Testalonga new releases – 2021

By , 2 December 2021

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Craig Hawkins of Swartland cellar Testalonga describes the 2021 vintage as “awesome” after good rain two seasons in a row, the result being wines with both fruit density but also acidity that is prominent but not overpowering. Tasting notes and ratings for the new releases as follows:

Baby Bandito Keep on Punching Chenin Blanc 2021
Price: R155
From a 1961 vineyard on the back of the Piketberg. Elusive aromatics of pear, peach, citrus and herbs while the palate is light bodied with zippy acidity and the same saline finish it always has.

CE’s rating: 91/100.

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El Bandito Lords of Dogtown Chenin Blanc 2021
Price: R310

No added sulphur and this definitely has an oxidative edge to it. Cut apple, orange, spice and some yeasty complexity. The palate is relatively rich and open with tangy acidity and a savoury finish. That much more flavourful and engaging than 2020.

CE’s rating: 92/100.

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El Bandito Mangaliza Harslevelu 2021
Price: R310

Aromas and flavours recall fresh grapes but also lime and some herbal character. Good fruit definition, arresting acidity and a pithy finish. “Geeky” by Hawkin’s own admission.

CE’s rating: 91/100.

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El Bandito Cortez Chenin Blanc 2021
Price: R310

From a Paardeberg vineyard. Haunting aromatics of pear, peach, citrus and white blossom. The palate has extraordinary fruit purity plus a great line of acidity, the finish super-long and pithy. This is, once again, a thrilling wine on account of both its intricacy and energy.

CE’s rating: 97/100.

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Baby Bandito Stay Brave Chenin Blanc 2021
Price: R155

Skin macerated. Enticing aromatics of citrus, peach, potpourri and honey while the palate has nice weight and breadth, bright acidity and a gently savoury finish.

CE’s rating: 92/100.

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El Bandito Skin Chenin Blanc 2021
Price: R310
From a vineyard adjacent to that which supplies grapes for Cortez. Again skin macerated, the nose is complex with some reduction preceding citrus, stone fruit, dried flowers, earth and spice. The palate is tightly wound with pure fruit, punchy acidity and a super-dry finish. Severe but this is precisely where its pleasure lies.

CE’s rating: 95/100.

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El Bandito Sweet Cheeks Muscat d’Alexandrie 2021
Price: R310

Skin macerated. The nose is overtly perfumed as you would expect but also a slight petrol-like note that adds intrigue while the palate shows dense fruit and bright acidity, a gently grippy quality to the finish. Rather charming.

CE’s rating: 90/100.

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Baby Bandito Chin Up Cinsaut 2021
Price: R155

Seductive aromatics of cranberry, raspberry, candyfloss, fynbos and spice while the palate is just delicious with pure fruit and bright acidity before a savoury finish. A remarkably precise expression of this variety.

CE’s rating: 93/100.

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Baby Bandito Follow Your Dreams Carignan 2021
Price: R155

Red and black berry but also some nutty, earthy notes on the nose while palate shows juicy fruit, pronounced acidity and grippy tannins. Rustic but pleasingly so.

CE’s rating: 90/100.

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El Bandito Queen of Spades Tinta Amarela 2021
Price: R310

Red fruit, some rose-like perfume, dried herbs and spice on the nose. The palate shows lovely purity of fruit, racy acidity and powdery tannins. Elegant and well balanced.

CE’s rating: 93/100.

El Bandito The Dark Side Syrah 2021
Price: R310

Dark berries, lavender, herbs and earth on the nose. The palate is neatly structured with surprisingly dense fruit given an alcohol of just 12%, bright acidity and fine tannins. Layers of flavour and an extra-dry finish.

CE’s rating: 92/100.

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El Bandito Monkey Gone to Heaven Mourvèdre 2021
Price: R310

A hint of reduction before cherries, plums, flowers and fynbos on the nose. The palate is forceful in the sense of flavour intensity rather than fruit power. Again, well structured with plenty of freshness and quite firm tannins.

CE’s rating: 92/100.

Check out our South African wine ratings database.

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  • Jurgen2 December 2021

    Likely my favourite Dark Side to date. So incredibly elegant and delicious. 58/63 on the jurgen pleasure scale. Points are only deducted because one would love to drink a bottle every second month for 3 years running. And one cannot procure sufficient Dark Side to do so. But then that adds just a lovely pinch of excitement on the rare occasion when one does pull out a dusty bottle.

    And thank goodness that the Baby Banditos plug some holes for everyday drinking enjoyment. Bless you, Craig and Carla.

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