Testalonga new releases – 2019

By , 4 December 2019

I’m sure there’s an element of auto-suggestion but tasting Craig and Carla Hawkins’s natural wines always have an emotionally uplifting effect. As much so as ever in the case of the newly released 2019s. Unconventional but equally full of charm and delight, scores should be viewed as even more approximate than usual!

Baby Bandito Keep on Punching Chenin Blanc 2019
Approximate retail price: R150
From a 1961 Piketberg block on sandstone. Fermented and matured in a combination of foudre and stainless-steel tank. A very primary and engaging nose of white peach, apple and a hint of dried herbs. Lovely fruit expression to go with bright acidity on the palate. Not particularly complex but immensely cheering to drink – defies a score.

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El Bandito Lords of Dogtown Chenin Blanc 2019
Approximate retail price: R300
From a 1981 Paardeberg vineyard on granite. Matured in a single 500-litre cask. Potpourri, peach and cut apple plus some spice. Lean and gently savoury on the palate – a good core of fruit to go with a lovely line of acidity. Subtle and nuanced.

CE’s rating: 91/100.

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El Bandito Cortez Chenin Blanc 2019
Approximate retail price: R300
From a 1972 Paardeberg vineyard on granite. Fermented and matured in a combination of foudre and stainless-steel tank. 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.

CE’s rating: 94/100.

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El Bandito Mangaliza Harslevelu 2019
Approximate retail price: R300
From a 1971 Paardeberg vineyard on granite. Matured in old oak barrels. The nose is shy while the palate has some grape-like flavour to go with arresting acidity, the finish long and dry. Light in body yet grippy in texture – somewhat curious.

CE’s rating: 90/100.

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Baby Bandito Stay Brave Chenin Blanc 2019
Approximate retail price: R150
From a 1981 Abbotsdale vineyard on granite. Fermented on the skins for 12 days. A very pretty nose with top notes of flowers, herbs, ginger and other spice before lemon and orange. The palate displays lovely fruit expression to go with bright acidity and just a touch of phenolic grip – light and energetic. This vintage very much a match for its counterpart below despite the disparity in price.

CE’s rating: 94/100.

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El Bandito Skin Chenin Blanc 2019
Approximate retail price: R300
Grapes from a 1972 Paardeberg vineyard on granite. Fermented on the skins for 12 days. A relatively shy nose compared to the above – hints of citrus and stone fruit plus earth and spice. Of Hawkin’s white wines, this appears to have the most weight and depth although with an alcohol of 11.78%, it’s still light by most standards. Lovely texture and freshness.

CE’s rating: 94/100.

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El Bandito Sweet Cheeks Muscat d’Alexandrie 2019
Approximate retail price: R300
Grapes from a 1952 Paardeberg vineyard. Fermented on the skins for 10 days. Very attractive aromatics with notes of flowers, mint and other herbs plus citrus and white peach. Light and fresh on the palate, the finish providing a slight saline impression.

CE’s rating: 90/100.

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Baby Bandito Follow Your Dreams Carignan 2019
Approximate retail price: R150
From a 1981 Paardeberg vineyard. 100% wholebunch fermented. Cranberry and pomegranate plus a slight nutty quality, earth and spice. The palate is unexpectedly compact – dense fruit, moderate acidity and firm tannins. Unpretentious and approachable.

CE’s rating: 90/100.

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El Bandito Queen of Spades Tinta Amarela 2019
Approximate retail price: R300
From a 1999 Abbotsdale vineyard. 100% wholebunch fermented. A rather wild but compelling nose – red and black fruit, intense fynbos notes, some snapped twig, some smokiness. Light and super-fresh with very grippy tannins – has a lip-smacking, more-ish quality about it despite everything!

CE’s rating: 91/100.

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El Bandito The Dark Side Syrah 2019
Approximate retail price: R300
From a 2001 Paardeberg vineyard. 100% wholebunch fermented. The nose is rather subdued – subtle notes of red and black fruit, flowers and white pepper. The palate is super-juicy with crunchy tannins. Quite easy drinking – not as concentrated or intensely flavoured as previous vintages.

CE’s rating: 90/100.

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If man is five…

El Bandito Monkey Gone to Heaven Mourvèdre 2019
Approximate retail price: R300
From a 2001 Abbotsdale vineyard. 100% wholebunch fermented. An enchanting nose with notes of red and black fruit to go with lavender, pelargonium and fynbos. The palate shows great fruit purity to go with bright acidity and wonderfully supple tannins. This has a particularly energetic feel and is not nearly as wild as this variety can tend to be.

CE’s rating: 95/100.

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