2019 Testalonga El Bandito Cortez

Swartland, South Africa

Craig and Carla Hawkins launched Testalonga in the north of Swartland, South Africa in 2008. They are part of a revolutionary ground swell taking place in South African wine, where traditions are being challenged and brave new territory is being explored. The painfully small amount of wine that this duo produces gets snapped up in short order the world over. Known for their striking intensity and nervy energy, the wines of Testalonga defy convention in a lot of ways. Craig has never been accused of being “a follower” and these wines represent the avantgarde of South African wine. The fruit is farmed by Craig and his team using organic and biodynamic methods. Craig is proud of making natural wines, thus early picking, a lack of additions (minute amounts of SO2 are infrequently used) with no fining or filtration are all hallmarks of his approach. They have bought a farm in the Piketberg area in northern Swartland, and have started to plant vines as of 2018.

Cortez is one of the finest expressions of Chenin Blanc in their range. Half the fruit is aged in tank, half in older barrels, with this designed to show the softer side of the variety. A complex nose showing dried herbs, pear, peach, apple and a hint of smoky reduction while the palate has lovely fruit purity and definition, electric acidity and a pithy finish. Beautifully poised and intense while being extraordinarily light-bodied. Pair this wine with rich fish or cream-based chicken entrees, vegetables and soft cheeses.

On the back label you’ll see “In memory of Nico Cafagno.” Nico is a good friend of Craigs who unfortunately passed away a few years ago. He was a great photographer and Craig used his photo for the new Cortez 2019 label. Nico and Craig were having dinner one night and were discussing how Craig came up with photos for his wine labels. Nico showed Craig this photo that he took and Craig really loved it, so he dedicated it to him.