the guide (in a great rush, I should hastily add, in case it becomes clear than even more things slipped by me than usual), but not the crucial page that made this announcement.

In the event, though, Philip’s choice was what mine would also have been (as I made clear in an earlier blog). “Five-star ratings for both its wines this edition … one of the first to seriously explore the viticultural potential of the Swartland, and in the process inspiring an ever-larger and accomplished group of terroir-focused contenders across the winelands, our award winner continues to retain its status as a true Cape icon”. Thus Philip about Sadie Family Wines, and a suave-looking Eben Sadie went up to collect his certificate.

Eben actually collected four of the cardboard tubes that Platter thinks smart enough for what many people regard as the most prestigious award for Cape winemaking. There’s something a bit homespun about the Platter launch – at its best, this means publisher Andrew McDowall chatting casually and forgetfully with winning charm, at its worst it is cardboard tubes and poor wine-glasses. I daresay Eben – who tends to take his own Riedel glasses to restaurants – was only too happy to be forgiving on the night as he clutched his chunky little goblet. But a little more pomp and circumstance (and fancier cardboard tubes?) would be in order, I think – and the crowd, with plenty of good will, and adequately oiled by the time the award-giving came around, would surely have been happy to do a bit more applauding than they got the chance for.

I should also report on a few other Platter things that are newsy. The esteemed publisher read out a fairly turgid page which I didn’t understand much of but had something to do with a “sustainability focus” that is be a feature of the 2011 guide – “an initiative aimed at promoting the sustainability of our own business, our partners’ and suppliers’, as well as the sustainability of the wine-producers featured in our pages”, so the press release later informed me. And you thought Platter’s was a mere guide to 6000 or so wines! No doubt all shall be revealed next year, and the print will get even tinier and the wine descriptions even shorter to accommodate yet another new element. Can Platter forever carry on expanding its content – including 50+ new wineries and brands this year – without taking some more radical decision than trimming entries and making the typeface smaller? Though I must say that the new layout design in the 2010 guide is very good and stylish, with a much more spacious feel to it than previously.

And you might also have thought Platter’s was a mere book. More immediately significant to many than a future sustainability focus was the announcement of “a mobile version” of the guide-encyclopedia for the Apple iPhone and iPod touch. I’m not sure of the cost of that – perhaps the same as for the book, which has a suggested retail price of R150 less 5 cents. It’s unlikely to be in the shops for a few weeks, I think.) For that you get all the encyclopedic stuff and a lot of wine notes (some of which, I should declare, I had an interest in as a taster, writer and editor), and two interesting prefaces: one a “message” from the international eminence Hugh Johnson, the other in which “John and Erica Platter reflect”. This is, after all, the 30th Anniversary edition of the little guide the Platter pair started so long ago. Of course they were there at the launch in Stellenbosch, as the photo alongside proves.

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