Testalonga's first natural wine, produced by Craig and Carla Hawkins, debuted in 2008 - a skin-macerated Chenin Blanc. Allegedly the first orange wine produced in South Africa, it immediately set them apart from other producers in the Swartland area.
One of the reasons for this is the orange wine failed to be classified, as orange wine was not a style permitted in South African wine appelations. So Testalonga went to court and changed that!
Having their own winery was a gradual and natural move for the couple - Craig arrived in Swartland in 2006 and since then worked for several respected winemakers. Up until 2018 they rented vineyards, but in 2015 the couple purchased their own vineyard and named it Bandits Kloof (Kloof means ‘ravine’ in Afrikaans). Craig knew Bandits Kloof was perfect as soon as he saw it - there was a year-round water source, great soil, and a steep mountain slope for yielding more complexity. All of Testalonga’s grapes are sustainably farmed, growing in granite, slate, and sandstone soils.
Natural wine in the fields and the cellar
With a climate similar to the Mediterranean, they grow Mediterranean grapes like Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Frappato, and Macabeu. In the winery, Craig direct-presses the grapes into a variety of neutral barrels or stainless steel tanks. Wines are wild fermented, and nothing is added. Some wines are lightly filtered before bottling - only the wines he believes have something to gain from the removal of larger sediment. ‘I am a purist when it comes to wine; I want to get to the heart of the matter’, explains Craig - ‘When I make it as naked as possible, I find I get more pleasure out of what I’m doing.’