Zigging when others zag – Springfield launches an Albariño
By Christian Eedes, 5 February 2019
“Could yesterday’s lunch at Chapman’s Peak Hotel to celebrate the release of the maiden-vintage Springfield Albariño 2018 really be the first ever function that this well-established Robertson property has hosted for trade and media?” So said marketing manager Jenna Bruwer although father and winemaker Abrie plus aunt Jeanette vaguely recalled some sort of jacket-and-tie do back in the day.
The Springfield label dates from 1995 and how product, sales and marketing have subsequently been managed seem to indicate that it is possible for a family-owned, medium-sized winery to get these things right even though more than 80% of South African wine producers are farming below a sustainable net income of R30 000/ha – one of the more startling stats to be presented at the recent VinPro Information Day.
“I don’t behave the way the rest of the industry behaves,” says Abrie, “and the Springfield portfolio is indeed remarkable”. Probably best known are the two examples of Sauvignon, namely Life from Stone and Special Cuvée, which typically have low alcohols and high total acidities that defy Robertson growing conditions. They must also surely be leaders in terms of sales for wines from this variety selling for above R100 a bottle…
Then, of course, there’s the top-of-the-range Méthode Ancienne Chardonnay, fermented in barrel with native yeasts, attempts at making this wine not always successful, the current-release 2016 apparently the first since 2012. The companion Méthode Ancienne Cabernet Sauvignon is also a particular wine – last year saw the release of the 1997, held back over 20 years until the Bruwers thought it might be ready for drinking. It rated 97 points on this site.
Don’t overlook the use of proprietorial names which help Springfield stand out from the crowd, other wines on offering including Whole Berry Cabernet Sauvignon, The Work of Time Bordeaux-style red blend and the unoaked Wild Yeast Chardonnay. There’s also Miss Lucy, a white blend that sees Pinot Gris combined with Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon as only the Bruwers would do. “Miss Lucy”, meanwhile, is a nickname for the red stumpnose, the wine an ideal accompaniment to seafood.
As for the Albariño, the Bruwers first encountered it while touring in Uruguay, rather than its traditional home of Spain, and were immediately taken with it. They resolved to establish their own vineyards but plant material was not immediately to hand. Upper Hemel-en-Aarde property Newton Johnson were on a similar pursuit, however, and graciously provided cuttings. These were slowly propagated and today there are some 60 000 vines spread over 10ha, which suggests that the Bruwers do not think this variety is some passing fad (total plantings in SA amounting to 14.95ha at the end of 2017 according to SAWIS).
The Springfield 2018 vintage was made on an experimental basis but when some 5 000 bottles resulted, the Bruwers realized that this was a little too much to offload on friends and family. Unwooded, the nose shows peach and nectarine while the palate is not too lean given an alcohol of just 12.5% with lovely tangy acidity. It’s clean and refreshing and works gangbusters with fried calamari. I rated it 89 on the 100-point quality scale and it costs R120 a bottle via the farm’s online shop.