Craig Hawkins is the rolling stone of South African wine industry and the winemaker of I am the Ninja, 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 El Bandito I am the Ninja is a brand new and sought after pet nat from Swartland’s Testalonga, made with grapes from old vine Chenin. “This pet nat gave a similar sweet sour texture as the other Testalonga pet nat but with a slightly more round feeling. The photo was taken by their friend Martin Shambrock in London of his neighbour’s dog “Layla”. We love the photo and think it suits this wine perfectly, it serious but playful at the same time“. Craig & Carla Hawkins