Testalonga El Bandito Queen of Spades 2016 Tinta Amarela – Perfect Saturday Quaffing…

Tonight I’m enjoying an easy drinking red from Craig Hawkins of Testalonga. This new Cuvee made from Tinta Amarela (or Trincadeira) is just perfect to accompany the opening matches of the 6 Nations Rugby Championship. 

A red wine grape that is commonly used in Port wine production. This grape is often noted for its dark colouring and its use in the Douro region has certainly been increasing in recent years as still wine production increases at the expense of Port.

Not sure what inspired Craig to make this wine as I’ve not had a chance to ask him but I’d hazard a guess it’s got something to do with his time spent making wine in the Douro and also because of his love of the fresh, vibrant red varieties found in the Iberian Peninsula. 

Indeed, this wine does have a dark purple black plum colour and a nose jam packed with red and black fruits, cranberries, brambley perfume, black forest berries and savoury hedgerow spice notes. There is also a lovely wild, earthy complexity. This is a super quaffable, characterful style revealing a lighter, medium bodied texture, sleek soft sweet sappy tannins and modest complexity. The finish is fresh and earthy with an attractive crushed gravel mineral note. I’m certain a little extra time in bottle for this 2016 red has benefited the wines elegance and tannin balance greatly. At the moment, it delivers lovely drinking pleasure but I suspect another 12 months in bottle will benefit this very oldy-worldly style further.

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 

Testalonga El Bandito Cortez 2014 Chenin Blanc ~ The pursuit of purity…

Drinking a fantastic bottle of Chenin Blanc today while watching a tense England versus South Africa rugby match at Twickenham. I just love the wines from Testalonga and indeed, when Craig Hawkins left Lammershoek winery in 2013/14, after its sale to the German consortium led by Franz Beckenbauer, I was totally unfazed as it had always been the selling of the more experimental, fresh, nervy wines of Testalonga that had been my passion.

Craig and wife Carla Hawkins currently rent 11ha of vineyards from the granite soils of the Paardeberg Swartland, most of which they farm themselves, while the remaining fruit is purchased from farmers they work very closely with.

Their first wine was a skin contact Chenin blanc way back in 2008, and from there they have introduced new independent vineyards including Grenache, Muscat, Carignan, Harslevelu, and Syrah, that they feel give them the quality they need to make wines with as little manipulation as possible. In good years it is as simple as picking, pressing, waiting, watching, bottling with nothing added at any stage. 

“We want the wines to express who we are both on the label and in the bottle, which is why humour plays an important role in communicating our story,” says Craig.

Craig and Carla recently purchased a farm on the northern mountain regions of the Swartland on Schist soils where from 2016 they started making their wines and eventually started planting vineyards including Maccabeu and Vermentino.

The Queen of Spades
Monkey Gone to Heaven

2016 will also see the exciting release of two new wines… firstly one barrel of The Queen of Spades Tinta Amarela 2016 red and secondly a Mourvèdre called Monkey Gone to Heaven 2016, both made from Malmesbury fruit. So very exciting things await! 

Tasting Note: Testalonga El Bandito Cortez Chenin Blanc 2014, 11.5 Abv. The 2014 Cortez is vibrant and bright, with a lifted nose of Alka Zeltzer, sea breeze, brine, crunchy white pears and green apples. The 2014s are known for their freshness, purity and high acidity and this one shows complex notes of lemon grass, tangerine and dusty yellow peaches. There is such wound spring tension in this electric wine that leads Craig to describe this vintage as monolithic, with almost no evolution since bottling. Its essence is all about stoney minerality, acidity, and lean salinity. As the wine opens in the glass, you get a hint of things to come with more tangerine peel, oyster shell, orange blossom and apple spice in an almost Chablis-like mould. Buy this beauty and cellar it for 8 to 10 years comfortably. (Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)