One hundred and one years ago in 1919, Hennie Malan, split his Groenrivier [Green River] farm in two and sold off half of the land to his brother. On his remaining half, now named Alto, Hennie started planting red wine grape varieties. Perfectly situated at altitude up the slope of the Helderberg Mountain on decomposed granite and clay soils. The vineyards are also exposed to cooling breezes of False Bay which ameliorate summer heat and allow for longer ripening which result in greater colour and flavour in the wines. In the years since the founding of the estate, there have been 5 winemakers, the last two father and Schalk and Bertho can der Westhuizen. The Alto Shiraz 2016 is an example of the fine wines produced on the Estate.
The grapes for the Alto Shiraz 2016, come from vineyards planted on a 5-wire trellis, are hand harvested. They deliver between 8 and 12 tons per hectare. Once in the cellar Bertho and his team destalk and crush the grapes which then ferment in the juice in stainless steel tanks. During this time, wine was pumped from the bottom of the tanks over the fruit cap on top. This allows for gentle extraction of colour, flavour and soft tannins. After malolactic fermentation, the wine was aged in oak for 18 months, using a combination of French (40%) and American (60%) first, second, and third fill barrels. It was then prepared for bottling.
From a Burgundy shaped bottle, closed with natural cork. The label is simple classic elegant Alto. In the glass, the wine is a rich opaque bloodplum at the heart which pales out to ruby at the edges. The aromas are of red and black fruit, berries and plums, with an undertow of oak and its concomitant spice and vanilla. The palate is full and generous, with a line of acidity which runs through from entry to the long and gently waning aftertaste. Again, the fruit shines with the support of the oak. An impressive, beautifully structured wine. While eminently drinkable now, a year or two of cool cellaring will reward you in time.
Quite a good idea to chill the Alto Shiraz 2016 for about 30 minutes in the fridge or an ice bucket. A superb food wine, it will grace the traditional Sunday Roast lunch as well as it will a well prepared more simple weeknight supper. Especially when you are looking for a good bottle after a busy lockdown day. Roberta Muir’s Salsa Verde is a great dressing for your steak off the braai. Click HERE for her recipe.
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