Our Winemaker, Bertho van der Westhuizen
Not many wine estates can boast only five winemakers in a century. And even fewer can claim two father and son combinations over the same period. Bertho van der Westhuizen took over the reins from his well-known father, Schalk, on 1 May 2015. Before them it was Piet du Toit who handed over the responsibilities to his son, Hempies, the former Springbok prop.
Alto’s Schalk van der Westhuizen retires after 15 vintages
Winemaker Schalk van der Westhuizen has, for 15 vintages, produced award-winning wines at Alto, but all good things come to an end, as the saying goes. On 30 June 2015 this tall, quiet and unassuming man handed over the reins to his successor, his son Bertho.
Bertho is very proud to take over from his father in the vineyard and cellar of one of South Africa’s foremost red wine producers.
The fact that he has to fill the rather big boots of his dad doesn’t concern him. “My dad has left deep tracks on Alto, and yes, they’re big boots to fill, but I know I can always rely on his advice and input. It will require passion, commitment and hard work to maintain his very high standards in both the vineyards and the cellar, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.
Bertho gained his BSc degree in viticulture and oenology at the University of Stellenbosch in 2002 and then spent his first harvest in 2003 with his father on Alto. In 2004 he joined Citrusdal Cellar, followed by a stint of 7 years as winemaker at Kleine Zalze. In 2012 he joined Boschendal where he was mainly responsible for red wine making until his appointment as Alto’s Winemaker.
Bertho says the fact that he started out in the vineyard before moving to the cellar stands him in very good stead and is the best way to learn. “A winemaker must have a feeling for the vineyard. The old adage that a good wine is made in the vineyard is very true and my knowledge and experience in the vineyard have so far helped me tremendously.”
“If you talk to anybody about red wine, Alto’s name will be one of five estates mentioned, and usually in the top three. Its reputation for classically structured wines is well-deserved, and it is therefore a massive honour and privilege to be able to make wine here. The vineyards thrive in the estate’s unique terroir, and my role will be to work carefully and judiciously in the cellar with the best fruit from the vineyards.”
Manie, who helped his father, Hennie clear Alto in 1920 to establish the fist vines. His red blend was to become the prototype of the much loved Alto Rouge.
Hempies Du Toit
(The Gentle Heart)
One of South Africa’s finest Springbok rugby players, he is a farmer first and foremost. He believes wine is born in the vineyard. By coaching the right quality fruit from his vines, he has developed a reputation for impressive full-flavoured wines of stature structured to endure.
Piet Du Toit
Piet du Toit, a fourth generation winemaker, came to Alto as a manager and winemaker in 1959, becoming co-owner in 1968. While he continued to make the highly successful Alto Rouge, he also introduced Alto’s first Cabernet Sauvignon varietal.
Schalk Van Der Westhuizen
(The Quiet Crowd Pleaser)
Modest to a fault, Schalk always claims it is the vines rather than his own skill and erudition that create wines of such distinction on Alto. He brought his deep and seasoned understanding of winemaking to Alto, where he was winemaker from 2001 – 2015.
Bertho Van Der Westhuizen
Not many wine estates can boast only five winemakers in a century. And even fewer can claim two father and son combinations over the same period. Bertho is proud to take over the reins from his father in the vineyard and cellar.