Book Review – An Obvious 5 Star Rating!
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Book Review – An Obvious 5 Star Rating!

2017 Platter’s Guide

Book: 5/5

This is my first Book Review for the Cape Wine Lovers’ Society. Where better to start than the Platter’s Guide – the ‘bible’ of wine in South Africa? Or, to give the book its full title, “Platter’s by Diners Club International 2017 South African Wine Guide”. It is readily available in most book shops, some wine estates, and online. The list price is R259 but search around and you can find it discounted to R219.

The ‘green book’ is indispensible for all South African wine buffs. The pocket size is handy to hold and use and easily transportable although, at 659 pages, one needs a large pocket to fit! It is truly comprehensive as the notes on the back cover state ‘the 37th edition features over 8,000 wines by more than 900 producers’ to provide readers with reliable information.

The body of the book, over 520 pages, covers the detailed reviews for each wine estate and producer. The information is concise and arranged in standard format. It is tempting merely to savour the rating for the 4 and 5 star wines but that would miss out on so much of the complexity that the Guide offers. There’s a brief history and current news as a foretaste with notes on the grape varieties, tasting and food offerings, as well as other attractions.

Take a further sip and you will find all the contact details and information that you will ever need: location, map and grid reference; tasting and cellar opening hours; names of the owner, winemaker and viticulturist; wine production and type of wine produced; and postal, email, telephone, website addresses and numbers.

I enjoy reading the full details, concentrated as they are. Not all wines are listed, as the bottle reviews cover the wines available during the currency of the book. This means one must buy the Guide every year and keep the previous editions to be able to read about all those wines that you bought but perhaps laid down to age or are keeping for that ‘special’ occasion.

I would be most remiss not to mention the ‘nose’ and ‘finish’. The first sniff reveals current trends in South African wine and the 2 pages make heady and intriguing reading. SA’s wineries are moving away from the ‘traditional’ tasting experience to be able to grow visitor numbers (by some 7% annually) with secondary and tertiary activities such as craft beers and gin distilleries, exotic food pairings, farmers’ markets, delis and restaurants, as well as a host of adventure and arts activities. There are extra notes on the screw cap v cork debate, and comments on ‘Mancan’ (which I had never heard of) and other packaging trends.

The second most important part of the book sets out the 2016 Winery, Red, White and Dessert wines of the year. Five Star and Highly Recommended wines are listed alphabetically by grape variety, as are the ‘Hidden Gems’ and ‘Buy Now, Drink Later’ suggestions. I would have liked to have seen page numbers shown here for each wine for easier reference.

Platter’s Guide has a long and balanced ‘finish’. There’s much to savour here too. There’s more detail on the ratings for wine type and grape variety that allowed me, for example, readily to find a wine estate producing a tempranillo. Hidden away but also fascinating is a 10-year Overview of the SA wine industry that shows inter alia how the percentage grown for each of the major red and white grape varieties has changed.

Besides detailed maps for each wine district at the very end of the book, this final section describes and has maps to show SA’s wine-producing areas and regions. There’s much more to explore than the Western Cape districts of Stellenbosch, Franshoek, and Robertson etc.

Other sections I have dipped into (or yet to enjoy) cover really useful summary notes on grape varieties, wine styles and vintages, winetasting terms and even restaurants and accommodation.

The 2017 Platter’s Guide is essential reading for anyone even remotely interested in wine. Buy it when it is first on sale in November and spend those summer evenings reading ahead when not visiting a wine estate for tasting. This book is like a favourite tool or utensil – to be used and used over and over again – and not for the coffee table or bookshelf. Keep a pen or pencil handy, post-it notes too, to note and mark favoured sections. A ribbon (or two) on the spine – the same as those in the Food and Wine Pairing Guide by Katinka van Niekerk and Brian Burke – is a suggestion I have for the 2018 Guide.

I have yet to buy and use the Platter’s App as I continue to navigate this superb book. The two seem to complement each other well as the App includes label-recognition scanning, all the current edition ratings, as well as those back to the 2008 edition. I imagine too that it includes easier Search and Save functions that overcome some of my minor criticism of the book. An App is easier in the pocket – if not on it at R175. It is possible to buy a bundle comprising the Guide and the App via the Platter’s website for R340 (a saving of 20% on buying separately). I shall do this for 2018.

Rating the 2017 Platter’s SA Wine Guide for me is truly a no-brainer. It gets a full 5 Star Rating!

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