We opt out of Platter sighted reviews!

Platter Guide

Platter Guide

Vrede en Lust wine estate has stopped submitting wines to the sighted tastings for the annual Platter guide. We hope to remain in Platter from a directory perspective. The decision was not taken lightly and some will criticize us for opting out. We do not believe that having 15 different tasters, tasting a wide range of sighted wines over an extended period, makes enough sense for us.

Different people (even professional, well qualified tasters!) have different palates and preferences. It is well known that one’s palate varies from day to day and even within a day. A multitude of influences that impact the sensitivity of the palate.

In the Platter model, each taster is assigned all the wines from a number of allocated wineries which he/she needs to taste and rate in his/her own time and place. We have been skeptical about the process for a while now, but a few things drove us to the decision:

Fridjhon vs Van Zyl scores

1. The 2011 Chenin Blanc Challenge where the scores were published. 2 esteemed Platter tasters, Michael Fridjhon and Cathy Van Zyl were shown to be diametrically opposed:

Good luck to have Fridjhon as taster if you are Paardeberg with their Rex Equus (18.5 pts) and back luck if you got Cathy (14.5pts). Good luck however to get Cathy if you were Fort Simon (18pts) and bad luck to get Michael (15.5 pts)!

If these two, probably amongst the best-qualified & experienced tasters in South Africa, shown such divergent palates, imagine what the scores for a specific wine would look like across the 15 tasters? A scatter diagram at best.

Fresh support comes from the scores released by Neil Pendock and Christian Eedes from a Cape Wine Makers Guild tasting they attended on the 16th of August. Neil rated the Louis Turtles, Jodan Sofia and Cape Point Vinyards 93 points each. Christian scored them 80, 85,84 respectively.

Neil only published his high scores, so I could not show the reverse ratings here. He noted that the wine rated highest by Christian, The Paul Cluver Chardonnay at 97 pts, did not show well on second pouring post corked first bottle. Once again, huge variance of the same wines on the same day, by very experienced tasters!

2. The University of Stanford study in 2008 has shown how directly the human brain correlates perceived price and perceived pleasure. The same wines were tasted by the same group of people and always registered more pleasure when its sticker price was higher.

When reviewing the Platter 2011 5  star wines, it is thus not surprising to note that the average price per bottle is more than R200. Not that many low priced wines make it to the 5 star blind tasting as they don’t make it to the nominations (the price of each wine is known).

Science has proven that knowledge of price will change how the brain perceives the experience! In contrast, the top wines in many blind tasting events are often bargains of note.

3. The approach of some tasters where wines are tasted and scores adjusted over a number of days. That is really hard to understand, as most consumers only get a brief exposure to the same wines. They buy a bottle, open it with loved ones and friends and consume it rather rapidly. How many people ever seriously taste a wine 3 days later and decide it was a good buy or not?

Other tasters have a specific level of personal interaction with a winery and how objective could the reviews end up being? Visits, personal relationships or other connections are often mentioned by well known Platter tasters.

There is nothing wrong with either the examples above when a wine lover writes about meaningful personal experience.  It may be foul of the line when the rating impacts consumer decisions!

4. Finally, considering the wide gap between the results of the last four WineX consumer wine show ratings and our Platter ratings:

WineX CT 2009:  Vrede en Lust Sauvignon Blanc 2009 & Viognier 2009 voted into the top 10 white wines. The Boet Erasmus 2007 and Malbec 2008 voted into the top 10 red wines;
WineX Sandton 2009: VnL Viognier 2009 was voted 3rd most popular white wine and Vrede en Lust received the most votes overall across the range.
WineX CT 2010: VnL Viognier 2009 rated in top 10 white wines with the Mocholate Malbec 2009 voted most popular red wine (tied with Diemersfontein Pinotage) and the Boet Erasmus 2007 voted 2nd most popular red wine.
WineX Sandton 2010: VnL Viognier 2010 voted the most popular white wine and the Boet Erasmus 2007 voted 5th most popular red wine!

The wine consumer’s views are the opinions that are ultimately most important to us, as they are the ones who go out and spend their hard earned cash on buying wines to enjoy.

While it is common knowledge that different shows have different outcomes for the same wines, the results of those shows are read by few and remembered by even fewer. Those who win the right medals may put them on the bottles for greater impact.

The Platter guide is more widely read and kept as reference for longer, used by wine tourists, retailers & restaurants alike. It makes no sense for us to take the biggest gamble on the most impactful tasting.