Swartland, South Africa

Testalonga was started by husband and wife, Craig and Carla Hawkins, in 2008. After many years of travelling the world making wine, they settled in the Swartland region of South Africa. They source grapes from like-minded winemakers who farm organically, dry-farmed, old vineyards, bottling under the the El Bandito and Baby Bandito labels. The winemaking is carried with minimal manipulation – basically no additives or corrections in the cellar, no fining, natural fermentations, and minimal to no sulphur before bottling. In 2015, they purchased 4 hectares of land on the Northern mountains of the region, planting the first vines in 2018 - this new project is called Bandits Kloof.

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South Africa's natural wine scene is a captivating fusion of centuries-old winemaking traditions and a modern commitment to sustainable, low-intervention practices. The country's viticultural history dates back to the 17th century, and today, a vibrant natural wine movement is flourishing within its diverse wine regions. Stellenbosch, Swartland, and the Western Cape are key areas where pioneering winemakers are steering towards organic and biodynamic methods, crafting wines that reflect the unique South African terroir. Indigenous grape varieties such as Chenin Blanc and Cinsault are gaining prominence, adding a distinct local character to the burgeoning world of South African natural wines.

Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wine. What’s the difference?

To understand this concept and its various ramifications, it is necessary to keep something clear in mind: before the 20th century and the spreading of affordable synthetic fertilisers, all farming was organic. When the shift to the use of synthetics and pesticides happened, it became necessary to diversify traditional organic farming from the new modern farming. 


Simply put, organic farming forbids the use of synthetic fertilisers, synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or genetically modified organisms. The basic requirements are generally specific and engage the farmers not to use any chemical fertilisers and other synthetic products in the vineyard. It does not prevent the vintner from using the conventional winemaking process after harvesting. 


Let’s take organic farming one step further: Biodynamic. The creator of this agricultural system is the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who developed the principles of biodynamics in a series of lectures given in 1924 in Germany. Here lies the foundation of true organic wines, with a strict limit in the use of additives, stringent requirements and at the end obtaining a biodynamic certification.


The previous definitions are usually, and rightfully, associated with it, because most natural wine is also organic and/or biodynamic. But not vice versa!

Natural wine is wine in its purest form, simply described as nothing added, nothing taken away, just grapes fermented. No manipulation whatsoever, minimal intervention both in the vineyards and in the winery. Healthy grapes, natural yeast and natural fermentation, with no filtration nor fining. Sounds easy, right? However, making natural wine is unforgiving and it requires a bigger amount of work than conventional wine. To this day, natural wine has no certification yet.