Port by any other name would taste as sweet, to paraphrase William Shakespeare. Due to Designated Origin Products we may not call our Port style wines as they don’t come from Oporto. Or as a clever, bit of a wag, friend of mine said, Port is made up in the Douro Valley. The Alto Fine Old Vintage 2008 is a fine example of a premium fortified South African wine.
Whatever, in South Africa we name these wines as Fine Old Vintage, Ruby and Tawny. Alto is one of the farms known for its Fine Old Vintage [FOV]. The advantage is that we can use which ever wine grape variety we wish. Alto FOV is made from Shiraz harvested in the late summer of 2008. The vineyards are on an upper, slope north westerly facing, part of the Helderberg. Here great advantage accrues to the vineyards with cooling breezes coming off False Bay ameliorating summer heat. Longer ripening times mean that the final wine is rich in colour and flavour. Hand-picked at optimum ripeness, the grapes were destalked and crushed. Colour and tannins were extracted during a short fermentation process which was halted by the addition of fine brandy spirits in the traditional manner. Wood was used judiciously. To preserve the fruit components, the winemaker opted for 12 months in 300-litre oak barrels. The wine was then prepared for bottling.
From a tall elegant, specially made bottle. The labeling is simple and elegant and imprinted on the bottle. In the glass, the wine is an opaque plum at the heart which pales out to ruby at the edges. The aromas are classical, dried fruits like raisins and soft prunes, oak spice and roasted hazelnuts. The palate, as expected if full, rich and generous. A little thread of acidity running through from entry to the long and very satisfying aftertaste. The fruit repeats itself and there is an undertow of creamy coffee. A hugely impressive glass, and at 12 years old, so perfect for drinking now, with all the components singing off the same song sheet.
Traditionally a wine of the style of the Alto Fine Old Vintage 2008, is taken with cigars and coffee after a meal. However, when I visited Oporto a couple of years ago, a 7th generation Port Maker told me that the French were great Port drinkers and love it with Tonic as a pre-lunch or dinner drink. It is excellent with a hot curried butternut soup, great with a super smooth paté or a rough country terrine. With chestnuts in season now, roasted chestnuts are a great partner. A steamed Sticky Toffee Pudding with some fresh ginger grated into the batter before steaming, is a gem of a partnership. Though, really, this wine should be served with a lovely soft blue cheese, like a creamy young Gorgonzola or the Dalewood Wineland Blue Camembert.
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