Once upon a time …

… according to her notes, the Scottish travel writer and painter Lady Anne Barnard must have passed the ground of Springfontein in May 1798 during a journey from today’s Hermanus to Stanford along the southern side of the lagoon and the course of the Kleinrivier. The farm, however, was not registered as such until 1 June 1816 when it was awarded to the then President of the Cape Holland Supreme Court, Sir Johannes Andries Truter, as the first owner. The farmhouse, which is now a restaurant, is probably around 200 years old. This is shown not least by the carefully exposed walls.

Springfontein was named after the jumping, bubbling (Afrikaans: “Spring”) well (Afrikaans: “Fontein”) which, located in the north-eastern part of the farm, promised sufficient water for agricultural use, while the soil seemed rather problematic. For decades, apart from small-scale livestock farming with sheep, goats and cattle, the cultivation of onions and potatoes was attempted but limited to the immediate vicinity of the buildings. In 1983, for more than a decade all farming activities came to a complete standstill.

Once upon a time …

… according to her notes, the Scottish travel writer and painter Lady Anne Barnard must have passed the ground of Springfontein in May 1798 during a journey from today’s Hermanus to Stanford along the southern side of the lagoon and the course of the Kleinrivier. The farm, however, was not registered as such until 1 June 1816 when it was awarded to the then President of the Cape Holland Supreme Court, Sir Johannes Andries Truter, as the first owner. The farmhouse, which is now a restaurant, is probably around 200 years old. This is shown not least by the carefully exposed walls.

Springfontein was named after the jumping, bubbling (Afrikaans: “Spring”) well (Afrikaans: “Fontein”) which, located in the north-eastern part of the farm, promised sufficient water for agricultural use, while the soil seemed rather problematic. For decades, apart from small-scale livestock farming with sheep, goats and cattle, the cultivation of onions and potatoes was attempted but limited to the immediate vicinity of the buildings. In 1983, for more than a decade all farming activities came to a complete standstill.

In 1995 …

… Springfontein’s Sleeping Beauty slumber came to an abrupt end. In that year’s December, while waiting for his connecting flight at London’s Heathrow Airport Johst Weber, an engineer and business economist specialised in natural resource management, came across a small advertisement in Decanter magazine, the leading British wine journal. It read “potential high-quality vineyards” and “limestone soils”. Johst had been looking for years for a place that would let him plant vines and become a meeting place for family and friends or just people of similar mindset and conduct of life. His visit to Springfontein in March 1996, triggered by the Decanter ad, was also Johst’s maiden voyage to South Africa, the journey that was to change everything. On the second day of his stay at the Cape, a handshake agreement was made, which sealed the purchase of the farm.

Not only his first wife Anja and the two children were involved in the purchase. Amelie Jil’s and Emil Jonathan’s godparents also participated to finance the start-up. First time following the Ubuntu idea, they all together established the umbrella company “Someeno” (= South-meets-North), which immediately set out to find the market potential for South African wine in Europe.

All beginnings are difficult …

… and all the more so in a country in upheaval, as the apartheid-freed South Africa presented itself almost two years after its first parliamentary elections, all the more so in an area where what is planned, namely growing wine, had never been attempted before. As a result of economic pessimism, it was only after a waiting period of more than a year that the vine seedlings required for planting could be obtained. There were no workers who knew anything about viticulture. Instead, there were flocks of birds that looked forward to fruity prey. And there were fires that either threatened to burn down again what had been built up or put it into action immediately.

So initially, the areas chosen for cultivation on the basis of the soil samples were cleared, the modest infrastructure for water and electricity supply was installed, and the few existing buildings, found in a desolate condition, were renovated and extended. In 2000, the first harvest could be brought in, a test of the crop’s quality. “Hopefully you will at least be able to make good vinegar over there on Springfontein”, Johst had been told at the beginning by one of the renowned Cape Wineland personalities.

All beginnings are difficult …

… and all the more so in a country in upheaval, as the apartheid-freed South Africa presented itself almost two years after its first parliamentary elections, all the more so in an area where what is planned, namely growing wine, had never been attempted before. As a result of economic pessimism, it was only after a waiting period of more than a year that the vine seedlings required for planting could be obtained. There were no workers who knew anything about viticulture. Instead, there were flocks of birds that looked forward to fruity prey. And there were fires that either threatened to burn down again what had been built up or put it into action immediately.

So initially, the areas chosen for cultivation on the basis of the soil samples were cleared, the modest infrastructure for water and electricity supply was installed, and the few existing buildings, found in a desolate condition, were renovated and extended. In 2000, the first harvest could be brought in, a test of the crop’s quality. “Hopefully you will at least be able to make good vinegar over there on Springfontein”, Johst had been told at the beginning by one of the renowned Cape Wineland personalities.

All the happier …

… made us realize that instead De Trafford in Stellenbosch, Rupert-Rothschild in Franschhoek and Hamilton-Russell from the Hemel-en-Aarde valley sought to use Springfontein grapes from the very beginning. With this reference in mind, the first section of the farm’s current wine cellar was opened in 2004, and the first vintage was bottled. Since then we have experienced some dramas: the spoiling of a whole red wine harvest due to the mistake of a supplier, the loss of several vineyard plots due to a fire that was carelessly started on the neighbouring farm.

But today, Lady Barnard’s erstwhile passage area Springfontein is a Wine Estate, so a business that lives only from its own grapes. Today Springfontein has what, in Burgundy, is reverently called a “monopoly”: an exclusive appellation named “Springfontein Rim”. Today, Springfontein produces wines that can stand up to national and international comparison, but which have their own unique typicity that uniquely reflects their particular place of origin.

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