Springfontein Wine Estate

Since 2018, Springfontein has had what is reverently called a “Monopole” in Burgundy: an appellation “on its own” called Springfontein Rim This shows that our vineyards, even situated within Walker Bay, an inherently particular coastal wine district of South Africa, are a very special piece of land on its own, which in its growing conditions differs significantly from those of the well-known Cape Winelands, but also from those of our Kleinrivier neighbours.

When we started to develop the farm almost 25 years ago, established players in the South African wine industry whispered to us that, unlike everywhere else, we could produce “good vinegar” on Springfontein. Yes, indeed, on Springfontein we are allowed to work with a very special terroir – a terroir that, through its cool microclimate, its sparse alkaline limestone soils, its hydrological and biological uniqueness, is precisely: just unique.

The Microclimate

The chain of the Kleinrivier mountains, which rises from zero to 1,000 thousand metres on our northern site and is therefore the first obstacle for the weathers entering the African continent from Antarctica, gives us an extraordinary high number of days when the sky is overcast, with temperatures not exceeding 26°C even in our summer. Furthermore, the amount of rain and its distribution within the year is almost the same as in Bordeaux. The nights, marked by the cold Benguela current of the ocean, ensure a high temperature amplitude in the daily rhythm. In addition, there is an almost constant breeze.

So we can rely on a microclimate that is more similar to the one of the French Medoc than to the warm or even hot conditions of the traditional Cape Winelands where the ripening of grapes there takes much less time than in our case. However, on Springfontein we are able to synchronize the desired sugar content of the must with the physiological ripeness of the berries, especially of their pips, skins and stems. In addition, the must experiences a special aroma density and aroma variety, supported by the outside temperature’s day-night variations. And finally, the wind keeps our vine rows healthy and makes them hardly susceptible to mildew, which almost completely spares us the application of fungicides.

The Soil

The limestone soil on which our vines grow is limited to a small, lentil-shaped parcel of land, which geologically belongs to the Waenhuiskrans and the Klein Brak formation within the chalk-dominated Bredasdorp Group. It ends in the northern “front” part of the farm just where the Klein River is flowing through, while in the southern, uncultivated “back” part it extends only a few metres beyond our border. Our meagre alkaline ground is surrounded by the fertile, acidic lands of the Cape region’s other winegrowing parts, which are characterised by weathered granite and partly also by clay slate, on which the Constantia, Swartland, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl or Tulbagh vineyards were planted, but also those of all our neighbours in the Kleinrivier valley.

Calcerous soils, with their frugality, often limit yields naturally; we do not need to reduce them artificially. Calcareous soils, by their alkalinity, produce fruit with natural acidi-ty; we do not have to use industrially produced tartaric additives, as is all too common else-where. Calcerous soils create healthy crops that allow us to achieve the lowest possible sulphurization. And finally, limestone, due to its brightness and their comparatively low heat storage capacity, help us to achieve long ripening periods.

The Hydrology

But also from the hydrology, Springfontein has preferred conditions for viticultural use. Our lentil of calcareous sediment has a water-impermeable bedrock section of the Bokkeveld Group’s Ceres offshoot, embedded in a triangular depression which tapers to a point in the direction of Stanford and is bounded to the north by the Kleinrivier Fault, to the south by the Akkedisberg-De-Kelders Fault, both with the magmatic-metamorphic Table Mountain Group behind. At the chalk lentil’s rim, e.g. at Springfontein’s entrance gate, there are large boulders of this section.

Between the Bokkeveld bedrock and the Springfontein’s limestone lies a groundwater reservoir of enormous dimensions, which is partly fed by the Nardouw Aquifer from the southwest, but mainly by the Stanford Aquifer. Studies estimate the potential of this reservoir, i.e. the inflow minus the natural or anthropogenic discharge and extraction, at more than 15 million cubic metres per year. The output of the eponymous artesian spring alone is sufficient to supply Springfontein to an extent which enables us to irrigate the farm’s vineyards optimising the vine biology and thus the grapes’ quality, while at the same time being ecologically highly responsible.

