So many people say “I don’t know much about wine, but I know what I like” and to be honest – that is all most people need to know. But the longer I spend talking, writing and teaching about wine, the more I realise that sometimes, for some of us, simply knowing what we like isn’t quite enough.
Coming from the UK and entering the SA wine industry at a relatively late stage in my career, I notice every day that I am somewhat handicapped – not only by my shaming inability to speak Afrikaans and thus communicate properly with many wine folk – but also because I don’t have the extra fillip of understanding the history, the family connections and all the other convoluted minutiae of the modern SA wine world’s roots.
So much has taken place in South Africa wine-wise in the past thirty or forty years, and so many people still making wine today had the chance to be the first – the first to plant a particular grape variety, the first to become a negociant, the first to try a particular blend. We are living in an era of history-makers in the SA wine industry and the stories of these pioneers need to be recorded, remembered and retold to new generations, inspiring future trailblazers to do great deeds.
A great pioneer in his own right, John Platter (yes – he IS a real person and not just a randomly-named annual wine guide!), has been a part of far more memories, incidences and innovations than I had imagined possible for just one man. His new book ‘My Kind of Wine’ is a swimming pool book rather than a session book – dip in and out, then lie in the sun with a glass of wine thinking over what you’ve just read.
If you want a tour of modern-day South African wine, it’s all there with personalities, stories and anecdotes in every direction. But the most interesting part for me came from John’s reminiscences. Of bottles drunk, of advice sought and given, of conversations and decisions – of real things which took place and real people who’ve shaped the wine world today.
The book is full of interesting snippets and information, all beautifully-illustrated with great pics and topped off with some lovely recipes which John’s wife, Erica, has teased out of the kitchens of many prominent winemakers and restaurateurs. It gives John’s thoughts on many topics and subjects, some more controversial than others, but all with providing thoughtful analysis, bringing to bear the weight of many years’ experience. And the book looks forward as well, profiling the next generation of Danie de Wets, Charles Backs and Ken Forresters.
The publishers describe it as a perfect gift – and it is – but it’s also a beautiful story of the rebirth of an industry. In a warm gesture which seems typical of the generosity shown within the book, the Platters have made a number of copies available for me to pass onto my WSET students.
I am sure the tales within will give them much inspiration and food (and drink) for thought.
‘My Kind of Wine’ by John Platter is available at all good bookshops for R375.
Follow Cathy Marston on Twitter @CathyMarston.
- Cathy Marston