Alto Estate Red Blend 2022 exudes concentrated elegance

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A COOL growing season in the vineyards on Stellenbosch’s Helderberg, home of Alto Estate, resulted in immense concentration in the grapes harvested for the making of Alto’s Estate Blend from the 2022 vintage. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Shiraz (30%) and Cabernet Franc (10%), the Alto Estate Blend harnesses the three grape varieties for which Alto has become known since vineyards were first planted here over 100 years ago.

According to Bertho van der Westhuizen, Alto’s winemaker, the Estate Blend captures the true essence of Alto’s distinctive terroir with each of the wine’s varietal components having over decades proved to express the nuances of their home on the Helderberg slopes.

“Vineyards grow from heights varying between 135m and 500m above sea-level, on a  steep and even north-facing slope,” says Bertho. “North-facing, the vineyards bask in afternoon sun with constant airflows from the Atlantic Ocean at False Bay, some eight kilometres to the south. This adequate sunlight falling on our singular slope of constant vines allows for even ripening, while the differences in elevation makes for exciting variances in flavour profiles, as grapes growing at 200m taste different to one parked at 450m.”

The 2022 vintage on Alto followed a cold, wet Cape winter that had provided adequate water for Alto’s decomposed granite and clay soils, resulting in a late start to the growing season with a mild summer leading to the slow and even ripening of the grapes.

“This longer hang-time for the Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Cabernet Franc grapes used for the Alto Estate Blend resulted in immense fruit concentration, deeply flavoured and with dense colours, yet holding a core of bright acidity ensuring freshness.”

Grapes for the Alto Estate Blend 2022 were harvested at between 24° to 25° balling, each variety being vinified separately. Fermentation on the skins was done in stainless steel tanks for between seven and 21 days, with regular pump-overs to ensure harmonious extraction of tannin, flavour and colour from the grape-skins.

The wine underwent malolactic fermentation in barrel, after which it was matured for 18 months in French oak barrels for 18 months, 70% which were of new wood.

“Records of the past few years vintages in Stellenbosch tend to highlight the uneven years as being exceptional – 2013, 2015 and 2017, for example,” says Bertho. “But on Alto we are tagging 2022 as a particular fine year for our red wines and believe this is evident in the latest release of the Alto Estate Blend. There is a firm backbone of muscular tannin in the wine, while the plush, dark-fruit flavours and element of spice abound in a refined, elegant red wine that will mature splendidly over the next 10 to 15 years.”

Retail price: R450.

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