The Biotope

And finally, right among South Africa’s wine farms, Springfontein is a biotope on its own, which, undoubtedly to quite a high extent, is due to the estate’s unique soil conditions. The Cape region is already especially known as “the” Fynbos-Biom, whose vegetation is, as the name implies, characterized by fine bushes. Quite a few of them are of medicinal use or, like the rooibos (“Rooibos”) or the honeybush (“Heuningbos”), can provide fine tea leaves. But while the majority of the fynbos vegetation, like almost all South African vines, is at home on the acidic soils of the Table Mountain Sandstone, Springfontein accommodates only the so-called „Limestone Proteroid Fynbos“, a regionally extremely limited fynbos variety with 110 very rare subspecies. Though, on the one hand, because of the essential oils these species contain, together with the very invasive allochthonous shrubs such as Rooikrans or Port Jackson, which were brought into the country from Australia mainly at the beginning of the last century, this Fynbos represent a significance for agriculture. They are an ideal breeding ground for bush fires, and we have not only had to fight a few of them in recent years, but lost in 2013 more than three hectares of our vineyards to a particularly devastating one.

On the other hand, Limestone Fynbos, with its diversity of species and aromas, is habitat for a large proportion of the wild yeasts that we use for must fermentation and vinification on Springfontein. This Fynbos also provides a livelihood for colonies of bees and flocks of birds, some of which, such as the colibrious Sunbirds, help pollinate flowers. Others, of course, also make life difficult for us; every harvest is a race against the Cape starlings, which understandably ardently long for nothing more than for the ripening of fine Springfontein grapes. But unfortunately, as they may keep their yellow eyes, on single berries, they attack in fact whole bunches where the juice that escapes during pecking fer-ments and often affects the fruit of entire vines. This problem, however, weighs almost nothing against the access provided by the specific fauna of our piece of land in return for the afore-mentioned yeast strains, which in concert with those from the vineyard and those from the cellar essentially shape the unique and unadulterated taste characteristics of our wines reflecting the terroir.


Raving Organic

There is nothing like wine that combines the unbridled forming power of nature with human creativity, the diversity of Mother Earth with the skills and the diligence of us children.

It should make particular sense to introduce a wine from its African place of origin to the far reaches of the continent and moreover into the world, if this wine knows how to reflect the unfiltered inimitability he derived/descended from. Beyond the borders of its provenance, it becomes an ambassador and a mediator. With genuine authority, it can then tell of that special spot on our planet that gave birth to it, of those particular spirit and hands that did help him to grow.

Springfontein is a Wine Estate, which means that it only uses its own grapes, and all of them are exclusively processed on the farm. Springfontein has a unique limestone geo- and biotope, a very special cool microclimate, which allows us to avoid almost any chemical sprays, to sulphur at minimum levels. The people working on and with Springfontein are striving to bring this terroir into the bottle in a most holistic and unadulterated way.

All our wines are vegan bio-wines. The vineyards and the wine cellar are managed strictly organic. This has been our basic principle from the very beginning; since 2018 we are certified. In doing so, we are focussing on the autochthonous South African grape variety “Pinotage” and “Chenel”.

The Viticulture

As a “Wine Estate”, Springfontein relies exclusively on grapes from its own vineyards, located directly on the farm, with their unique limestone soils and their special microclimate, special flora and fauna. On a certified organic farm like ours, naturally vine growing is carried out without the use of any chemical fertilizers and under an extremely restrictive spraying regime to limit the use of pesticides as far as even possible.

Finally, within our quasi-“monopole” Springfontein Rim, we have a number of individual sites or “clos” that stand even out from the total area under cultivation, such as Jonathan’s Ridge and Jil’s Dune, whose grapes we vinify separately at great expense in order to express the unique soil and weather conditions under which the wines are grown in these designated parcels.

Our Cultivars

In doing this, we are increasingly concentrating on the cultivation of Pinotage and Chenel, two indigenous grape varieties developed in South Africa. Pinotage was created in 1925 by Abraham Perold, owner of the first viticulture professorship established at the University of Stellenbosch, as a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, in our country commonly known as “Hermitage”. Chenel was born almost 50 years later as a hybrid of the parents’ couple Chenin Blanc and Trebbiano Toscano by Christiaan Orffer, who also held the professorship at the chair of Viticulture and Oenology in Stellenbosch from 1963 to 1986 and was one of the founding fathers of the South African Society for Oenology & Viticulture.

In addition to Pinotage and Chenel, Springfontein is also planted with some of the well-known European varieties which we take mainly as blending partners for our core varietals.

