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South Africa, Stellenbosch, October 2017; The year’s best South African wines were again in the limelight at the prestigious 2017 Veritas Awards on Friday. For Alto Estate near Stellenbosch, the achievement was especially sweet because the pair of Double Golds it received were among the event’s most significant.

The complete portfolio of wines held by Alto Estate comprises only five wines because the focus on red wine excellence is important. Plus, the winning Alto Rouge 2015 and Alto Shiraz 2015 were among the annual competition’s most hotly contested categories. Biggest were red blends, where Alto Rouge competed with 228 entries, while the third-biggest was Shiraz, with 169 entries.

Overall, only 71 Double Golds were awarded among the 1 638 entries this year.

“It is always humbling to have our wines acknowledged by competitions such as the Veritas Awards,” says Alto winemaker Bertho van der Westhuizen. “The competition is among the most widely recognised and trusted indicators of quality in South African wine today.

“The achievement of the Alto Rouge is particularly special to us. Priced at our lowest tier, Alto Rouge’s consistent awards demonstrate the wine’s exceptional value and how high we set the bar on quality.”

Indeed, Alto Rouge is the sum of the estate’s history, sublime terroir, passion and meticulous craft – a legendary blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

As for the 2015 vintage, it holds special significance for Bertho, who took over from his father, on May 1 of that year. Schalk van der Westhuizen finished fermentation of the harvest and together they put the wines in barrel.

“My job was easy considering how good the harvest was,” recalls Bertho.

When Schalk retired, his son became the 5th winemaker at Alto in a century.

While the Alto title-deed dates back to 1693, the estate has focused on handcrafted, bold red wines since 1922. The estate got its name from its elevated location of its vines on the shoulders of the Helderberg Mountain. From the cellar, there’s a clear view of Table Mountain in the distance and the curve of False Bay.

The bay is the source of the afternoon breezes that slows ripening in the fruit and develops flavour. Generations of observation and know-how matched the best varieties with the terroir.

Today, few regions have produced as many iconic wines, which is why it is geographically famous as the Golden Triangle.

In addition to its range of excellent single-vineyard red wines and Fine Old Vintage port-style wine, Alto is famous for the MPHS – a blend that carries the initials of the farm’s founding winemakers.