As you wind your way through and out of the small, sleepy town of Robertson, you eventually find yourself at the beautiful driveway of Springfield Wine Estate. Built on the lip of a clear blue still lake, the estate opens up to the vineyards planted strategically around the estate. In the not so far distance, the mountains rise up and surround the peaceful valley that the estate has been settled in. Its absolute tranquil setting allows for visitors to sit on the deck overlooking the crisp blue lake, tasting the elegant wine and nibbling on olives that are grown right there on the farm.
Perched just on the banks of Breede River, the farm features an intricate set of canals to act as an irrigation system to fulfill each bit of the farm. Occasionally, the river floods and some of the farm’s vineyard areas are transformed into islands which are somewhat inaccessible from the main farm area. Picturesque buildings are dotted all over the estate, while the main cellar and buildings are beautifully crafted buildings with huge, decadent wooden doors opening to the working cellar inside.
Proudly bearing the motto, Made on Honour, Springfield has borrowed its name from a farm buried deep in Cape Agulhas. It was owned by a certain Lord de Saumarez, an English lord, rumored to possess only one arm and one lung. He created farm with four thatch cottages on an expansive patch of land surrounded by absolute and pure beauty. Abrie’s deep love for the area and its incredible coastal walks led him to arrive back at his own farm and use Springfield as the name for his family’s wine label.
The farm is run by brother and sister team, Abrie and Jeanette Bruwer who are ninth generation decedents of the French-Hugenots who arrived in South Africa in 1688 from Loire. With this strong wine-making blood running through their veins, Abrie and Jeanette have a hands-on management style of running the farm. While Abrie spends most of his time in the vineyards and cellar, ensuring the farm functions efficiently, Jeanette runs the marketing and administration of the farm from her office overlooking the beautiful dam and mountain ranges.
The farm, originally named Klipdrif, was bought by the Bruwer family in 1902.Part of the original farm later became the home of Klipdrift brandy, which is still made in the town of Robertson. The completion of the Brandvlei dam in 1908, a project spearheaded by the farmers of the Breede River Valley, ensured a constant supply of water to the valley, which previously had run dry every summer. Soon after, the winding set of canals was built, allowing an intricate irrigation system to run all around the farm. Driving around the farm, Abrie points out various historical features of the farm. A house sits out in the vineyards and used to home his grandparents and just off of the main cellar is Jeanette’s house, an old stable and grain silo, which was originally built by Italian Prisoners of War.
Although the farm has been producing wine for decades, it was only in 1995 that the family took on its own identity and began the serious operation of making wine under their own label. It was then when Springfield as we know it today was born.
The farm expands over the valley basin nestled in between the fringe of mountains around it. The farm is characterized by varying types of soil all over the farm. It is the vastly different soils that set the Springfield wine aside from other wines on the market. As you tour the farm, you cannot help but notice the obviously different environments that each vineyard is grown in.
Some vineyards are planted on outcrops rocky, quartzite soil, while others find themselves on limestone rich soil thanks to the pre-historic anthills that were deposited millions of years ago. Closer to the river banks, vines are grown in a sandier, more alluvial soil thanks to decomposed Table Mountain sandstone that has made its way down the river thanks to many floods and rains over the years.
The stony, rocky soil where the Sauvignon is grown, is thanks to ancient glacial shifts -as the glaciers melted, so the rocks were shifted and jumbled, and in the process, some cracked and some smoothed, to where they sit today. The vines grown in this area are tough and forced to be resilient in this hard landscape. Planting in this area is no easy task for the estate and it takes immense effort from the workforce involved in trying to dig holes deep enough to submerge the poles. In fact, the land proved so unrelenting that dynamite had to be used in certain areas to break apart the stubborn quartz rock to plant the vines.
As you continue around the farm, you come across the flatter, sandy loam soil that eases off the edge of the Breede River. Down here the Bruwers have planted, amongst others, Cabernet Sauvignon, to add a certain elegance to the inky black Cab’s grown on the rockier soils. We were lucky enough to arrive on a day when the planting was taking place and earthy smell lay thick in the air while the farm hands worked to pull apart the soil and plant the young vines. The farming lifecycle was really evident on our visit – old and sick vines are removed, new vines are planted on soils that have been painstakingly prepared. Springfield Estate is never quiet – it is constantly striving towards perfection in wine.