Craig Hawkins is a man who doesn't follow the crowd. He pushes the boundaries in his quest for purity and authenticity in his wines. So much so, in fact, that Testalonga has often been denied export classification by the South African wine authorities. His wines defy the 'normal' categories, breaking the conventions, and leading to a range of wines that are as delicious as they are interesting.
Testalonga was established in 2008, when Craig and his wife, Carla, returned home to Swartland after working various vintages around the world. One of the producers that had the biggest influence on them was Matassa - a natural producer based in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. So it was only fitting that on their return to South Africa, Craig and Carla began to make wines in a similar style.
Their first vintage was simply two barrels of skin-contact Chenin Blanc - the very first orange wine in South Africa! When applying for an export licence, there was no option for orange wine anywhere on the form, so Testalonga was denied. But Craig stuck to his guns, knowing that his wine was good. To reflect this belief, he started putting it on his labels. His wines are now emblazoned with messages - Stay Brave, Keep On Punching, Follow Your Dreams and Chin Up.
In 2015, Craig and Carla purchased land in the north of Swartland, and have planted 4 hectares, which they hope to grow in the future. The fruit for their wines is currently sourced from organic, dry-grown vineyards, working with growers who share the same ideals as them.
In the winery, Craig vinifies with no additions or manipulations whatsoever, using tiny amounts of sulphur only when necessary. They are natural wines, reflecting the site and fruit. "We try to improve every year and look for purity," says Craig. "We put a lot of effort into doing the right thing at the right time."
Shop the range of Testalonga wines here.
Some super exciting Fresh Drops this week from one of our favourite producers: Ravensworth.
An estate that certainly needs no introduction, Brian's 2019 wines are looking better than ever. Sadly, due to the devastating 2020 vintage, this will be it for the Estate wines until 2023! So don't miss these, as it might be a little while before we see them again.
Check out the new Ravensworth Wines here.
The boys are back! And we're kicking off the new season with a look at one of the most iconic skin contact wine producers - Radikon!
"The future of wine is in this direction. We need something more from white wine." Saša Radikon
Tucked away in the far-eastern corner of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region lies a small winery called Radikon.
Despite its small size and minimal production, Radikon wines have had a major impact in the wine world, through their championing of orange wines and lo-fi, natural winemaking. Their path was set when founder Stanilaus (Stanko) Radikon began his stewardship of the 12 hectares of vines near the Slovenian border. He began to make wine from the local indigenous variety, Ribolla Gialla, but Stanko felt that the pale, fairly unexciting wines being produced throughout the region were not truly indicative of the grape and its potential for flavour.
So in 1995 he began to change his methodology. He started with a fairly conservative 7 days of maceration on skins to boost the colour and flavour - something that the DOC didn't agree with. Radikon have been proudly outside of the DOC, and happily declassified since 2001.
Sadly, Stanko passed away in 2016, but his son Saša, stepped in to fill the void. Saša had been working side by side with his father for the 15 years before Stanko's death, so the change over was seamless, and the wines have never looked better.
The Radikon philosophy is beautifully simple: "If you have good grapes, you can make good wine. If you have bad grapes, you can only have bad wine," says Saša.
"We try to move the sensation you have when you eat the grape to the wine. And the skin keeps the energy from the sun and the information from the vintage. If it was good, if it was bad, if it was rainy, if it was sunny – the skins keep the information and I think it is very important to use that information."
Needless to say, the wines are thrilling and vibrant, complex, layered, filled with energy and vitality, and packed with texture and flavour. If you've never tried one, perhaps now is the time to get your Radik... on. (Sorry!)
Pete and Felix recently opened a bottle for Is It Called Wine Time. So check out the video here.