5 minutes with Bertho van der Westhuizen, 5th Winemaker in 100 years at Alto…

Bertho van der Westhuizen, 5th Alto Winemaker in 100 years, withe friend

What was the defining moment in your life that set you on the path of becoming a winemaker?
I was born in a cellar. I was born on Neethlingshof where my father was the winemaker.

Where did you train to become a winemaker?
University of Stellenbosch

Who would you regard as your mentor?
Well my family for sure played a major role. Apart from that we had 2 lecturers that were leaders in the Viticultural world, Professor Eben Archer and Professor Piet Goussard. [Both recently deceased, a great loss to the Wine Industry]

Professor Eben Archer

You work with a selection of some of the world’s most noble grape varieties. Is there one other variety with which you would really like to work?
We only have red varieties and only 5 of them. We will be planting Malbec in 2020 and are looking forward to working with that.

Is there another wine you would like to make in your cellar with the varieties available to you there?
Malbec will add great complexity to our Rouge, and we will be able to make a 5-way Bordeaux blend.

Malbec grapes, the ‘lost’ grape of Bordeaux, does well in Argentina & The Cape

You seem to be quite innovative with new wine styles – what leads you there?
I don’t think I tried to re-invent the wheel here, what I did try and do was to focus on purity of fruit. It was mainly achieved with a new destemming and sorting system.

If you could choose anywhere in the world to make wine other than where you are now, where would it be?
I really love Bordeaux, but Spain will be a very close 2nd place.

And what grape type would you use?
Classic Bordeaux varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon led wines.

Alto Cabernet Sauvignon

I know it is a bit tricky asking a father to choose his favourite child, but which one of your wines is your current favourite?
The amount of work that we do on Cabernet Sauvignon with the focus probably gets the nod, but Rouge is our foundation and probably the most important wine because of heritage and history.

Your greatest bottle of wine ever?
There were so many! A few come to mind, some Chenin`s enjoyed in the Loire with Vincent Careme, some great Bordeaux`s enjoyed on some of my trips there. Great Rhone blends enjoyed over the years. But a good bottle of South African Red next to the fireplace on a cold winters evening will always be great and special, Cabernet Sauvignon preferably!

Vincent Careme, photo by Dr Jamie Goode of wineanorak.com

Do you enjoy cooking to show your wines off at their best or do you leave that to others?
I enjoy cooking a lot, but whether it is to show of the wines is very debatable!

If yes what do you enjoying cooking most?
The flavours, like wine can be very complex and I think that is what I enjoy most.

Hemelhuijs Owner & Chef – Jacques Erasmus

What is your favourite style of food?
Being South African meat always gets the nod. I really enjoy hearty cooking too, curries or even French style cuisine. But more the farm style French cooking. Met Chef Jacques Erasmus and did some work with him, outstanding dishes that he does in this style.

Your best style of restaurant, you enjoy visiting? Why?
Red meat will get a closely contested 1st place here, with fish and seafood a very close second. Both these restaurants pairs very well with wine!

Schalk van der Westhuizen, 4th Alto Cellarmaster

Your ideal dinner party guests? Tell me why you chose them.
My own family and my wife`s family. And the larger family. We are so diversified, and this leads to great conversation. Definitely a couple of good school and university friends to add spice to conversations.

Your favourite holiday destination?
Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Namibia) and then I have a very soft spot for Europe (France, Spain, Italy in summer, and Switzerland in winter). Would love to visit Austria, Croatia, Greece and Turkey in the near future.

What is on your bedside table as reading matter at the moment?
WegRy magazine, I don’t miss one. Deon Meyer is always in the pile of books to.

One piece of music you would take with you to a desert island?
70`s, 80`s and 90`s. I am not sure if our modern-day music will stand the test of time….

I’m currently working on….my fitness!

My favourite weekend getaway is….West Coast, Yzerfontein. Its close and it makes it easy. This might change depending on where I live though.

Oh yes, a guilty pleasure for many

Guilty Pleasures?
Wine and good food, and chocolates.

One day, I will….travel as much as possible.

The Tasting Lounge at Alto

How can a visitor contact your winery?
Annandale Road, Off the R44 toward Somerset West, Stellenbosch, 7600
Telephone – 021 881 3884
Website – https://alto.co.za/

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