With the onset of winter weather in South Africa, thoughts immediately turn to red wine and roaring fires. Specialising in red, and with a slew of award-winning wines under their belt, Alto wine estate in Stellenbosch has been creating its range of red wines since 1922.

With only five winemakers at the helm since its inception, Alto’s current winemaker Bertho van der Westhuizen took over the reins in 2015 from his father Schalk and continues the Alto tradition of handcrafted, bold red wines. However, Alto has strayed just a little from the red-wine path, and recently produced a limited amount of delicious Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé that’s only available directly from the farm and is well worth trying!

Alto is perhaps best known for its Alto Rouge. The blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon punches far above its weight when you consider its affordable price point. The blend reflects what took place during the harvest in the Helderberg in a particular year: “The wine is essentially a blend of all varieties we produce at Alto, so while we try to keep the style consistent year to year, slight variations are characteristics of that harvest,” says Bertho.

The Alto Rouge 2015 was a special one. Not just because it was awarded a Double Gold medal in the Veritas awards, but because it holds special significance for Bertho van der Westhuizen, who took over from his father, Schalk, on May 1 of that year. “My father finished fermentation of the harvest and together we put the wines in barrel.”

Alto Rouge 2016 is also a keeper, literally and figuratively. The stylish wine has excellent aging potential, with elegant red fruit flavours on the palate backed up by soft, elegant tannins. Comprising Cabernet Franc (28%) Shiraz (23%) Merlot (22%) Cabernet Sauvignon (21%) and Petit Verdot (6%), the wine is dark ruby red in colour, with a bouquet of lead pencil shavings and crushed red fruit.

Displaying dark intense plum colours, the Alto Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 is another perfect contender for quaffing by the fireside. The full-bodied, rich wine showcases powerful elegance in the glass. With ripe, elegant tannins and dark red fruit concentration and dark chocolate on the nose, it’s also a perfect partner for classic winter comfort stews and casseroles.

The spicy Alto Shiraz 2016 is also a great companion to rib-sticking comfort food, and follows on from the enormous success of the Alto Shiraz 2015, which won a Double Gold medal in the 2017 Veritas Awards. The 2016 Shiraz is a medium to full-bodied wine that’s rich and ruby red in colour, and would pair very well with spicy lamb and meat casseroles, roasts and oxtails. With a bouquet of wood spice and both white and black pepper, the wine showcases a good balance between finesse and structure.

While Alto Wines can be purchased online through Vinotèque as well as from a number of retailers, if you’re in the Cape Town area you shouldn’t pass up an opportunity to visit their tasting room. There, you’ll get a chance to taste Alto’s limited edition rosé wine while admiring views of the vineyard-covered valley that slopes down from Alto’s elevated position on the shoulders of the Helderberg Mountain. The perfect way to spend a winter’s day.

For more information, visit Alto’s website: www.alto.co.za

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