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PIWOSA producer profile: Springfield Estate

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In the rocky, unforgiving terroir of the Robertson Valley, this family-run winery traces its heritage to French Huguenot winemakers who emigrated here from the Loire in the seventeenth century.

When people leave their homes in a hurry, they tend to prioritise what they take with them. So it says a lot about the Bruwers’ French Huguenot ancestors that when they embarked on a new life in the Cape in 1688 they left the Loire clutching bundles of vines.

About 60 miles north of the tip of Africa, super-dry Robertson is very different from Rouen; it’s only possible to even grow grapes there thanks to irrigation from the Breede River, and the Bruwers’ first vineyards were on alluvial soil near the river.

This area is no place for the faint-hearted, particularly once you move up into the hills. The soil is extremely rocky, and preparing the land for vines – and looking after them – is hard work.

It takes resilience and creative ingenuity to thrive here. Which perhaps explains the pride that Abrie Bruwer – current joint custodian of the land with his sister, Jeanette – has in his enormous workshop, where intricate machines of all descriptions are created, adapted and repurposed to do battle with the unforgiving terrain.

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In many ways it captures much of what Springfield is all about: no-nonsense common sense, self-reliance and a tendency to take the right, rather than the easy option. The estate’s motto, ‘Made on Honour’, is apt – not least because it is reflected in the wines, too.

The Life From Stone Sauvignon Blanc is practically hewn out of quartz, from the most unforgiving of vineyards; the Work of Time Bordeaux blend and Méthode Ancienne Cabernet each have seven years of age before they are released – more than a Rioja Gran Reserva. These are serious wines, made by people who are serious about what they do.

Well, most of the time anyway. Jeanette Bruwer wryly tells the story of the family’s attempt to see how wines would age at sea.

In 1999 a case of Methode Ancienne Cabernet was duly lowered down off the side of a boat in the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately the experiment hit the buffers when they couldn’t find the wines again. After three years of fruitless searching they gave up.

Then on New Year’s Day 2003, the errant case of wines mysteriously reappeared. Covered in barnacles and somewhat pungent the bottles might have been, but the wine itself was magnificent.

‘I like a wine like a person with lines on its face and no make-up,’ muses Jeanette. ‘It needs life experience and time.’

Springfield Estate – Four wines to try:

The Work of Time, Robertson, 2017

Always mostly Cabernet Franc-dominant, there’s some serious age on this Bordeaux blend, which spends two years in oak and five further years in bottle. Although there’s still plenty of silky dark cassis fruit on this six-year-old wine, its defining factor is perhaps its cool, river-pebble heart. Flavours of cedar, graphite and cherry-lip wrap around it obediently, and it centres the wine beautifully.
94 points
Drink 2023-2040 | Alcohol 14.5%

Life From Stone Sauvignon Blanc, Robertson, 2022

This wine’s name is a reference to the tough, rocky quartz soils where it’s grown. And there’s a definite cold, steely glint to the pale, almost green-flecked wine itself. Tight grass and citrus wrap around sappy green fruit and a smoky minerality. Defiantly itself, it’s as bracing as a salty lungful of ozone on a chilly, spring seafront.
93 points
Drink 2023-2026 | Alcohol 12.5%

Methode Ancienne Chardonnay, Robertson, 2020

How ‘ancienne’ is Springfield Estate’s méthode ancienne? Well, put it this way, they control the fermentation temperature by opening and closing the cellar door! Very hands-off, the wine shows plush yellow peach flavours, with a creamy, slightly cinnamon-spiced mid-palate from the influence of 70% new oak. The succulent palate tapers to a gently salty point on the long finish. One for crayfish.
93 points
2023-2030 |
Alcohol 13.5%

Albarino, Robertson, 2022

‘We had a lot of fun with this,’ says Springfield’s co-custodian, Jeanette Bruwer, and it shows. Fleshy peach flavours are underpinned by a joyful bedrock of tangerine and pink grapefruit and sprinkled with a dusting of ginger. It’s impossible to dislike. Particularly good, given how young the vines are, so we can expect more of this variety in future.
89 points
Drink 2023-2026 | Alcohol 13%

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