Trololololling, Pendock goes after Platter again

I realise that the first rule of the internet is “don’t feed the trolls” but today I just cannot help myself.

I woke up this morning to read Neil Pendock’s post on Times Live
“A dilemma for consumers: ★or ♥?”. It comes across to me as a punt for his wine guide framed as a debate. (I had to wonder if he paid Times Live for the advertorial.)  A debate around which guide consumers should purchase. Why they cannot simply buy both and compare is lost on me.

Pendock situates the debate around the methodological differences between his own wine guide, Neil Pendock’s Winelands Guide 2013 and Platter’s South African Wine Guide guide whose 5 star wines were released yesterday. My thoughts on those wines and the new edition of Platter will be on tomorrow.

I don’t believe that Platter is faultless. I don’t think anyone does. For example, if the taster assigned to a producer doesn’t put forward a wine for five stars then there is no chance of that wine getting top marks. People make mistakes so there will inevitably be wines that some believe should have got five stars and didn’t, and wines some will think don’t deserve the 5 stars they got. I feel that about some wines on both Platter’s list and Pendock’s. It is the very nature of wine competitions and guides. It is the nature of wine.

We rate, judge, and award points and stars to a product that is appreciated and assessed in an inherently subjective manner. To blindly trust a guide is foolhardy, as we all have our own tastes and preferences.

What irked me this morning was that Pendock didn’t offer a critique of the wines that the Platter guide had picked, but rather dredged up the same old questioning of the Platter guide’s  methodology. Suggesting, among other points, that because John Platter does not taste for the guide anymore, Platter tasters judge sighted and Platter does not consider price, the Pendock guide is superior.

I already foresee a response from Neil saying he was not deriding Platter, but merely showing the differences between the two. I would buy this if were not for the years of anti-Platter sentiment that Neil puts out.

Neil’s post is simply trolling the wine industry to drum up some exposure for his own guide before it is published . If the Platter methodology is so bad, so faulty and misguided, the results would surely reflect this.

I think it is great to see two guides using different methods come up with a list of top South African wines, but if you are going to attack the methodology of one, you have to show how the results are flawed too.

Pendock doesn’t do this, he cannot do this, because there is so little wrong with Platter’s 5-star results.

I used to really enjoy Pendock’s writing, and I’d stick up for him when other’s criticized. As time has gone by, however, I have seen more and more sniping and negativity aimed at other guides and writers.

So I get really fucking annoyed when I see a post that reads like Neil Pendock is some sort of vinous saint coming to save the South African wine consumer, while Platter is a nefarious, corrupt publication looking to screw the consumer over.

It is very tempting to start going after Pendock’s own guide. But I don’t really care about its shortfalls. I am more interested in the final results. In my opinion (shared by world-renowned and respected wine writer Jamie Goode) the Platter list is superior. This is my opinion based on the wines on the list. Not because I have anything against Pendock, or because of any other specious arguments.

For example, I think Pendock’s list is missing some truly top-class wines. Eben Sadie’s Columella 2010, Beaumont’s Hope Marguerite 2011, Keets First Verse 2010, and the Mullineux Family’s Syrah 2010 are just some of the wines that I think are absolutely spectacular and not on Pendock’s list of 5 hearted wines.

I don’t think that there is anything shady going on. Either Pendock and Coutinho missed them because they were tasting blind – you see, this method has its own particular pitfalls – or, like in the Mulleniux’s case* the wines were not submitted for the tasting.

What is interesting is that Chamonix – Platter’s winery of the year – has their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on both lists. Even though the Pinot’s vintage is different – the 2010 got Pendock’s approval, while the 2011 received 5 stars from Platter – it shows how good the wines at Chamonix under Gottfried Mocke are.

And that, friends, is where the debate should be. A healthy debate about which wines in South Africa deserve the highest praise. A sickly debate about sighted versus blind tasting is a waste of everyone’s time.

I want to know why Pendock thinks the Groote Post Pinot Noir 2009 deserves top honours, and why it didn’t crack the nod in Platter. Was it a style issue? Use of oak? Extraction? Balance? Brett? Labeling?

The debate needs to centre around the wines themselves, not nitpicking about methodologies which teaches the consumer – myself included – nothing.

I have added my response to Pendock’s 10 differences in a separate post. If Pendock were simply comparing the two guides I wouldn’t post it, but he is so obviously trolling by insinuating that Platter is in some corrupt I thought a reply was needed.

*I only mention them because the Mulleniux’s informed me on twitter that their wines were not tasted for Pendock’s guide. This is not to imply the others were. I haven’t asked them.


10 thoughts on “Trololololling, Pendock goes after Platter again”

  1. Well done Harry. You’re saying what a lot of other people are thinking. The snide, potshot taking of Pendock has certainly gotten old of late. He has become one of the biggest enemies of the local wine industry because there is hardly ever anything positive on his blogs anymore – other than him telling others how great he is. Being derisive of the local industry and its players in the disguise of generating “healthy” debate is bullshit. Generate debate without being a prick about it. Fortunately a lot of local producers are tired of his shit, and he will eventually find himself in the wilderness. That day we’ll celebrate with MCC because the local industry doesn’t need enemies within. Its tough enough as it is.

  2. Harry, just a question…the Platter Guide has shown a lot of preference to the Swartland guys…is this stylistic what they think is the best wines in SA??

