Craig & Carla Hawkins, a pair of Bandits rocking it at Testalonga in the Swartland…

Craig & Carla Hawkins

It must be ten years ago that I first met Craig and Carla Hawkins, I don’t think they were even married then. It was the time I first tasted his wines. How far they have come since. They make what are called natural wines. Wines, the grapes for which come from organically farmed vineyards. They are usually hand harvested, of course that is the norm in the Cape Winelands, though some do mechanical harvesting. Mechanical harvesting requires special trellising, an expensive operation. Once in the cellar, the grapes are destalked, crushed and then fermentation takes place with the yeasts on the skin of the grapes doing the action. It is minimalist stuff, with no fining or filtration, though at bottling there is sometimes the use of sulphur. This style of winemaking was used in Georgia as far back as 8,000 years ago. There is a growing interest in these wines, and of course high emotion support and denigration.

As more people look for products which are sustainable and are friendly to the environment, there is a market for these wines. Craig and Carla have an International reputation now and long may it be so.

Last night I tasted two bottles of Craig and Carla’s wine. And what a joy they both were. Ling time since I have tasted something so different and utterly delicious.

The Testalonga El Bandito Skin 2019

This was the first wine that Craig and Carla made and the first I tasted some years ago. I tasted it again at a wine presentation where I was one on one with Craig. Made from Chenin Blanc grown on Bush Vines, planted in the Paardeberg Appellation in decomposed granite. Allowed cold maceration for 12 days before fermentation for 8 days before being pressed and the wine taken to a 3,000 litre French Oak Foudre.

From a Burgundy shaped bottle, closed with natural cork. The simple black and white label is quirky. In the glass, a soft apricot gold in colour. The aromas are so interesting, kelp and fynbos herbs, spice and apple puree. The palate has a marine salinity, Golden Delicious apples, honey and white flowers. I was interested how soft the wine was, not a quaffer, but certainly a serious sipper. And fabulous with food.

The Testalonga El Bandito Cortez 2019

The grapes for this wine come from a vineyard on Observatory Farm planted in soil which has a high percentage of quartz, in 1972 and farmed organically since 2001. . A one third component was made in stainless steel tanks and the balance in 500 litre barrels.

From a Burgundy shaped bottle, closed with natural cork. The label is a picture of Carlos Lupori a London Wine Merchant, taken 20 years ago. In the glass, a citrine gold in colour. Th aromas and palate segue one into the other. Winter fruits, apple, pear, baked quince and windfall citrus are found with undertows of that salinity and minerality which I found so appealing. I liked the light palate weight, lower alcohols, and the elegance of the wine.

A pretty plate of saladings

As for food matching, a delicious salad made by Madeleine with a mix of saladings, blocks of green melon and thin slices of prosciutto.

New vintages, the 2020s have recently been launched.

David Clarke of Ex Animo Wines

The Testalonga Wines can be bought online from Ex Animo Wines – CLICK HERE

Buy now and the wines will be shipped to you once the COVID19 ban has been lifted.

January 27th, 2021|Categories: Uncategorized|

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