Craig Hawkins is the rolling stone of South African wine industry and the winemaker of Baby Bandito Stay Brave, which is produced at Testalonga wines is in a fantastic place, having just released his new vintage to the world. He and (wife) Carla and 4 dogs are now ensconced in Bandits Kloof in Piketberg, the northern reaches of the Swartland; He finally has a dedicated winery with plenty of space and a steady supply of excellent grapes from well-farmed vineyards.
Great South African wine is quite a recent phenomenon. During the apartheid, the wine industry was completely dominated by one organization, which controlled everything from production to price, so it is only since the early 1990s that independent wine producers have emerged. After years of experimentation, he has developed a style that he is comfortable with, and with that he makes around 40,000 bottles, using a variety of grapes under two labels: Testalonga El Bandito and Baby Bandito. After travelling extensively in Portugal and Austria learning his craft Craig Hawkins returned to South Africa and became the winemaker at top Swartland estate Lammershoek. Craig now makes his own wines from various small, organic (Organic but not certified) vineyard sites in Swartland and makes his wine naturally, with as little intervention as possible. These are stunning natural hand-crafted wines from low yielding vines, wild ferments and nothing added except a little SO2 at bottling in some but not all the wines.
The Testalonga Baby Bandito Stay Brave was hand harvested and 100% Destemmed into open 1500L fermenters. Fermented on the skins for 6 days before being pressed off into a 3300L old oak Foudre and 2 x 500L barrels. No yeast (or other) inoculation or additives apart from a small amount of SO2 shortly before bottling. Ambient fermentation (the juice/ wine is not cooled). 100% malolactic fermentation. A clarifying filtration was done, not fined.
“Baby Bandito is a project we started in 2015. We wanted to work with vineyards that deliver wines that can be drunk young yet still “over deliver” in quality one would expect from our most affordable wine. There was a heavy influence from street artists (the good ones, not just your drunk student defacing someone’s wall, unless it was good) in the labels and the idea of a “series” using different and bright colours. The names of the wines come from expressions that we use as if giving encouragement to a child. Stay Brave is our “Baby” skin contact chenin.” Craig & Carla Hawkins