THE end of the year brings a wave of wine ratings and awards as producers and show organisers try to catch the seasonal trade.

Among the last to be announced are the Platter Five-Star laureates, with the information kept under wraps until the 2013 edition of the book has been published. Since the "bible" (or is it the "phone book"?) of South African wine buyers gets to the shelves perilously close to the festive season, the news is often too late for the Christmas shoppers.

Of course, the potential gravity of this situation depends on whether the Platter results are any more valid than the dozens of other results offered as an inducement to purchase. Certainly, the system is different from most wine shows and depends on an initial sighted selection (where the taster reviewing a cellar’s production deems a particular wine to be of five-star quality) followed by a panel blind tasting. The lack of anonymity in the first round of the process makes the inclusion of "seeded" players a fairly simple business. Why leave out a big-name producer when it’s easier to defer the decision to the five-star panel?

In the show judging system, there’s no safety net for the primary tasters: what is left out at this stage can never go through to a trophy judging. That said, it’s surprising how often a Platter panellist decides that, despite the track record of a producer, none of the current release wines is worthy of the five-star tasting. Some of the motivation may be egotistical ("I won’t be dictated to by past performance") but often it’s a matter of taking the role of gatekeeper seriously. The result is that the Platter Five-Star awards, while imperfect, do at least meet the often expressed concern about show results — that they fail to take account of pedigree. In competition judging, wines are sampled blind, so they can only be as good as they taste on the day. Bottle variation, marginal cork taint, even the wine being "a little closed for a time" don’t count for excuses under this regime.

Unsurprisingly, there are more "known" names in a Platter line-up than in the front rank of most show results, but there are also unknown wines that get to the five-star tasting on the strength of their "cult" following. Looking at this year’s Five-Star Chenin Blancs, for example, you could argue that the Beaumont Hope Marguerite 2011, the DeMorgenzon 2010 and the Jean Daneel Signature 2011 reached the blind tasting stage because of their established reputation, while the Alheit Cartology 2011, the Botanica 2011 and the Sadie Family Skurfberg 2011 made it on account of their cult status.

Platter’s Winery of the Year is Cape Chamonix — a tribute as much to wine maker Gottfried Mocke and the investment policy of proprietor Chris Hellinger as it is to the insight of the panels that awarded four of the subtle and finely managed Chamonix wines five-star ratings. The Red Wine of the Year came from Chris and Andrea Mullineux, their 2010 Family Syrah. (I preferred their Schist Syrah 2010 but no-one would argue that the Family Syrah was an unworthy winner.)

The White Wine of the Year was the Paul Cluver Noble Late Harvest 2011 — consistently one of the finest and most multilayered of the Cape’s many world-class dessert wines.

Elsewhere than the Olympian heights of the top laureates are the Guide’s Great Value wines: this year’s Superquaffer is Muratie Melck’s Shiraz-Cabernet 2011. On the "Exceptionally Drinkable and Well-Priced" list are several worth tracking down including Doolhof Cape Boar 2010; Raka Spliced 2010; Vriesenhof Paradyskloof Chardonnay 2011; Pulpit Rock Chenin Blanc 2012; Zorgvliet Silver Myn Sauvignon Blanc 2012; and the De Zoete Inval Chenin-Viognier-Semillon 2011.

THE 2013 PLATTER FIVE-STAR WINES

What to expect from the Platter’s Wine Guide 2013

Cabernet Franc

• Raka 2009

• Von Ortloff Quintessence 2008

• Warwick 2009

Cabernet Sauvignon

• Delaire Graff Laurence Graff Reserve 2009 Pinotage

• Cape Chamonix Greywacke 2010

• Kanonkop 2010

Pinot noir

• Cape Chamonix Reserve 2011

• Newton Johnson Family Vineyards 2011

Shiraz/Syrah

• Boschendal Cecil John Reserve 2010

• Cederberg CWG Auction Reserve Teen die Hoog 2010

• Delheim Vera Cruz 2009

• Fable Bobbejaan 2010

• Fairview Jakkalsfontein 2009

• Mullineux Family Schist 2010

• Mullineux Family Syrah 2010 (Red Wine of the Year)

• Raka Biography 2010

• Saronsberg 2010

• Simonsig Merindol Syrah 2010

Red blends

• Dalla Cia Wine & Spirit Company Giorgio 2007

• Fleur de Cap Lazlo 2008

• Keets First Verse 2010

• Ken Forrester The Gypsy 2009

• La Motte Pierneef Shiraz-Viognier 2010

• Mvemve Raats MR De Compostella 2009

• Nico van der Merwe Mas Nicolas Cape 2007

• Sadie Family Columella 2010

Chardonnay

• Boschendal Reserve 2011

• Cape Chamonix Reserve 2011

• Hamilton Russell 2011

• Jordan CWG Auction Reserve 2011

• Jordan Nine Yards 2011

Chenin blanc

• Alheit Cartology 2011

• Beaumont Hope Marguerite 2011

• Botanica 2011

• DeMorgenzon Reserve 2010

• Jean Daneel Signature 2011

• KWV Cathedral Cellar 2011

• Sadie Family Skurfberg 2011

• Spice Route 2011

Sauvignon blanc

• Fryer’s Cove 2011

• Graham Beck Pheasant’s Run 2012

• Tokara Walker Bay 2012

White blends

• AA Badenhorst Family 2010

• Cape Chamonix Reserve 2011

• Cape Point CWG Auction Reserve 2011

• David Aristargos 2011

• Fairview Nurok 2011

• Flagstone Treaty Tree Reserve 2010

• Miles Mossop Saskia 2011

• Nederburg Ingenuity 2011

• Nederburg Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon Private Bin D252 2012

• Nitida Coronata Integration 2011

• Rall 2011

• Tokara Director’s Reserve 2011

• Methode Cap Classique

• Bon Courage Jacques Bruére Brut Reserve 2008

• Villiera Monro Brut 2007

Dessert wine unfortified

• Fairview La Beryl Blanc 2011

• Fleur du Cap Noble Late Harvest 2011

• Mullineux Family Straw Wine 2011

• Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Noble Late Harvest 2011

• Paul Cluver Noble Late Harvest 2011 (White Wine of the Year)

Port

• De Krans The Last Cape Vintage Reserve Port 2010

• Fridjhon was a taster for the 2013 Platter Guide but did not participate in its five-star tasting.