Robertson Wine Region supremo Danie de Wet calls him the Salvador Dali of winemakers, but Abrie Bruwer is not that weird. The proprietor and cellar-master of Springfield Estate, just down the road from Danie, is one of those enigmatic silent forces found lurking about the silent depths of the South African wine industry. Abrie’s idea of social media is allowing a neighbour to borrow that day’s copy of Die Burger newspaper. Twitter is something a bird makes before you shoot it. And I quite honestly believe he would rather choose to never go out on the sea to fish again, ever, than to post a selfie of himself smiling next to a bottle of one of his wines or thumbs-upping the harvest.
He farms in Robertson, and then spends a lot of time in his house in Brittany where, apart from sipping on the Springfield wines he ships out to France, he engages in fishing and abalone harvesting activities with the locals.
With Abrie’s ability of turning Robertson grapes – especially Sauvignon Blanc – into good wine and his sister Jeanette’s engaging marketing skills, Springfield has over the past two decades become one of South Africa’s hottest brands. Both on-trade and off-trade consumers love the Sauvignon Blanc bearing the dramatic name of Life from Stone, and The Whole Berry Cabernet Sauvignon introduced a new generation of just-legal pipsqueaks to the joys of sensual full-bodied red wine.
The thing about that ubiquitous Life from Stone Sauvignon Blanc is that it is, well, just so bloody individualistically Springfield. Even a first-time taster for the Platter’s Wine Guide would be able to spot it in a blind line-up.
It is not a recipe, I believe, rather Abrie’s style of winemaking. As if he looked over those arid, rocky Robertson soils and took up the earth’s challenge to create a luscious, oasis-like bottle of wine from the inhospitable land. Here, over 6 000 vines are planted to one hectare, with Sauvignon Blanc yielding just over six tons a hectare.
I popped a bottle recently, a 2017 Life from Stone, and it was like encountering an old friend that had been in rehab for a few months and whom I was glad to see. It is Sauvignon Blanc in overdrive, not leaving much to the imagination: loads of Cape gooseberries, a whole bushel of white asparagus, cut grass that had seen a lot of water and a hit of warm green pepper. Sauvignon B to the max, made more so by a confident weight on the palate and a lengthy lasting texture.
The beauty about this wine, however, is that the flavour overload is reined-in, courtesy of some tantalising cool citrus-like acidity. New Zealand in style, yet I don’t find it as clunky and overbearing as the typical Kiwi stuff which gets your contact lenses taking on a green tint every time you bring your face to the glass.
This Springfield manifesto – intense yet easy; large but charming; confident yet approachable – has to my mind gone a long way in making Sauvignon Blanc South Africa’s most popular white variety. For as a wine consumer you basically know what you are in for when buying a bottle and do not require to clone Jancis Robinson before knowing what it is you are drinking.
Springfield’s Miss Lucy, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Pinot Gris, is leaner and drier than the Life from Stone and extremely gluggable while at the same time showing true white wine class. Some prominent Springfield Sauvignon Blanc expression is present, but this is pleasingly off-set by the pear-pip and green plum features of Sémillon followed by the rapier thrust of Pinot Gris from clay, limestone and rock soils.
A riveting white wine, created by top-notch terroir and the easy hand of an indisputable maestro.