There are certain classic duos in this world. Where one can’t be considered or imagined without the other. Think Laurel and Hardy, Romeo and Juliet, champagne and strawberries, gin and tonic, bread and butter, cookies and milk, braaivleis and potato salad, ice cream and chocolate sauce, cheese and tomato. Wednesday nights and Steers burgers. Movies and popcorn. But above all of these classics; I might possibly have found my new most favourite combination of all times: slow-cooked beef brisket and Alto Rouge 2016.
Situated along the elevated northern slopes of the Helderberg Mountain, Alto has earned its reputation over close to a century as one of South Africa’s most respected red wine estates. Precise understanding of the terroir and the vines that thrive there has been shaped over generations and led to just five varieties being grown on the estate.
The champion status of these wines comes to the fore in the #AltoFlavours campaign, curated by Alto winemaker Bertho van der Westhuizen and award-winning food writer and stylist Vickie de Beer, who is well known as the food editor of Rooi Rose magazine. Each pairing was designed to highlight a characteristic in the wine, while simultaneously demonstrating its versatility.
Alto Rouge 2016
I generously received a bottle of Alto Rouge 2016, along with a box full of goodies to make my very own complimentary barbeque sauce for a slow-cooked and roasted brisket. With the sun high up in the sky and summer holidays looming ahead, I decided there was no better time than the present. We all know how much I love to potter around in the kitchen, and if there’s a box full of ingredients to play with – even better!
Awards: 2018 Veritas Awards – Bronze , 2018 Michelangelo International Wine & Spirits Awards – Gold, 2018 Tim Atkins South African Report – 90 points, 2018 Cab Franc Challenge – one of Top 3 Blends
In the vineyard: Cabernet Franc (28%) Shiraz (23%) Merlot (22%) Cabernet Sauvignon (21%) and Petit Verdot (6%).
In the cellar: Each varietal was vinified separately and fermented on the skins for over seven days at 25° to 27°C in closed stainless-steel tanks. After malolactic fermentation the component wines were aged for 14 – 16 months in a combination of first-, second-and third-fill barriques, mostly of French and American oak, before the desired blend was made.
Tasting notes: This wine displays powerful berry fruit with cigar box and dark chocolate flavours followed by vanilla and oak spices.
Approximate retail price: R133
The Little Hedonist’s food pairing suggestions: When you think of such a deep red wine, you automatically lean towards pairing it with red meat. Which isn’t far from the truth, in this case. Although – to bring out the best aromas in Alto Rouge, make sure you roast, grill or char your meat before serving. The sweet undertones of Alto Rouge beg for the caramelised, rich flavours of barbecued or grilled foods.
A bit of smokiness or spice will do no harm, either, as the wine also subtly hints at whiffs of smoke and spice. This beautiful red can definitely hold itself against the heaviness of meat; in fact, it lightens and elevates the meal without even trying too hard. I find this to be an incredibly versatile red wine; lovely for summer and winter drinking. The blend allows a wide variety of food pairings, but I would strongly suggest keeping to char-grilled meat dishes. I’m thinking ostrich fillet on the braai. I’m thinking juicy grilled lamb chops. I’m even thinking crispy sweet and tangy chicken kebabs or glazed pork chops.
Of course, it goes without saying that Alto Rouge performed like a true champion next to the beef brisket, especially with the added red wine marinade to deepen the flavours even more.
The barbeque sauce
This barbeque sauce is the absolute bomb. Super easy to make and not so sickly sweet as most commercial sauces. It’s made with fresh, quality ingredients and spices so that you know exactly what you are adding to your beautiful cut of meat. You can cook the sauce in less than 30 minutes and it makes quite a lot, so be sure to save some for your next meal by freezing the leftover sauce in a ziplock bag!
Bringing the meal together was a breeze. As long as you invest in a good quality cut of meat, you really can’t go wrong. Once you’ve prepared the brisket, you pop it in the oven for about 6 hours (depending on the weight of the meat) and you kick back with a glass of two of Alto Rouge 2016.
By the time the brisket is out of the oven and cooled down, you’ve got yourself a nice little braai going with medium coals. Baste the brisket continuously with the marinade as you char-grill it al fresco. It needs about 10 – 15 minutes on each side. Don’t let anything distract you from lovingly smothering that slow-cooked brisket with Alto barbecue sauce!
The recipe is supposed to feed up to eight people, so because we were only two and way too greedy to save any of the yummy leftover sauce, we used everything to baste so that we had plenty of sauce to lap up with thick slices of freshly baked sourdough bread. The meat flaked from the bone, and there were loads of little charred gnarly bits of meat, which is of course my favourite pickings!
Because you add Alto Rouge to the marinade, it picks up the flavours beautifully when paired with a glass at a meal. The aromas of the wine has intensified and concentrated in the meat, which complimented the chargrilled aftertaste of the brisket perfectly.
Alto Rouge 2016 is an incredibly versatile, well rounded, well-loved and dependable all-weather friend that you should invite into your home for any and every occasion. Whether you’re making hearty winter comfort food or relaxing around the braai in summer, you can pull out a bottle of Rouge either way and indulge in the luxurious richness this blend has to offer.
Disclaimer: I was given this product(s) as part of a press drop in exchange for my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated/credited, are also my own.