2021 Testalonga Chin Up Cinsault

Swartland, South Africa

Cinsault is mostly known as a grape from the Rhône region, where it is rarely allowed to shine on its own. If you’ve had much South African wine in the past, it’s likely that you’ve had Cinsault blended with Cabernet Sauvignon (it adds softness and a nice layer of red fruit), a single varietal bottle from South Africa like this offering from Testalonga remains somewhat rare. As for the wine itself, it is a beautiful pale ruby colour with red apple and mouth-watering red cherry. And it sits at a very relaxed 11% ABV! I can’t recommend this wine enough. Also, this feels obligatory given our taste around here - you can absolutely drink this one a little bit chilled.

What makes Testalonga so remarkable is their commitment to one grape in one bottle, you can find everything from skin macerated Chenin Blanc to sparkling Colombard. Founded in 2008 by Carla and Craig Hawkins, Testalonga are responsible for the first exported orange wine from South Africa. Craig said in his own words regarding making orange wines: “Skin contact, skin macerated, white wines, orange wines - whatever you want to call them - that was actually the reason I make wine. I always struggled with South African wines because I thought that from vintage to vintage, they all tasted the same. There were very particular orange wines that made me kind of wake up. It was my epiphany moment in wine.”

Craig has said that organic farming comes easily to him. He says he does not farm this way from a fundamentalist point of view, but simply because the best wines are produced with organic farming. The majority of the 11 Hectares of vines they work with are planted on the granite soils of Paardeberg or on Schist. They farm the vines themselves or they buy from farmers whom they work very closely with. The fruit comes from dry farmed, organic vineyards. Craig and Carla are so committed to a sustainable lifestyle that they even live in a solar powered home.

The wines are as low-intervention as possible - in good years it’s as simple as picking, pressing, waiting, watching and bottling with nothing added, at any point in the winemaking process. Craig says that the wines should express who they are both on the label and in the bottle; humour plays an important role in communicating their story. Everything is done according to taste once in the cellar, including when to press, a very important decision.

Overall, this wine is my go-to for truly any occasion. Casual dinners to more formal affairs, this wine always fits in. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!