    Does Chamonix only use their own grapes or also source outside of Franschhoek…just a question i don’t know? In one of my blogs i pointed out the “flaw” in last years winery of the year, Boekenhoutskloof, with almost all their wines or grapes being sourced from various parts in the Cape Winelands. Yet, suddenly Franschhoek is reviving itself…really? is the industry really being honest with the consumers?

    I know of a very well known couple of judges who was asked to judge box wine for the platter guide…SERIOUSLY???? Do we really need to rate Graca or Two Oceans? I have said it many times and i will say it again…if Platter was to focus on what they actually started out on many moons ago…focusing on quality, then there wouldn’t be so many complaints from all over.

    Do you really think that with so many great producers in the Robertson Valley there has only been ONE 5* natural still wine, not dessert or fortified, in all these years of Platter which was De Wetshof The Site last year?? Come on…

    I am not defending Neil or what he is so outspoken about, but i have personally also raised many issues with Philip van Zyl and we have had our agreements and disagreements. One thing that wont change is Platter Guide wont make everyone happy, but there should be ways to make the majority happy because i don’t think they are.

    1. Hey Colyn, thanks for reading and commenting.

      Obviously I can’t speak for the judges on the Swartland question, but I can say that I believe there are a lot of wines from the Swartland which are excellent and deserve the recognition they receive. Am I biased because the wines are being made in styles that I prefer? Absolutely. However, if we look at what renowned wine critics from all over the world have said about these wines, I would say that the Platter recognition is fair. What do you think of the wines?

      My understanding is that Chamonix uses grapes sourced from Franschhoek for their wines that have gained five stars for Platter. I’ll double check with Gottfried. As for Boekenhoutskloof I’ll reference Angela Lloyd’s post from earlier today:

      For those who argue that Marc Kent draws fruit from far and wide, bar Chocolate Block, his top tier Boekenhoutskloof wines are all from Franschhoek fruit. It once again dispels an old myth that Franschhoek was only good for other sorts of fruit and, if wine was mentioned, it was contained to white. This story is being echoed across the winelands; today, it would be dangerous to write off the ability of any region in the winelands to produce great quality wine.

      We have our Wine of Origin system that works very well for consumers to know where grapes for wines come from, so I think the industry is being honest here.

      I guess I agree about not really needing ratings of box wines and the like. However, if Platter works toward being a comprehensive guide to the wines of South Africa, I see no harm in having these wines rated.

      With regards to 5 star wines coming out of Robertson, I just don’t know. The conversation that has to take place must be around the stylistic guidelines that Platter uses, what judges look for, and a thorough explanation as to why the 5 star wines are considered so by the judges.

      When you say the majority are not happy with Platter, are you talking about consumers or producers? I think Platter is far more than just a rating system and its true value lies in it being such a comprehensive directory for the industry. Last night one winemaker who I wont mention said something along the lines of: It’s not the be all and end all getting five stars, it won’t sell-out the wine, but the recognition for all the hard work is the best part of getting 5 stars. I think that’s a good assessment of the value of 5 stars.

  3. can someone clarify the following: “point 5:Platter accepts wines made from grapes grown in multiple appellations. In a quest to pin down regionality, an important component of terroir; Pendock does not”

    I was informed (correct me if I’m wrong) that wines with up to 30% of “outside of origin” grapes were allowed to be tasted for Mr P’s booklet. How exactly does 70% constitute an exercise in terroir?? just asking.

  4. I inadvertently included Boekenhoutskloof Syrah as being sourced from Franschhoek fruit; since the second 1998 vintage, the grapes have been sourced from Wellington. The other Bhk wines, cab, semillon & Noble Late are sourced from Franschhoek fruit. Apologies.

  5. irony is Pendock – given his rabid attacks on WOSA, Platter et al – is the biggest troll of them all – he is quick to point fingers at trolls yet he fails miserably at objectivity.

  6. Harry, you are an excellent writer and I think this is not the first time you hit the nail on the spot but I do think this is the first time you write something quite like this, well done! I do believe Platters should be blind but I do believe a lot of thing so let’s keep on tasting, wait and see, neh? See you at the revolution!

  7. Well, I do believe there is a difference between sighted and unsighted wine results. Prroof is in the SA Wine Index (SAWi). Why otherwise, year on year, does only 10% of the Platter five stars get the same accolade on the Index. The fact is wine judging is subjective. However, using the SAWi methodology, considering everyone’s results (SAWI 54 multi national) makes it more objective and is after all not a once of tasting but a multi-vintage window building up to 10 years. ANd yes, SAWi won’t include Platter for consistent reasons. The SA Grand Wines Collection as on the SAWi website is nothing else than aspirational.

  8. Hey Izak.

    To be honest I haven’t looked at SAWi in ages. I’ll take another look. I think what is vital to remember, and what everyone forgets every year is that Platter is not a competition. It is a guide, and has its flaws. No one comes close to covering the amount of wines Platter does, no one has as much data, or is able to offer it up in the accessible manner that they do.

    There are issues with some inconstancy in scoring, and of course people have problems with sighted tastings, but if that’s the reason you don’t like Platter, I think you are missing the point. It really is not just about the stars, because after all, wine is not about scores, ratings and stars alone.

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