Alto Wine Estate has emerged victorious at two significant championships for producers of Shiraz wines, claiming top spots for its 2013 wine at both the internationally acclaimed Syrah du Monde 2016 and the Shiraz SA Wine Challenge.
The wine was one of only six from South Africa and 35 overall to be recognised for a gold medal at this year’s Syrah du Monde, announced on May 13.
The Shiraz SA Wine Challenge also singled out the Alto 2013 vintage Shiraz as a champion, this time among a nationwide field of competitors. The announcement was made on Wednesday May 18, following rigorous assessment by two separate panels of expert judges.
“We’re very happy with these accolades,” says Alto winemaker Bertho van der Westhuizen. “Both competitions are highly rated exactly because they provide an accurate comparison. We have many wine styles in South Africa, but can sometimes be disregarded. In a competition only for Shiraz, these styles have a chance to shine and be seen.”
At Shiraz SA, the Alto Shiraz 2013 was selected as one of 12 top Shiraz wines entered in the annual event. At Syrah du Monde, it was among 374 wines from 23 countries.
Its grapes came from vineyards planted in decomposed granite and clay soils on a north-westerly slope, some 100m to 150m above sea level. During vinification, it was aged in a combination of French and American oak barrels for 18 months before bottling.
The result is a ruby-red wine with a nose of blackcurrant and prunes, and nuances of smoke and spice. Dark fruit and spice is also reflected on the palate of this full bodied wine, notable for its creamy mouth-feel and prominent tannic structure.
The achievement of the 2013 vintage Shiraz SA is the latest in a string of accolades for this wine in particular and Alto’s portfolio of red wines in general. The Alto Shiraz 2012 received a Gold award at The Drinks Business Global Syrah Masters competition last year and was one of only a small number to win a Gold medal at the 2015 Veritas Awards.
It reflects a lineage of excellence that runs throughout the history of the farm that was established in 1693. Since 1919, when vineyards became its main occupation, there have only been five winemakers at Alto – South Africa’s oldest red wine estate. Bertho took over from his father Schalk van der Westhuizen, who was at the helm for 15 vintages since the turn of the millennium.
In fact, it was Schalk who made the winning Shiraz at this year’s competitions. “Our unique history is a constant reminder of our responsibility as custodians of Alto’s bigger, greater story that will continue to shine long after I’m gone,” says Bertho.
It is a responsibility borne by many, he adds. “The success of the 2013 Alto Shiraz and all our wines is a credit to the essential contribution of vineyard manager Danie van Zyl and his team,” he says.
The appreciation for tradition at Alto is also balanced with the judicious expansion and adoption of new technology. Most recently, the farm extended its harvesting capacity with the addition of eight fermentation tanks, two of which are open-top fermenters that allow for punch downs.
“This new capability allows us to blend from smaller, distinct parcels of vineyard and provide an even truer expression of the best of our terroir,” Bertho says.