For the first time in three years, the top accolade of White Wine of the Year in the annual Platter’s South African Wine Guide went to a Chenin Blanc rather than a Chardonnay. White wines had something of a bumper year in the 37th edition of the highly anticipated annual guide which was launched at the Table Bay Hotel last week with 53 wines accorded 5 Star ratings versus 31 for reds.
Bragging rights went to Stellenrust for its 51 barrel fermented Chenin Blanc 2015 – the 51 in the wine’s name a nod to the age of the Bottelary vines which provide the fruit. However, more Chardonnays were rewarded with 5 Star ratings than Chenin Blanc – 17 versus 15 – indicative of the impressive quality of both these categories.
The Winery of Good Hope won the Red Wine of the Year with its Radford Dale Black Rock 2014, an intriguing blend of Swartland Carignan, Shiraz, Cinsaut, Mourvédre, Grenache and Viognier.
Last year’s Winery of the Year and inaugural Dessert Wine of the Year winner, Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines, repeated the feat by walking off with the honours in the latter category once again, although with its Straw Wine 2015, not its solera-aged Chenin Blanc, the Olerasay.
But the highest accolade of all – that of Winery of the Year – went to Nederburg of Paarl which was the top performer with four 5 Star ratings overall, for its Nederburg Private Bin R163 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Nederburg Heritage Heroes The Brew Master 2014 (red blend), Nederburg Private Bin D234 Sauvignon Blanc 2015 and Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Noble Late Harvest 2015.
Of the 94 wines which achieved the coveted 5 Star rating, 17 were first timers. Yet they are all wineries which have already made their mark among consumers, both in South Africa and abroad, for the quality of the wines they’re turning out: producers such as Thorne & Daughters, Trizanne Signature Wines, Mount Abora Vineyards, Skaap Wines, Ronnie B Wines, Restless River and Bosman Family Vineyards, for example.
The rest of the list comprises Artisanal Boutique Winery, Bartinney, Diemersdal, Donkiesbaai, La Vierge, Laibach, Môreson, Olifantsberg, Perdeberg and well-known organic producer Stellar Winery.
As eagerly awaited as the announcement of the 5 Star laureates was, the tasting which succeeds it is probably even more anticipated. It provides all those invited with the opportunity of sampling the wines for themselves. It must be said that the various panels which sipped, sniffed and tasted their way through the 750 wines considered for 5 Stars over two days, whittling the numbers down to just 94 did an impressive job. The quality on display reflects the fantastic dynamic that exists within the current South African wine scene – and that’s ultimately what the Platter Guide aims to capture: a snapshot of the vinous nation.
(* Declaration: Fiona McDonald tastes and writes for the Platter Guide.)