Newsletter, October 2014
The dawn of the 20th century was a momentous time for South Africa, and for the tiny town of Robertson as well, with lots of changes taking place in our little village. Most agriculture was concentrated on the mountain slopes, an area with a higher rainfall than the valley basin. At the time, the Breede River dried up every summer, making farming in the valley, reliant on its water for flood irrigation, very difficult.
With South Africa now a British Colony, and export opportunities beckoning on the horizon, our forefathers decided to change their fates. Together with a group of like-minded farmers in the area, they undertook the huge operation of building a dam further up-river, in order to supply the valley with water year round.
Knowing they would have a steady water supply in the near future, these famers moved from their farms in the hills, and bought up the land on the banks of the Breede River. Our forefather, J.S Bruwer, was one of these pioneers, and bought the farm now known as Springfield, in 1902. In 1908, the Brandvlei dam was completed, and with the help of a regular water source, viticulture boomed. Legend has it that one year there was so much wine; it had to be drained into the river to make room for the new vintages in the cellar.
The Brandvlei dam was a community project, undertaken by the farmers using their own personal resources. The amount of money invested by each farmer translated into their water allocation – the more money you invested, the wider your sluice gates were opened. Many generations on, this is still the case – although the government now owns the dam, it is still run by the farmers.
Thanks to the pioneering spirit of our forefathers, things are a lot easier now than a hundred years ago, although not so easy that we find ourselves draining wine into the river! We more often than not find ourselves with too little – one of the complications that comes with being an Estate, and only using grapes that grow on the farm to make our Springfield wine. Unfortunately our farm is only so big, and the Whole Berry fan club still grows every year. The new vintage of Whole Berry is set to be a great one, and will be ready for release in December – so not too long to wait still.
Springtime is a busy time of year on the farm – new growth is everywhere, not only with vines that are budding and flowering, but also with weeds and grasses pushing up between the vines, and fresh crops of snails emerging after every morning dew. These all need to be managed, in order to give the new vintage that is taking shape in the vineyards, the best possible chance of success.
With our typically windy Spring weather signaling growth and new life, we hope a glass of Springfield will revive and revitalize you, wherever you are, whatever the season, and give you that final push towards the end of the year.