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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES (article first published : 2001-06-27)

Sue Wardrop of Meridian Wine Merchants – Coastal arranged an attractive tasting at Durban North of wines from the Springfield estate in the Robertson area, presented by the estate’s owner/winemaker, Abrie Bruwer.

There was a big turnout of aficionados and they were given an entertaining and instructive 90 minutes. Abrie is a vivid character who flies his own plane and is distinctly informal in his approach to life. He is also one of the Cape’s most skilled winemakers, with a long list of successes over the years and he is maintaining his high standards, as was shown by the eight wines tasted.

Life from Stone is Abrie’s typically off-beat name for a 2001 Springfield sauvignon blanc which comes from grapes grown in rocky soil. You can actually taste the flinty flavour in this wine, which was bottled only a few weeks ago. It is very young and, in Abrie’s words, a bit jittery, a bit racy. Apart from the flint it has granadilla and gooseberry flavours. I guess it will be much better after another year or so in the bottle, but it is certainly drinkable now, a refreshing and challenging wine.

Differences of soil in the vineyards can produce amazing results. The second Springfield wine tasted was a Special Cuvee sauvignon blanc, also 2001 vintage, from grapes grown in sandy soil about 50 metres from those that went into Life from Stone. No flint at all in this second wine. It turned out to be luscious rather than steely, with plenty of the gooseberry/asparagus flavours typical of sauvignon blanc.

Some cellars at the Cape produce as a specialty wines that have been made by traditional methods, without too much benefit of modern technology. Springfield has two such wines and they are labelled Methode Ancienne, the idea being to reproduce the ancient style of Burgundy, which means barrel fermentation and natural yeasts, with no filtration. This can be a slow process, and Abrie releases the wine only when he is satisfied it is ready. We tasted two Methode Ancienne chardonnays, the 1999 and 1997 vintages, the latter the better of the two. It comes from a cooler vintage year and has had longer bottle maturation, and the result is an excellent white wine with the lemony character typical of chardonnay. These were followed by two Methode Ancienne cabernet sauvignon wines, a gentle, almost sweetish, mulberry-flavoured 1998 vintage and a robust, powerful 1997 that probably needs another five years in the bottle to reach its full potential. In addition there was a 1999 Whole Berry Cabernet which was made from grapes with unbroken skins and then spent a year in barrels. Excellent, with an intense flavour.

Finally Abrie Bruwer produced a golden-coloured late harvest wine called Tokaji, the Hungarian spelling for the famous Tokay wines from north-eastern Hungary. This was sweet, luscious, raisiny and had a reassuringly low alcohol content of about 12 percent.

Abrie was a little vague about whether all these wines are available in the shops or will become available soon. My friendly neighbourhood liquor dealer has some Springfield whites at about R35 a bottle and the Whole Berry Cabernet at R4l,70. For more information on this score phone Sue Wardrop on 082 373-6461 – Michael Green




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