The air’s chill is certainly getting colder, and after a long day of work, sitting in traffic and trying to keep warm, there is nothing quite as glorifying as relaxing with a glass of red wine. Alto Wine Estate has built a reputation as one of the most respected red-wine producers in South Africa. And for good reason.
To get people ready for red-wine season, Alto hosted a showcase of their current vintages. Winemaker Bertho van der Westhuizen explained the story behind each vintage in a pairing lunch at Souk in Long Street.
Here is our verdict:
alto shiraz 2015 and 2016
In the case of Alto’s Shiraz, the 2015 vintage has a strong blackcurrant and prune bouquet that strongly translated in its taste. There is a strong burst of flavour from the moment the wine touches your lips. The 2016 vintage was more subtle than the 2015, being well-balanced and settled, with more peppery notes.
Both wines were paired with smoked charcuterie and cheese, on a toasted garlic ciabatta with fig preserve and sliced peppadews. The 2016 Shiraz seemed to pair better with the food, while the 2015 Shiraz is perfect for drinking on its own.
alto cabernet sauvignon 2013 and 2014
While Stellenbosch produces a wide variety of wines, Van der Westhuizen says that they are trying to establish the region as the place for Cabernet Sauvignon. Alto Wines are definitely building that image with their great offerings. The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied wine that delivers notes of cherries, violets and black olives. The taste offers up flavours of cherries, tobacco and dark chocolate.
The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon is more refined, with softer tannins. It has that classic pencil- shaving bouquet along with ripe, red fruit. According to Van der Westhuizen, 2014 was a challenging year for winemakers, but he still managed to produce a delicious and entirely quaffable wine.
The Cabernet Sauvignons were paired with grilled duck breast on a carrot purée with black- salt-braised baby fennel, finished with a Cabernet Sauvignon berry compote. The dish brought out the red-fruit flavours in both wines.
alto rouge 2015 and 2016
The Alto Rouge is a fine, signature blend. If 2014 was the most challenging year, Van der Westhuizen says that 2015 bore significant improvement, and it really shows in the 2015 Rouge. Dominated by the same flavourful Shiraz, the 2015 gives you strong notes of berry fruit, followed by vanilla and oak spices. The 2016 has almost equal blends of Cabernet Franc, Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon on the nose. Also picked up were pencil shavings, crushed red fruit and a hint of chocolate. Fruit favours come out strongly when you sip it.
The Alto Rouges were paired with rib-eye steak on a burnt onion purée topped with sautéed exotic mushrooms. Once again, the 2016 paired slightly better with the food, but the perfumed 2015 was a definite favourite.
One thing that struck with all the wines tasted was the difference between the same wines from different years. It was a notable reminder that every little aspect, from the weather to the bottling, has an effect on the wines produced at Alto.