Alto Rouge and the notion of Cinsaut blends

By , 22 January 2016



Alto Rouge 2013

Where’s the Cinsaut?

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.


3 comment(s)

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    Tertius Boshoff | 25 January 2016

    Stellenrust has indeed made a Cab Cinsaut blend since 2012 on account of a blog by Tim James – thanks Tim for the inspiration!. The whole first vintage of the Cuvée Quota was bought by Singita Premier wine head, Francois Rautenbach. Francois has taken it a step further and has shown so much trust in these blends, that we developed a Cabernet Sauvignon Cinsaut blend together for the Singita group in smaller bottles for in-room consumption and use on game drives. The 2013 vintage of the Cuvée Quota will be released in March this year.

    David | 22 January 2016

    Jocelyn from Hogan Wines has made a Cab-Cinsault from 2015 also. Due in April/May.

    Tim James | 22 January 2016

    Alto wines were much better in those days – they weren’t partly owned by a Distell exploiting the reputation while degrading the label by getting much higher yields, etc. Cab-based blends with cinsaut will be a big thing in a few years, I’m sure, and there are already some on the way – Stellenrust, for example, made a really good one already in 2012, wittily called Cuvée Quota, though I don’t know if it’s been released.

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