Somehow when Alto is the adjective for a red wine variety or blend, you know you are in for something good. A hundred and one years ago, the owner of the land, Hennie Malan sold half of the farm to his brother-in-law and named his farm Alto, a reference to its height above sea level on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountains, a place where fine red wines are made. The sea, in the form of False Bay, plays a major part on the microclimate of the estate. Its cooling breezes ameliorate Summer heat on the vineyards and allow for slower ripening of the grapes, which creates fuller colour and flavour in the grapes and thus in the final wines.
The grapes for the Alto Shiraz 2016, upward of 8 tons per hectare, come off trellised vines which form part of the 93-hectare Alto vineyard, made up of decomposed granite and clay. They are hand harvested and taken to the cellar for destalking and crushing. Bertho van der Westhuizen, Alto’s fifth winemaker in 101 years, and his team start fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Traditional pump over methods were used for gentle extraction. After malolactic fermentation, the wine was taken for 18 months to a combination of 40% French oak barrels and 60% American oak barrels made up of first, second and third fill barrels. After this, the wine was prepared for bottling.
From a Burgundy shaped bottle, closed with natural cork. The label is in the simple elegant and classical Alto style. In the glass, the wine is a rich bloodplum at the heart which pales out to ruby at the edges. Once you get the glass up to your nose, you start on a journey of red berry and cherry fruit and plums. From entry the wine has a juice making acidity which runs through to the long aftertaste. The mid palate is full and generous with an undertow of oak and its concomitant spice and vanilla. The aftertaste lingers long. An impressive glass, ready for drinking now, but can only get better with a year or two of cool cellaring.
The Alto Shiraz 2016 will reward if slightly chilled. This is a wine for gentle sipping and serious conversation. It is excellent with food, loves South African Boerewors, Bobotie and Bredies. Diane Bibby’s Spinach & Leek Spanakopita is a riff on one of Georgia Easts. A fine vegetarian dish for this fine wine. Click HERE for the recipe.
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