Monday, 18 July 2011

Testalonga El Bandito 2009

probably around £20, Green and Blue

A total lack of sleep in the previous 2 1/2 days had lead seamlessly into five or six hours spent with some confused looking doctors at the Royal Surrey Hospital who were experimenting with a myraid of hedonistic delights, taking in everything from pupil-expanding drops, to a mixture of steroids injected straight into my eyeball.

The comedown was killer.

As much fun as being medicated at had been, I was pretty sure that some self medication was probably due... The weird turned pro some time ago, and the going needed to catch up, so I chucked a bottle of extended maceration* white wine in the fridge and settled in for the evening.

Skin maceration is the vinifiication technique used in all red wine in which the pressed juice is left on the skins (and sometimes stalks), in order to extract tannin, colour and flavour from them in the the final wine. A lot of rose wine involves limited maceration to just extract a little colour. White wine alomst never has an intentional maceration, and if it does usually only for a few hours, to extract flavour from some of the more neutral-tasting varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Girs and Semillon.

There are though, on the controversial fringes of the wine-making world, a disparate group who'll leave white grapes on their skins for days, extracting colour, wild, heady aromas, and grippy tannic structure, to create the Marmite of the wine world: Orange Wine.

I love it like like I do yeast spread.

I had pretty high hopes for Testalonga's El Bandito; 100% Chenin Blanc, and probably the only X-M white being made in South Africa at the present time. It's also pretty damn rare, not available yet in the UK, and only from Natural Wine specialist Green and Blue in Dulwich when it is.

Colour is not at all orange, but a deep clear gold. The nose is dominated intitially by yeast and lees, giving way to spice and little lemon twist, tannin is light to non-existent on the palate, on recognisable by a faint bitterness at the tail. Mouthfeel is unbelieveably rich, with all the honeyed Chenin texture you could hope for, and a load of exotic spiciness.

It's nothing like the biting, agressive X-M whites coming out of Italy and the flavours seem more driven by the lees than by the skins, which is concurrent with the non X-M version, El Bandito 'Cortez', which I personally also find just a tad more comlex.

It's good, unctuous stuff, and great with food I imagine, but I left it just slightly struggling to see the point.

If you're going to do something weird, best to push it all the way. This one's like ending the party at home with a mug of cocoa in bed, rather than at a hospital with a hypodermic needle in your eye.

*which I have decided to abbreviate to "X-M"


  1. Made from's a good start!

  2. They've got the basics alright. Get much Orange wine in California? I imagine some of the 'trendier' bars are all over it...