Depending on the specific location, we use either single stake culture, bush culture or classic trellis culture.

Own Nursery & Abalone Composting

As planting material we use rootstocks and scions from certified nurseries, and more and more young vines from our own greenhouse cultivation. This enables us to also plant ungrafted, hence “true” vines. The concern that phylloxera might put a spoke in our vinegrowing wheel seems minimal due to the quality of our soil, especially since no viticulture has been practised in the valley before we started in 1996. On the other hand, we expect that by doing without the usual American root media, the authentic taste characteristics particularly of the black Pinotage and the white Chenel berries will come into its own significantly better.

The authenticity of grape varieties and their reflection of the terroir is to be supported by the introduction of specially prepared compost. Here, we do not only use organic material from Springfontein and neighbouring farms.

We also have a patent for the production of a special additive for the cultivation of plants and especially wine, which is based on the essence of „abalones“, known as perlemoen in the Afrikaans-speaking world. This species of sea snail, often misunderstood as a bivalve mollusc, which has one of its worldwide rare breeding grounds in the Walker Bay, has extremely high levels of proteins and minerals, especially selenium, magnesium and vitamin B12. In Asia, abalones are therefore also highly regarded as an aphrodisiac. We think that the valuable residues we use from the abalone-processing in Hermanus and Gansbaai are a valuable help for us in our ecological organic bio-viticulture – and will certainly find their way into our wine.

The Oenology

The everything else overriding goal of our vinification is to not only follow the general principles of a certified organic winery, as we are, but to bring, within the framework of this basic requirement, the juice into the bottle in the best possible way, to bring the terroir as reflected by the juice to the highest possible concentration. In our understanding, only this gives us the right as humans to support nature in its expressiveness.

The authenticity of grape varieties and their reflection of the terroir is to be supported by the introduction of specially prepared compost. Here, we do not only use organic material from Springfontein and neighbouring farms.

Only in this way does it make sense and is it ecologically justifiable to deliver our wines even over great distances to those who can enjoy them and may, at the same time, experience with their senses that special spot of the earth that makes the decisive difference to those good wines coming from other destinations.

The Harvest

In order to achieve this overriding goal, we start with oenological preparations already in the vineyard. In addition to a quite elaborate green harvest, i.e. the pre-selection by reducing the yield when the grapes are still unripe, we sometimes a few days before harvest bend the grape bunches slightly to increase the must concentration. This labour-intensive procedure is followed by up to five harvesting passes for each individual vineyard parcel to find the optimum ripening time, which for us is determined less by the sugar content than by the physiological condition of the stems, seeds and skins.

Before further sorting, the crop is stored in the cellar for one night in a cold room and brought down to temperatures of about 5°C. This prevents a premature onset of fermentation, which in our case, but at a time we are targeting, will exclusively be caused by the wild yeasts essentially adhering to the grapes coming from the vineyard.

The Vinification

During vinification, these yeasts, like the solid berry components, should remain in contact with each other as long and intensively as possible. We also work with fermentation on the skins for white wines, with maceration of up to several months for reds and in parts with enzymatic-anaerobic whole-berry fermentation for both whites and reds.

After the grapes are hand sorted on the sorting table and all unripe and inferior quality berries were removed, we prefer to use small containers, namely such with a capacity of less than 700 liters, in order to be able to optimize selectively. We practice fermentation in open barriques, whose barrel heads delivered loose by the cooperage will later on be inserted by us only for the barrel storage of the fully fermented wines. Or we ferment in egg-shaped PUR tanks, whose materials allow micro-oxidation similar to oak but don’t influence the taste like new oak does, and whose geometry causes a natural continuous mixing of the contents.

The Result

Different from our country’s most common oenological practice, we do not add any tartaric acid to our wines, do not supplement any bought-in tannins. Our terroir provides us with grapes that make it easy for us to do without any flavour-enhancing additives in the cellar, and also to keep the sulphur content at the lowest possible level, far below the applicable legal limits. 

This succeeds without compromising the naturally high longevity of Springfontein wines, and even allows us to hold them back for quite some time after bottling, similar to Italian Riservas or Iberian Reservas, and not to release them prematurely for sale. The fact that we strictly do not filter, not even our Blanc de Noir, does not harm the ageing process at all. It rather contributes the last bit to the fact that our wines taste like what has actually made them: Mother Earth, Springfontein Station.


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