Testalonga is in a category of its own in South Africa’s predominately conservative wine culture. Located in Swartland, in the Western Cape, Testalonga practices minimal interventionist winemaking and organic (leaning towards biodynamic) farming in a region where industrial winemaking is the well-established norm. In fact, it took some time for South African authorities to clear these unconventional wines for export.
Owner and winemaker Craig Hawkins began working cellar rat jobs for his winemaker brother, Neil Hawkins, while still in school. He spent the 6 years after university splitting his time between the Sadie Family Estate in South Africa and working around Europe for several wineries. Especially influential in the development of Craig’s winemaking values and style was Tom Lubbe of Matassa in the Roussillon.
In 2008, while working at Lammershoek for then-owners, Austrian Paul and Anna Kretzel, Craig started his Testalonga project with one wine, a skin-contact Chenin Blanc. Austrian and Anna later became Craig’s parents-in-law when he married their daughter, Carla.
In 2015, Craig & Carla Hawkins decided to turn the Testalonga project into a full-grown wine estate and purchased a farm in northern Swartland. They make a growing line-up of organically farmed, low-interventionist wines from Chenin Blanc, Carignan, and Colombard planted on granite and sandstone soils. All the wines are fermented with native yeasts, and, except for a very small amount of sulfur at bottling, nothing is added. They are, as Craig says, "wines made from grapes."
Jancis Robinson: Testalonga, Baby Bandito Keep on Punching 2017 Swartland
WineMag.Co.Za: Time James: The Brilliant Project that is Testalonga
Les Caves de Pyrene Blog: Keep on Punching: The Rise of Testalonga Wines