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Testalonga is the brainchild of Craig & Carla Hawkins, two of the stars of South Africa's low-intervention wine scene. They organically farm old vineyards in the Paardeberg, and a baby vineyard at their new site in Piketberg, "Bandits Kloof." Grapes are picked a little earlier to retain fresh acidity, and winemaking is carried out with minimal intervention.

LITTLEWINE interviewed Craig over Skype to find out more

"You have to see ball, hit ball. That’s the way I work. I am very pragmatic. I was very idealistic in the beginning – you need to be, as then you find a path. You make mistakes, admit your mistakes to yourself, and then move on and don’t make the same mistakes again."

People:  Craig & Carla Hawkins

Place:  Swartland, South Africa

Varieties:  Chenin Blanc, Hárslevelú, Cinsault, Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc, Mourvèdre, Macabeu, Carignan

Farming:  All organic: some farmed & planted by Craig, others farmed by friends

Wines: Click here

Did You Know? It was while working for Rémy Pedreno of Roc d’Anglade in the Gard, in southern France, that a penny would drop in the form of orange wine. He remembers,

"I was sleeping in a tent on a hillside; every morning I’d wake up and find myself having slid down to the bottom of the tent. I was cooking on a gas stove, and one night Rémy gave me a bottle of Antonio Perrino’s wine – Testalonga – from Dolceacqua in Liguria. It was my epiphany moment. It was orange and it just blew my mind – it was what I had been looking for. It was a white wine, made like a red wine – and I thought, why is nobody doing this?"

Since the very beginning, he has either used no sulfites, if he feels the wine doesn’t need them, or at the very maximum, a 20 ppm addition (this is extremely low). He says,

“Sulfites aren't something that will improve your wine, they're not going to make it better. But - they can hold something together in the wine at a certain point, and keep that consistent. You could write a whole textbook on it.”

His white wines have a consistent saline characteristic. He explains that the Paardeberg is just 35km from the ocean as the crow flies, and that there is salt deposition from the mist that settles over the vineyards. However, he doesn’t think this is necessarily what gives the wine their saline quality. Instead, he credits this to balance in the vineyard, low pH levels and ageing on the lees. 

“You see the saltiness from the low pH levels. I pick when the acid is ripe. I like chillis, I like Japanese food – I like acid, and my wines compliment that. That’s the way I like it. When you pick a little bit earlier and age the wine on more lees, it accentuates that. I love the Suertes del Marques wines from Tenerife for that saltiness, too.” 

"There are always these small, personal emotional comments on the back label. They might not make sense to anyone but me and perhaps a very small handful of people, but it’s not just about selling wine. It’s about...

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