No Black Swans in Platter


Dinner time conversation at La Residence was unusually erudite on Saturday at the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year award as my Distell dandy and I were sitting next to Elzilda Becker and her beau. Elzilda owns De Kat magazine and her beau was talking fractals to Johan Malan from Simonsig and for once my PhD in applied mathematics came in useful in a wine context. For I made similar career choices to the father of fractals, Benoit Mandelbrot, switching from pure maths to applied for more money and more excitement. That, alas, is where the similarities end as he was a genius and I’m very average. It was Benoit who determined that the west coast of Britain has a fractal dimension of 1.25 while the SA coastline has a Hausdorff dimension of 1.02, which could explain the excellent surfing conditions at J-Bay.

benoit No Black Swans in Platter

Dinner guests at La Residence

Benoit was the one who described mathematically the observation of George Kingsley Zipf, “an eccentric Harvard scholar, whose eponymous law concerns word frequencies in any language. For written English, the most frequent word (rank 1), ‘the’, will occur approximately twice as often as the second most frequent word (rank 2), ‘of’, three times as often as the third most frequent, ‘and’ etc.” as the London Review of Books elegantly put it.

I would hypothesize the same power law applies to wine quality. Second Growths should be double the number of First Growths and one third the number of Thirds etc. Something the Platter five star stunners clearly aren’t this year. By inflating their number to 80 – some not even nominated by their sighted tasters, I hear – this year’s crop of Platter tasters have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Do new owners Diners Club even realize that by having too many stars, you destroy the whole planetarium? Time for a serious overall of management at the guide as Standard Bank has invested too much money to see Platter become a cynical vuvuzela for fashionable wine brands. It’s fast becoming a reputational issue for the bank.