Craig Hawkins is the rolling stone of the South African wine industry and the winemaker of Lords of Dogtown, 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.
“Our farm, Bandits Kloof, is now a blank canvas and can be quite a demanding place at times. It’s definitely a challenge in a positive way but is a bit “rough” at the moment. We have friendly nicknamed it “Dog town” as the animals (baboons, donkeys, cattle, dogs) all seem to want to be in charge. The photo was taken by Carla on one of our walks, and the donkeys and cattle all seemed to be posing for the camera as if it was a photoshoot. The owner of the vineyard Carl Malherbe has 2h of vineyard which when he brought the farm was abandoned, we worked together and are in the process of getting the 2 blocks back into production, Carl being a cattle auctioneer always jokingly asks when I’m going to put a Nguni on the label, so the photo just fitted.’“– Craig & Carla Hawkins
The Lords of Dogtown has great aromatics: citrus, peach and apricot, dried herbs and ginger. The palate, meanwhile, is light in body but extremely flavourful and there’s some pithiness on the finish which lends the wine great form.