Swartland, South Africa
In 2008, after many years making wine all over the globe Craig and Carla Hawkins started Testalonga in Swartland, South Africa. Their first wine was a skin contact Chenin and from there they have introduced new vineyards of mostly old vines of Grenache, Muscat, Carignan, Harslevelu and Syrah. They have also planted South Africa's first cuttings of Maccabeu and Vermentino. These are some of the most interesting and exciting wines coming out of the entire region, showing great precision and finesse, inspired by the old world where these Vigneron trained. Craig spent time at Matassa with Tom Lubbe in Roussilon, at Capriades in the Loire and with Dirk Nieport in Portugal among many others.
Craig and Carla are also responsible for skin macerated whites wines, or orange wines, being officially recognized by the South African government. For many years they were unable to export their wines because they lacked the “typicity” of other South African wines. Sound familiar? Pearl Morissette and Lock + Worth have had similar problems. After years of discussions, Craig has now introduced an entire new category of wine and is helping to grow the industry in a significant way.
The majority of the 11 Hectares of vines they work with are planted on the granite soils of Paardeberg or on Schist. They either farm the vines themselves or buy from farmers they work very closely with. All of the fruit comes from dry farmed, organic sites. In keeping with a sustainable lifestyle Craig and Carla also power their home and winery primarily with solar energy.
The wines are made with as little manipulation as possible - in good years its as simple as picking, pressing, waiting, watching and bottling with nothing added at any stage. Craig says that they want the wines to express who they are both on the label and in the bottle, which is why humour plays an important role in communicating their story. Everything is done according to taste once in the cellar, including when to press, a very important decision.
High quality organic fruit, natural ferments, no additives, bottling unfined and unfiltered, the winemaking at Testalonga pushes boundaries. In your glass you’ll find low alcohols and precise, intense but delicate flavours. Welcome to the new South Africa.
El Bandito Skin: Chenin Blanc
The first wine they ever made. It’s a skin contact Chenin (aka orange wine), aptly named Skin. Fruit comes from an east facing higher altitude site planted on decomposed granite in 1972 and is hand harvested, destemmed into 1500L open fermenters then macerated on skins for 10 days. The wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered with minuscule sulfur.
El Bandito Sweet Cheeks: Muscat
The farm kids who lived next door to this vineyard love eating these grapes during harvest. Since their cheeks were always bulging with sweet grapes they called the wine Sweet Cheeks. Fruit for this skin contact wine (aka orange wine) comes from the legendary Observatory vineyard from vines planted in the 1960s. Fruit is hand harvested, destemmed and macerated on skins for 10 days before being matured in 500L old oak casks. Bottled unfined, unfiltered with minuscule sulfur.
El Bandito Mangaliza: Harslevelü
There is a Hungarian pig that looks like a sheep called Mangalitsa. Craig loves them and also loves the Harslevelü grape this wine is made from, which comes originally from Hungary. Craig prefers the spelling Mangaliza, and the wine is named for the pigs. Fruit comes from bush vines planted in 1971 on decomposed granite and is hand harvested, whole bunch pressed, fermented in old French oak and bottled unfined, unfiltered with minuscule sulfur.
Baby Bandito Keep on Punching: Chenin Blanc
The names for the Baby Bandito wines are phrases you might use when talking to a child. The idea is words of encouragement. Craig says that sometimes we all need a peppy one liner to keep us going. This wine comes from bush vines planted on granite in 1972. Fruit is hand harvested, whole bunch pressed and fermented in stainless steel. Bottled unfined and unfiltered with minuscule sulfur. Craig and Carla have worked this particular block for many many years.
Baby Bandito Follow your Dreams: Carignan
The names for the Baby Bandito wines are phrases you might use when talking to a child. The idea is words of encouragement. Craig says that sometimes we all need a peppy one liner to keep us going. The inspiration for the label is from street artist Banksy’s famous piece of the same name. Fruit from high altitude Carignan vines planted in 2001 on decomposed granite is hand harvested, whole bunch fermented in old French oak. Fermentation for this particular wine lasted only 3 days before it was pressed and was not carbonic. Bottled unfined and unfiltered with minuscule sulfur.
EL Bandito Monkey Gone to Heaven: Mourvedre
From Bush vines planted in 2001 on the more clay rich “Koffie Klipp” soils of the Abbotsdale region on the foot slopes of the Paardeberg. This is a 1ha block shared with good friend and winemaker Jurgen Gouws who farms the block for them. Fruit is hand harvested, whole bunch pressed fermented for 3 days in open top tanks and pressed into 500L old oak barrels for elevage. Bottled unfined, unfiltered with minuscule sulfur.
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