Fully three weeks after Platter’s SA Wines 2008 (author John Platter [sic] according to www.kalahari.net) was launched in an orgy of five star wines (Waterford’s The Jem and Country Cellars Quintette called in sick), little red riding book has yet to arrive at Exclusive Books in Hyde Park. Did the publisher award the distribution contract to Nationwide Airlines, perchance? No wonder the cover is red this year – the guide is the Scarlet Pimpernel of the book world!
In the meantime, thirsty punters are loading up on Michael Olivier’s new wine guide Crush, perhaps under the misapprehension that it’s “an erotic novel by Cecile de a Baume” as Kalahari.net lists it.
I reproduce the foreword below to whet the appetites of those in the queue for Platter’s. Coming as soon as I can lay my hands on a copy (my review copy seems to have gone the way of my invitations to WINE magazine functions), this year’s crop of schoolboy howlers, misprints and conflicts of interest. The phone lines from Robertson and Paarl to Johannesburg are already so hot, lammergeyers are having a problem keeping their purchase.
Like the Springbok rugby team, the great SA wine drinking public is not short of advice: wine competitions packed with foreign palates trumpet themselves as “the most authoritative” because they include no South African buds while others loaded with beer-drinking winemakers give you the technical view from people who would never dream of buying the bottle in question.
Some annual guides charge producers an entry fee and pretend to give consumers unbiased advice while others pressgang chairman of wine producers, highly paid industry consultants, PR luvvies, waiters, retailers and lonely hearts to rate bottles, labels in full view, handing down the vinous scriptures, Moses-like from Mount Anorak, once a year.
In between all the hype and bathos and PR waffle of SA winespeak, simple facts like price, availability and the honest beauty of the fermented fruit of the vine disappear in a blizzard of capsicum, cassia and esoteric debates about acceptable levels of Brettanomyces contamination and the joys of linearity.
While just about everyone has something to say, the opinion from the kitchen is conspicuously absent from the annual wine recommendation circus. Common sense would agree that what chef thinks is very germane as the palate that constructs a dish can surely inform on what to drink with it. Michael Olivier spent his first lifetime as one of SA’s most respected chefs and his honest descriptions and personal reflections, scattered like tiekies in a Christmas pud, make Crush a user-friendly guide in the maze of SA wine.
If the cost of the bottle is important, if a food match is welcome, if you drink the stuff rather than swirling, sniffing and sipping and are allergic to pomposity and posturing, read on.