Latest News:

Alto Rouge 2017, a great classic in South Africa’s Wine History

27 August 2019  -  Michael Olivier

I am not able even to think of someone who loves wine, who has not had a bottle of Alto Rouge during his or her lifetime. Alto has been around for 100 years in the Stellenbosch Wine Appellation, and, in that time, essentially had four winemakers.

Bertho van der Westhuizen is the fifth winemaker who moved in a couple of years ago to assume the mantle of his father, Schalk. While the blend alters according to what the vintage delivers, the Alto Rouge 2017 is made up of 31% Cabernet Franc. 28% Shiraz, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and 9% Petit Verdot. As these grapes all ripen at different times, the varieties were separately vinified and the wines were only blended after oak maturation.

The fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks and the fermenting grapes were pumped over several times a day to gently extract all the elements which make up a fine wine like this. Malolactic fermentation took place in the stainless steel tanks. The wines were then matured for 14 to 16 months in a mix of first, second and third fill French and American oak Barriques. A barrique is the ‘Bordeaux barrel’ which holds 225 litres or 59 gallons of wine which is 300 bottles. The various wine components were then blended and prepared for bottling.

Like so many other legendary wines, the Alto Rouge packaging may have had a tweak to two in its time. It is packed in a Bordeaux shaped bottle closed with natural cork. The label is a classic. In the glass the wine is an opaque deep bloodplum at the heart which pales out to a purple tinged ruby at the edges. The aromas are deep and rustic, petrichor, red berry and cherry fruits, oak and its concomitant spice and vanilla. All these are backed up by a generous palate and run into the aftertaste where you will find a touch of dark chocolate. Excellent balance. While eminently drinkable now, it will reward you ig you give it a couple of years of cool cellaring.

Do chill the Alto Rouge 2017 for about 30 minutes for greater enjoyment. This is a bottle which would go down well with a stick of Biltong and a sharp knife watching the Springboks win the Rugby World Cup. As a food wine it will match the traditional red wine foods, though it will do well with an organic, butter roasted, spatchcocked chicken. Or, better still my Brick Chicken. Click here for the recipe.

Read more about Alto Wine Estate - Click here