John Platter and his wife Erica left their day jobs to run their small wine farm in Franschhoek.
(Image: Cape Wine, Hong Kong)
• Philip van Zyl
Editor, Platter’s Guide
+27 82 490 1820 or +27 28 316 3210
International credit card company Diners Club has snapped up the Platter’s Guide, South Africa’s oldest and best-selling wine guide. The guide will complement Diners Club’s other wine-related offerings in South Africa.
Both parties have been actively involved in the local wine industry for years. Diners Club holds an annual wine list competition, which encourages establishments to refine and improve their wine offerings to their patrons and to consistently match global standards.
For the past 31 years the company has run a winemaker of the year competition and since 2001, a young winemaker of the year competition with the aim of encouraging talent in the industry. It also sponsors the Diners Club Bartho Eksteen Wine Academy.
“We are committed to enhancing this great relationship, in making South Africa’s most iconic wine companion an even more invaluable tool for wine lovers everywhere,” said Diners Club South Africa’s MD Ebrahim Matthews, in a statement.
The company said it would continue with the guide’s current format for the time being, but would investigate broadening its digital reach.
In-depth information about the local wine scene
The Platter’s Guide is now in its 33rd edition. It was started back in 1978 by John and Erica Platter, journalists, wine lovers and novice vineyard owners, after they saw British wine expert Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book, which first came out in 1977 and is also still going strong today.
The couple were confident that they could produce a “modest” version of Johnson’s publication for the local industry, and their first edition came out in 1980. Since then it’s become the first choice for locals and international visitors wanting to know more about South Africa’s world-renowned wine industry.
The latest edition of the guide – and it’s a guide, not a competition or a set-in-stone publication, asserts editor Philip van Zyl – includes more than 7 300 wines from 800 producers. Wine estates submit their products for inclusion, and these are subjected to a tasting process by a group of experts, who will then assign a rating of up to five stars.
The Platters have blogged that today they’re amazed at their presumption in daring to intrude upon the mysterious and hallowed Cape wine scene, which had hundreds of years of tradition behind it and was dominated at the time by men. They further state that “We had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for”.
The project was seemingly doomed before a single book was produced – even the printer described the first edition as “boring”. But the couple persisted, with John personally tasting every wine until the arrival in 1987 of Angela Lloyd, the first member of the tasting team. She’s still with them and is a respected wine writer in her own right.
Since the early days around 1.4-million print copies – in a different colour for each year – have been sold. It’s available in hardback and for Apple devices, with other platforms reportedly in development.
The annual print run is almost 40 000 and the current hardcover price is around R170 (US$19) while the app costs R89 ($9.99) in the iTunes store.
The guide won the Le Prix du Champagne Lanson for best wine guide worldwide in 2001, as well as the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers ‘Domaines Ott’ award for best annual wine guide in 2007.
Besides the rating, the guide includes maps of wine-growing regions, a glossary of wine terms, GPS co-ordinates for all estates featured, a guide to wine farms that cater for visitors with special needs, information about wine varieties, and restaurant recommendations
Rewarding talent and dedication
The Diners Club Winemaker of the Year for 2012 is Razvan Macici of Nederburg. He’s Romanian by birth but he fell in love with South Africa after visiting the country in 1994 and his wine-making talent has found its perfect spot in the Western Cape.
The young winemaker for 2012 is Anri Truter of Beyerskloof, who, like Macici, inherited his love of the grape from his father.
Other past winemakers of the year include Coenie Snyman of Rust en Vrede (2009), Peter Ferreira of Graham Beck (2004), Nicky Krone of Twee Jonge Gezellen (1995), and Günter Brözel of Nederburg (1985 and 1983).