The 2012 vintage of the flagship red blend from Stellenbosch property Alto has just been released, and to mark the occasion, a tasting of this and the two previous vintages to date, namely 2007 and 2011.
Unfortunately, the 2007 which is available from Vinoteque.co.za at R1 144 a bottle is not looking good – a blend of 67% Cabernet Franc and 33% Cabernet Sauvignon and matured for 24 months in 100% new French oak, it’s shows pronounced pyrazine character plus a certain earthiness – it rated 82 on the 100-point quality scale in the recent 10 Year Old Wine Awards.
The 2011 (price: R925 a bottle) is in marginally better shape but not much to get excited about – a 50:50 blend of Cab Franc and Cab, it was again matured for 24 months in new oak, the alcohol clocking in at 14.93%. It manages to be big yet simultaneously angular, the acidity tart and the tannins astringent. Rating: 86/100.
The 2012 (price: TBC) again a 50:50 blend of Cab Franc and Cab and again getting that full-on oak treatment is rich and full, smooth textured with a fiery finish thanks to 15% alcohol. Rating: 86/100.
Current winemaker Bertho van der Westhuizen, who previously worked at Boschendal and Kleine Zalze, took over from his father Schalk in 2015 and seems keen to introduce a paradigm shift, acknowledging in particular that greater freshness in the property’s wines would be no bad thing.
In this regard, the soon-to-be-released Alto Rouge 2015 was also on show and is the best this crowd favourite has looked for a while.
A blend of 34% Shiraz, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, 17% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot, it was matured for 18 months in a combination of first-, second- and third-fill oak. On the nose, red and black berries, fresh herbs and a hint of vanilla. The palate is fruit forward in the best sense – luscious and smooth textured. Not super-complex but immensely likeable. Rating: 87/100.