Walker Bay Springfontein
The story of Springfontein (“Strong Spring”) reads much like something out of a novel. Dr Johst Weber, a former mining engineer in the Ruhr Valley and Bordeaux fanatic, went to South Africa in search of a new venture and a wine estate. Rumours were circulating about a farm that might be for sale outside Stanford – not a well-known wine growing area – close by to the estates in Hemel-en-Aarde that had already begun to make a name for themselves. Turning up at the farm, Dr Weber found a couple of cows, a few goats and a solitary old man. More importantly however, there was a healthy spring, a limestone ridge and lots of potential for viticulture.
The first vines were planted in 1998, four years after he had first set foot on the land and the fall of Apartheid. Vines only cover a small proportion of the 500ha farm, and 80% of those are black grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Shiraz, Pinotage and Merlot. The other 20% is given over to Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Semillon and Chardonnay. The focus is shifting increasingly towards the two typical South African varieties of Chenin Blanc and Pinotage. The vineyards benefit from the cooling winds that blow in from the nearby ocean and the pure limestone soils they are planted in. The rest of the farm is given over to the famous fynbos of the Cape and there are still a couple of cows and a few goats.
Tariro Masayiti, Springfontein’s winemaker, follows a simple philosophy: ‘Take what the sun and soil give us, and help it become the best possible reflection of this specific place’. Johst has given Tariro a particularly free hand, seeing the farm move to biodynamic viticulture and to making wines which challenge established orthodoxy to make ever-purer, more precise wines – and it works.
Vinification and Wines
All grapes are harvested by hand before being sorted in the winery. Tariro ferments most of his wine using natural yeasts, especially for their flagship single vineyard wines and Terroir Selection range. Natural fermentation is slower and means an extended period of skin contact for their red wines, lending more intense and complex aromas to the wines. Their Terroir Selection Pinotage, after spontaneous fermentation, spends 22 months maturing in French, Hungarian and American oak (60% new). Springfontein’s pinotage has definitely picked up the all the best attributes of its parents (Cinsault and Pinot Noir), with spiced black fruits, tarry and dense with a floral hint, powerful with a layer of dark chocolate on the finish.
Springfontein’s Terroir Selection Chenin Blanc epitomises the dual personality of all good Chenin Blancs; in youth, fresh and punchy with bright citrus fruits; as it ages it takes on gravitas, breadth of flavour and hints of lanolin. This wine is simply stunning, with smoky, waxy, white stone fruits, hints of lemon and some marzipan behind.
Winemaker Tariro is given free rein on the Daredevils’ Drums range to see how far he can push the vinification of some of their top fruit. A few barrels each year are given over to what he calls ‘extreme winemaking’, where Tariro can experiment with new techniques and blends. His Daredevils’ Drums Juices Untamed Chardonnay, previously known as Wild Yeast Chardonnay, has reduced the amount of sulphur and other additives to the extent that it could now be labelled as Natural Wine. Spiced, saline, with oriental notes, rich and grilled yet with wood scarcely noticeable, this is a real triumph and wonderfully different from the multitudes of anodyne Chardonnay.
Hildegard Witbooi, head of Viticulture and Horticulture on the farm, alongside caring for the vines, has developed the vegetable garden for Springfontein Eats, the restaurant run by partners in Springfontein, Jürgen and Susanne Schneider. Jürgen and Susanne have directed and cooked in restaurants and hotels around the world, earning Michelin Stars for the past 15 years. It is definitely worth a visit if you ever find yourself in the Walker Bay area; they have three holiday cottages to rent too.
Springfontein was the first South African winery to feature in our Private Cellar selection, when both companies were freshly minted, and we have watched their evolution closely from their delicious first bottles to the award winning, high profile wines they are making today.
Find the above wines on our list and here on our website. Have a look at Springfontein's website here: http://www.springfontein.co.za/