Recently a bottle of Alto Rouge 2013 (R70 from the cellar) which, according to the back label, is now a blend of Cabernet Franc, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. It was pleasant but unremarkable.
Should we expect more from a brand like Alto Rouge? It dates from the 1920s so no shortage of heritage. It’s part of folklore that Cinsaut played a part in the wine back then but just how big a part? By coincidence, I also recently came across the book Red Wine in South Africa by Barrie Biermann and published in 1971, in which original winemaker Manie Malan recounts that the recipe was three parts Hermitage (Cinsaut) to one each Cab and Shiraz.
It strikes me that all other things being equal this would make a more interesting wine than the blend which currently constitutes Alto Rouge. If consumers are going to be motivated to drink South African wine, then we need distinctive rather than generic wines, wines true to our milieu, wines we can be proud of. It’s interesting that the likes of Chris Alheit of Alheit Vineyards and Christo le Riche of Le Riche Wines are working on Cab-Cinsaut blends.