If you’re going to embrace “natural wine”, then it does involve some recalibration of the palate to accept smells and tastes that previously you might have been rejected. Lammershoek winemaker Craig Hawkins who makes natural wines under his own Testalonga label is adamant that he doesn’t want them scored on the basis that they sit too far outside any conventional paradigm of assessment. The question can still be asked though: are they any good?
Tasting notes for the current releases as follows:
Testalonga El Bandito Cortez 2013
From a 1.2ha Chenin Blanc vineyard planted in 1972. Pressed by foot into old 300-litre barrels and matured for 11 months. Wild flowers, yellow peach and spice. Weightless intensity on the palate – pure fruit and a very fine line of acidity, both components particularly well interconnected. A wonderfully delicate, refined wine – among the best examples in the country, natural or not.
Testalonga El Bandito 2013
From Chenin Blanc vineyards on Lammershoek planted in the 1950s. 70% whole bunch fermentation and then left on the skins for five weeks before maturation in old oak for 11 months. Notably more “funky” than the Cortez. Peach and apricot, honey and spice before a savoury finish. Lovely acidity and a nicely pithy finish. The wine is gently grippy which makes for a really interesting mouth-feel – so often texture refers to “weight” or “viscosity” but though this wine is light, the skin contact has given it real presence. I like it very much but agree a score would not be terribly helpful.