Not Sure About Natural Wine? This Exuberant South African Red Will Win You Over…

Wine editor MARY DOWEY selects a South African NATURAL WINE as her bottle of the week …

Testalonga Baby Bandito Follow Your Dreams, Swartland 2016

A new generation of mavericks is shaking the South African wine scene to its gnarled roots. Instead of following the safe approach to winemaking that has become standard across the world, they’re taking the alternative route that underpins the natural wine trend. Make no mistake, this is a small but powerfully influential movement driven by committed winemakers in other countries too – Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and Georgia especially. If you enjoy wine now’s the time to explore it. While some natural wines can be challenging, this one is pure pleasure. 

Bursting with raspberry and red apple notes, it tastes terrifically fresh and slips down so easily that we should be grateful the alcohol level is a comfortable 12 per cent. ‘We strive to make wines from grapes and nothing else,’ says winemaker Craig Hawkins who, despite having set up the Testalonga winery only a handful of years ago, is already regarded as a natural wine king on the Cape.  

You’ll hardly be surprised to hear that the grapes – Carignan in this case, grown on granite – are farmed organically and allowed to ferment spontaneously without the addition of commercial yeasts. In line with other tenets of the natural approach, the wine is unfined, unfiltered and bottled with the absolute minimum of sulphur dioxide. The label, influenced by street art, reflects the maverick element. ‘Follow Your Dreams’ comes straight from Banksy.

With so much vitality and purity in its favour, this is a bottle to enjoy either by itself or with any summer food that calls for red rather than white. If there’s not much of Baby Bandito around, that’s because Testalonga wines are produced in smallish quantities – and are proving so popular that they sell on allocation. ‘Natural wines have allowed me to buy a farm, a truck, a wedding ring,’ says Craig Hawkins. His wife Carla is a winemaker too, by the way.

Alcohol: 12% 

From Corkscrew, Dublin 2; Green Man, Dublin 6W; 64 Wine, Glasthule; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Bradleys, Cork; 1601, Kinsale, about €25.


Love Sign up to our MAILING LIST now for a roundup of the latest fashion, beauty, interiors and entertaining news from THE GLOSS MAGAZINE’s daily dispatches.