Alto, the popular red wine producer in the Golden Triangle outside Stellenbosch, appointed Bertho van der Westhuizen to take over the reins from his father, Schalk.
Van der Westhuizen visited Pretoria and Johannesburg recently to introduce himself to the crowds in Gauteng, and also present a vertical wine tasting featuring solely Cabernet Sauvignon from the farm. Van der Westhuizen graduated with a BSc degree in viticulture and oenology from the University of Stellenbosch in 2002 and spent his first harvest in 2003 with his father on Alto.
In 2004 Van der Westhuizen joined Citrusdal Cellar, followed by seven years as winemaker at Kleine Zalze. In 2012 he joined Boschendal, where he was mainly responsible for producing red wine, until his appointment at Alto this year.
“I have been very fortunate so far,” Van der Westhuizen says. “At Citrusdal I not only learned about the ins and outs of a big commercial winery, but was also deeply involved in the viticultural side of the business. At Kleine Zalze and Boschendal I was exposed to the activities of smaller wineries. This taught me a lot and gave me a very good perspective on the whole spectrum of viticultural and wine-making responsibilities.”
His acquired knowledge becomes immediately apparent when he starts talking about different vintages and he often favours younger wines over older vintages, something that speaks about the way new wine drinkers and wine makers approach wines. The 35-year-old winemaker is proud to take over the reins from his father in the vineyard and cellar of one of South Africa’s foremost red wine producers.
He also happens to be producing one of his favourite wines, Cabernet Sauvignon. That is because it is a wine that is planned and loved during its entire wine-making process. “When you go to a quick dinner, order a Shiraz. You can get away with making a great Shiraz with average grapes. Cabernet is different,” he says.
From distinct notes to where the cultivar grows, everything plays a role to make a good Cabernet Saugvignon. His dad was involved with making 42 vintages at Alto. While aged wine is always viewed as the better option,Van der Westhuizen points out that it’s always up to taste. During his Cabernet Sauvignon vertical wine tasting he paired various vintages with a range of courses.
Each time a younger and older vintage was paired with the same course. Every time Van der Westhuizen, as well as the guests, gulped down younger varieties with a smile. This is part coincidence and part sheer luck. Van der Westhuizen believes different blocks on the farm produces better tasting wines than others. It so happens that the more favoured wines during the tasting were from blocks Van der Weshuizen believes to have that something special.
So if you ever need advice on which vintage to buy, he’s the guy to ask.