Meet the Winemaker: Craig Hawkins of Testalonga

Meet the Winemaker: Craig Hawkins of Testalonga

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Tonight! Meet the Winemaker, Craig Hawkins of Testalonga.
~Details below~
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Husband and wife Craig and Carla Hawkins started Testalonga in 2008. Prior to settling in the Swartland region of South Africa, north of Capetown, they had travelled the world making wine; the first wine they made here was a skin contact Chenin (supposedly South Africa’s first (known, anyway) orange wine) which has become their flagship cuvée, El Bandito. 

In 2015 they purchased land on the northern mountains of Swartland and in 2018 they began planting vines. They named their farm Bandits Kloof (ravine) and planted it to Mediterranean varieties, as the climate here is similar to that of southern France and Sicily. They currently have 4 hectares planted and are slowly growing that to 9 hectares. 

The grapes for the El Bandito and Baby Bandito all come from organically-farmed, non-irrigated vineyards that they rent or work closely with the owners, planted on granite and sandstone. These are mostly all old vineyards, the oldest being from 1961 (1972 is the year the vineyards were registered). Each cuvée is single vineyard and single varietal, in an effort to best reflect the diverse terroir of the Swartland.

The winemaking is with minimal manipulation – basically no additives or corrections in the cellar, no fining, natural fermentations, and minimal to no sulphur before bottling.

Read more about Testalonga here, from Wine Anorak a few years ago. 
...and here, on what inspires the labels. 

All notes from theimporter

TESTALONGA "I am the Ninja" - Swartland Chenin Pet Nat 2021

VINEYARD NOTES Planted in 1961, dry land bush vines (un-trellised), farmed organically. This 4-ha block is planted on the sandstone soils of the Piketberg foothills on the way to Redelinghuys. The section of this block chosen for this wine is adjacent to the river, which in addition to water, provides fresh, crunchy fruit. 

WINEMAKING NOTES Hand-harvested then pressed and held in Stainless steel tank for about 25-30 days at 4 degrees Celsius. After racking to remove the sediment and get the juice as clear as possible, the tank is slowly warmed up to start fermenting. At a sugar of 35g/l it was bottled under crown cap where it was left to finish fermentation and build up a natural pressure of carbon dioxide. After 10 months the bottles were riddled and disgorged and topped with the same wine (from other decanted bottles) and crown capped again. No SO2 was ever added to the wine and neither was any settling or fining agent.

TESTALONGA Baby Bandito "Keep on Punching" Swartland Chenin 2021 $25.99

VINEYARD NOTES Planted in 1961, dry land bush vines (un-trellised), farmed organically. It is a 4-ha block of Chenin planted on the sandstone soils of the Piketberg foothills on the way to Redelinghuys. The proximity to a small river provides enough water throughout the growing season. 2021 was an excellent vintage for this wine and block of grapes. As the rains were above average in 2021 the soils were well saturated resulting in much better yields for these old vines. 

WINEMAKING NOTES Hand harvested and whole bunch pressed. Fermented in 3500L old Foudre and 2000L Stainless Steel tanks. Maturation in 2 x 3500L Foudre and 2000L Stainless tanks. No yeast (or other) inoculation or additives apart from a small amount of SO2 shortly before bottling. Ambient fermentation (the juice/ wine is not cooled). 100% malolactic fermentation. A clarifying filtration was done, no fining.

TESTALONGA Baby Bandito "Follow your Dreams" Carignan - Swartland 2021 $25.99

VINEYARD NOTES Planted in 2001, bush vine (un-trellised), farmed organically. This is a block that is fairly vigorous for the dry soils of the Swartland and produces a good number of high-quality grapes with very juicy large berries. The vine canopy is trained to shade the bunches to maintain freshness and avoid sunburn. 2021 was a great vintage for this block, achieving great levels of acidity and higher alcohols, combined with a much lower pH than normal, the result of good rains and continued improvements in the vineyard. 

WINEMAKING NOTES Hand harvested and 100% whole bunch fermented. The fruit is crushed before going into tank for 12 days of fermentation and then pressed off into two old 3500L foudre and 500L barrels. The grapes were harvest slightly later compared to previous vintages. No yeast (or other) inoculation or additives apart from a small amount of SO2 shortly before bottling. 100% malolactic fermentation. A light clarifying filtration, no fining.

TESTALONGA "Monkey Gone to Heaven" Mourvèdre - Swartland 2021 $45.99

VINEYARD NOTES Bush vines planted in the 2001, organically farmed, they are situated on slightly more clay rich “Koffie Klipp” soils of the Abbotsdale region on the foot slopes of the Paardeberg. This 1ha block is shared with winemaker Jurgen Gouws, who farms the block. The 2021 vintage provided ample yields and incredibly healthy fruit. WINEMAKING NOTES Hand-harvested, 100% whole bunch fermented for 12 days in open tanks, where it is then pressed and aged in three 500L French barrel. No yeast added, ambient fermentation. 100% malolactic fermentation. Unfined and a light clarifying filtration was done.



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