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Alto Wine Estate
With more and more investors and collectors looking for smaller, quality-focused, non-French producers, South African fine wines are showing signs that they too can be taken seriously in the on the investable wine circuits. Unheard of until very recently, blue-chip stocks (and a weak Rand) are making South African fine wines some of the most interesting on the secondary resale market.
An icon of the Western Cape
One of the estates that has been working very hard to conserve the upswing in fortunes is Alto, in Stellenbosch. Alto is proudly South Africa's oldest red wine estate and has a history dating back as far as 1693. Like many other South African wine estates, Alto started out as part of a larger farm known as Groenrivier (Green River), owned by the Malan family. Vines had been on the high slopes of the Helberg Mountains from an early date, but it was not until the farm’s division and subsequent sale (to Malans’ brother-in-law) in 1919 that the estate began to gather serious attention on the fine wine field. Replanting with choice red varietals proved to be a savvy move for Alto (the Latin name is a reference to both the altitude of the vineyard as well as the Malan’s lofty aspirations for the wine). When Malan sold the vineyard to Piet du Toit in 1959, the vines were considered in perfect condition and very little replanting has been done since.
A superior South African wine
Winemaker Schalk Van Der Westhuizen took over the reins in 2000 Hugely successful, Van Der Westhuizen managed to propel Alto into the glasses of South African Airlines first class guests, garnering a huge following for the wine. However, after 15 years, Van Der Westhuizen passed the baton to his son, Bertho, who is just the fifth winemaker in Alto’s history. Vastly underpriced - think around just €15 for a bottle of Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, but with investments being made in both the fields and the winery, expect prices (ergo the already excellent quality) to rise over the next few years. Of the five fine wines produced, four of them: the Cabernet Sauvignon, the Merlot and the Shiraz and Cabernet Franc have all walked away with gold medals.