Few wines have been as eagerly anticipated as the new MPHS blend produced by Alto Estate, the red wine specialist in Stellenbosch. The new Alto MPHS 2012 is only the second release of the wine as a 50/50 blend and follows just eight barrels made in the preceding year.
Notably, the MPHS 2011 rated 95/100 - among the world’s best - in a report on South African wine last year by one of the UK’s most respected wine authorities. Tim Atkin also underlined Alto’s superiority in red wines when he awarded the Alto Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 92 points and the Alto Shiraz 2013, 91.
The MPHS blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon is a tribute to the famous estate’s founding winemakers whose initials make up its name. A rarity to have only five in the 100-year history of a farm, they are Manie Malan, whose father planted only red cultivars on Alto as early as the 1920s; Piet du Toit, who acquired the farm in 1959; his son, Hempies, the renowned Springbok rugby player, who took over in 1983; and Schalk van der Westhuizen, who joined Alto in 2000.
The MPHS was conceived under Schalk’s watch. Now, it is his son Bertho who releases the 2012, having taken the Alto reigns in May 2015.
“I love the 2012,” declares Bertho. “It has a touch of New World style while retaining the charm and elegance that is associated with Old World wines. The wine is slightly fuller with velvet-soft tannins. This is a vintage that will age well,” he points out.
Going back into the records his father kept at the time, Bertho says Alto had a fairly cool growth season leading up to 2012 with plenty of rain in the previous winter. The conditions allowed the grapes a longer, more even time to develop on the vine.
The high-lying Cabernet Franc vines were 16 years old at the time of harvesting and the Cabernet Sauvignon, three years older. Like the vineyards across the estate, they benefited from the cool afternoon sea-breezes that travel up the valleys from False Bay, just 12km away and visible from the farm tasting room.
The grapes were hand-harvested in the early morning of March that year. After vinification, the wines were transferred to new 300-litre medium-toasted, fine grain French oak barrels for 24 months. They were then blended and bottled in mid-2014.
The result is a dark, lively and brick-red wine with intense aromas typical to Cabernet – red berry fruit and a touch of nuttiness and wood. The wine is balanced with soft grape and wood tannins together with ripe fruit that lingers on the palate.
Bertho notes: “the Alto MPHS 2012 will be impeccable on its own or served with slow roasted lamb with Salsa Verde, truffled eggs on garlic ciabatta, smoked duck with berry glaze or aged parmesan.”
“It’s a real credit to the work of the winemaker and his team,” he says.
With 93ha under vine, Alto is situated on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain in the district of Stellenbosch. Its history goes back 1693 although the handcrafting of bold, red wines began in 1922. It was Hennie Malan, who named the farm Alto, a reference to its altitude and its pursuit for excellence.
In addition to its range of excellent single-vineyard red wines and Fine Old Vintage port-style wine, Alto is famous for the Alto Rouge, a blend Shiraz, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.