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The Ned Kelly of South Africa's Wine Industry
Why Testalonga? While South Africa have a long established winemaking history, making wine before Australia was even settled, innovation and progressive styles of the New World has only really been (tentatively) explored since the 1990s at the end of Apartheid. And that doesn’t mean it’s been embraced. Testalonga are leading the way in terms of exciting and experimental winemaking for the conservative country, which is gathering global recognition.
Since their wines are so hard to come by, we’re very pleased to have this allocation on Sometimes Always represent the new era of South Africa’s wine industry.
Winemaker: Craig Hawkins Testalonga’s winemaker Craig Hawkins has wholly embraced his image of being South Africa’s winemaking rebel. Testalonga was a Sicilian outlaw. His ranges are split into El Bandito and Baby Bandito. You get the idea. Craig’s been making wine since school and travelled globally, learning new practises and techniques not yet accepted back home. Upon his return and establishing his farm – Bandit’s Kloof – in 2008, with his wife Carla, he set out to make a statement and stray away from his peers. Sometimes, beating to your own drum pays off, with Testalonga now becoming one of the most sought after producers of the New World, let alone in South Africa.
El Bandito Skin Chenin Blanc 2019
We love this wine because…
Time on skins and stirring lees has created an intriguing orange wine, racy and intense, yet elegant and subtle. Citrus fruits, red apple, herbs, and a whiff of that irresistible chenin honey. One of the game changers in South African wine. Close your eyes and cross the Indian Ocean with Craig Hawkins.
With wines this expressive, thoughtful and complex, it’s impossible not to fall for this outlaw.
Testalonga wines are grown at a farm in Swarthland called Bandit’s Kloof (kloof meaning ‘ravine’ in Afrikaans) with four hectares of Mediterranean varieties planted, such as Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Frappato, Maccabeu. No Pinotage here! The plan is to slowly grow to nine hectares. Besides emerging varieties, Testalonga do make Chenin Blanc, South Africa’s most widely planted variety, although their treatment of it is a little more unusual than most.
Winemaking Philosophy Although his identity is so entwined with disrupting the rules, is he really the Ned Kelly of South African winemaking? The government sure thinks so. On several occasions, Testalonga wines have been blocked for export by the government as they don’t exhibit a ‘typicity’ of South African wines, meaning they don’t taste South African enough. Many fans of the natural wine movement would argue this is a good thing. While his style is natural, with minimal intervention and organic fruit, the wines are not completely bizarre for the initiated – fans of skin contact whites will especially find plenty to enjoy. Just because he’s causing a raucous at home doesn’t automatically mean he’d be favoured abroad, but with wines this expressive, thoughtful and complex, it’s impossible not to fall for this outlaw.
Follow Your Dreams Carignan 2019
We love this wine because…
There is something trousseau-ish about this South African carignan. A wild affair from a renegade winemaker, Craig Hawkins doesn’t do things by the book. Expect raspberries and white pepper on top of pomegranate, cranberry and cherry. Savoury and light in alcohol. The idea was to make ‘drink-now wines that overdeliver’. Brief smashed.
Planted in 1981, these vines were abandoned and brought back to life in 2014. What a discovery. They deliver salty juice, with lashings of flowers, herbs, ginger, spice and citrus. Spending time on skins, this chenin has a personality of its own, from one of the most exciting winemakers in South Africa, Craig Hawkins.