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South Africa, Stellenbosch, June 2018; A quintessential South African tradition now showcases an equally fine ambassador of excellence in a new and revelatory tasting experience that pairs naturally cured meat – biltong – and Alto wines at the eponymous Stellenbosch estate.

Situated along the elevated northern slopes of the Helderberg Mountain, Alto has earned its reputation over close to a century as one of South Africa’s most respected red wine estates. Precise understanding of the terroir and the vines that thrive here has been shaped over generations and led to just five varieties being grown on the estate. Only five wines make up its portfolio and these now feature in the Alto Wine & Biltong Tasting.

It’s just one more reason to visit Alto and experience the home of Alto wines.

From the tasting room where the new pairings are available, the lush vine-covered valley drops away into distant hills. Beyond them, lies Table Mountain and the blue-grey range of peaks aligned along the Westward curve of False Bay.

The bay is the source of the soothing afternoon breezes that slows ripening in the fruit and develops flavour. Few regions have produced as many iconic wines, which is why it is geographically famous as the Golden Triangle.

The champion status of Alto wines comes to the fore in the new pairing experience, curated by Alto winemaker Bertho van der Westhuizen and award-winning food writer and stylist Vickie de Beer, who is well known as the food editor of Rooi Rose magazine. She is the author of My Low Carb Kitchen (2016) and co-author of The Low Carb Solution for Diabetics (2015), both published by Quivertree.

Each pairing was designed to highlight a characteristic in the wine, while simultaneously demonstrating its versatility. Alto Rouge for example, is partnered with barbeque-flavoured biltong.

“Grilling meat over the open flame lends additional weight and texture,” says Vickie. “This demands a full-bodied, full-flavoured wine like Alto Rouge. The aromas of cigar box and oak spices in the wine enhance the smoky, spicy and tangy flavours of the barbecue flavoured biltong.”

Smoke is applied as an ingredient in pairing with Alto Shiraz. “Alto Shiraz, with its good tannic backbone, can bear the added weight that smokiness lends to any dish. The delicate spicy quality, married to a dark fruitiness, makes it the perfect accompaniment to the smoky biltong.”

The rugged tannic structure of Alto Cabernet Sauvignon makes it a perfect fit for salty, naturally-cured biltong with a trace of fat. For Bertho, the latter softens the tannins and enhances the red, plum fruit and sweetness in the wine.

He also discovered how the process of fermentation releases more umami flavours in full-bodied, well-aged wines like the Alto M.P.H.S, which is used for the fourth pairing and named after the farm’s founding winemakers. “The intensity of flavour in this rich wine is well matched with umami foods like the Alto red wine biltong with Parmesan and white truffle,” Vickie adds.

For the Fine Old Vintage & Sweet pairing, sweetness in wine balances salt and acts as a foil to rich foods. “That’s why the Alto Old Fine Vintage pairs well with soft, silky Gorgonzola – like the Alto red wine and Gorgonzola biscotti – or rich duck liver pâté,” she says.

The Alto Wine & Biltong Tasting is available at the estate tasting lounge on the farm and costs R120.