“Every vintage of the Alto Rouge reflects what took place during harvest in the Helderberg in a particular year,” says Alto’s winemaker Bertho van der Westhuizen. Not only was 2015 one of SA’s best vintages in recent years, but it also holds particular significance for Bertho as he took over the winemaking mantle from his father Schalk that year. “My father finished fermentation of the harvest and together we put the wines in barrel,” he says, adding “My job was easy considering how good the harvest was.”

When Schalk retired, his son became just the 5th winemaker at Alto in a century – an amazing achievement, but one that fits in nicely with a wine estate that has such a long heritage. Dating back to 1693, Alto gets its name from the elevated location of its vines, which cling to the side of the Helderberg Mountain. The 93-hectare farm can be found in Stellenbosch’s golden triangle, an area renowned for its iconic wines, and cooling air from False Bay breeze over the farm. Generations of observation have been borne from its long heritage, with vines planted in the position that’s best for each varietal.

Its long heritage also means that its wines are eminently collectable, with the Vinoteque wine bank holding stock of Alto’s wines. “Alto has been a firm favourite since the Vinoteque was established in 1984,” says Vinoteque manager Michael van Deventer. “Some of our clients still hold stock of Cabernet vintages from the late 1970’s and 80’s.”

The 2008 vintage of Alto Rouge is currently the oldest that is still available for sale at the Vinoteque.

“This has to do with Rouge’s popularity and is an indication of maturation potential as some of our Maturation Members can attest to with older vintages in their portfolios still drinking beautifully,” says Michael.Alto Rouge is a blend of all the varieties produced at Alto. “While we try to keep the style consistent year to year, slight variations are characteristics of that harvest.”

Discussing Alto Rouge, Bertho says that “Each component is made to its absolute best. Even though the blend is large by our standards, every component contributes to the whole and is kept separate until blending, 14-16 months after emerging from barrels. As a team, we are also very aware of our custodial responsibility in the making of this wine. If you cut your teeth on Alto Rouge 30 years ago, you should still have faith in its quality today.”

For more information, visit the Alto Winery website.

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