Craig Hawkins is a young winemaker who has travelled extensively in Europe and worked in Portugal and Austria. He makes wines under his own Testalonga El Bandito label. He experiments in each vintage although he has pretty well found his winemaking style.
El Bandito Cortez is from Boschgassfontein, aka the old Observatory Vineyard, which was planted in early ‘70s. The vines are farmed organically (with some biodynamic preps) by Craig himself. They are unirrigated, cover crops are sown, and depending on the vintage, he either ploughs once between the row, or mows the covering grass. The soils consist of old decomposing granite interspersed with quartz. The microclimate is distinctive; the site is humid and cool. As winemaker Craig says: “The vineyard is a special one as it has been farmed organically since 2001, and every year, good or bad, gives a tension we sometimes don’t find in our other wines (as much). This I think is due to the high percentage of quartz/silica in the soil”. Tension is right in the Cortez, although the angles in this spiky Chenin are more than mitigated by fermentation in barrels, the full malolactic, and phenolic cushioning from the lees-ageing.