LIFE ON IONA

Summer 2016

Image collage of life on Iona

I was taught that it is extremely tedious having to listen to people talk about their dogs or their children. We often refer to our wines as our children, so when Andrew asks me to write an informative newsletter about our wines I find myself stuck between a rock and a hard place – listen to Andrew / Iona or risk being frowned upon by the "family". So I think I'll just stick to the usual format which is just to write whatever I want.

Might as well tackle the Elephant in the Room – was there any smoke damage? ( For those who are out of the loop, or been living on Planet Zog, please park your space ship and refer to Iona Easter Newsletter for full disclosure of January Fire Dramas in Elgin ...).

Unfortunately for us, Yes. Fortunately for you, none of the smoke tainted wine went into Iona 2016 wines. That means there will sadly be no Iona 2016 Pinot Noir at all, and we lost 20 000 litres of Sauvignon Blanc which, although came back "clean" according to the lab results, we were not convinced and as such opted to keep it out. We haven't spent the last 15 years building up this brand to compromise it for a few bob. Besides, I can think of far more interesting ways of losing one's reputation in the wine Industry ...

What's new?

❱  Iona SOLACE 2014

A Syrah from our Brocha Vineyards. 14 odd years ago when all my walls came crashing down, I decided to stay in Elgin and plant a vineyard. I did this with the help of a LOT of people. In 2007 we made wine from this Shiraz vineyard under the IONA label. Despite its youth in terms of vine age, the wine was heavy and brooding bordering on brutish. I felt like slitting my wrists and I dare say probably a few customers did as well – it was really hard core. We discontinued a single varietal Syrah in favour of using the wine in a blend, which was to become our OMB with the remaining wine being absorbed by our then Sophie Le Rouge. When Werner arrived at Iona he began to sow the seed that perhaps the wine had been underestimated and began to experiment in the cellar with the grapes by trying to echo in wine making terms what I was doing in the vineyard, minimal intervention. In the vineyard this meant no pesticides, no systemic chemicals or herbicides, no synthetic fertilizers, and more recently the use of Bacillus (fungus), Trichoderma (fungus) and Metarhizium (bacterium) which has significantly reduced the need for copper and sulphur. Werner dovetailed this farming approach in the cellar by fermenting naturally, no fining, no filtration and no added enzymes. The result was a far more elegant wine which rediscovered its own fruit, revealed a character of white pepper, was supple yet also had rigor. A wine we could finally call SOLACE. This has been a journey that has taken more than 14 years to find a narrow path – Um – what we call an overnight success in the wine industry.

❱  A companion for Mr P

(Who of course "Knows" Pinot ...) – introducing Ms P (who "Knows More" ...). A "real" rose, made from 100% Pinot Noir and made exclusively for Woolworths. A beautiful wine, a beautiful label, summer in a bottle!

Image collage of Rozy Gunn, Solace 2014, One Man Band White, Werner Muller and Andrew Gunn

And what have we been up to?

❱  April: London Tasting

Werner (again – for any newcomers – our so-much-more-than-a-winemaker) came up with the tip top idea that instead of the usual   my wine is so special and unique blah-di-blah   format, why not present a tasting pairing some of the great wines from all over the world which have inspired, educated, filled us with wonder and enthusiasm, and generally just knocked our socks off, with our own wines. Not an odious comparison, but rather a celebration of how different and marvellous and interesting and fantastic wine can be, bound by the common thread of seeking excellence and authenticity. Something we tend to forget when we fall into the rather dull trap of defending and protecting our own turf. It's this sort of bravery that interests me about the people I am lucky enough to work with here at Iona. It also took a fair amount of fiscal bravery on Andrew's part because when the wines that have inspired you include top Old World vineyards you know the price tag is not going to be pretty! Jancis Robinson wrote a comprehensive article on this tasting which is worth a read in its entirety so I am not going to butcher it and squash flattering bits and pieces of it in here out of context. I will simply put it to you that one cannot but notice that in the light of the scoring, Iona does seem to offer an attractive combination of excellence and affordability ...

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❱  Tim Atkin's 2016 South Africa Special Report

This is a journalist who needs no introduction. Long since a keen observer of and commentator on the South African wine scene, we were delighted with the much improved rating given to Iona. I must sound like a stuck record, but the dedicated pursuit of improvement here at Iona is probably the most grinding part of this farm and this business. Despite any number of past successes we keep looking for ways in the vineyard and in the cellar to grow and make better wine. So it's quite nice when someone who knows what they're talking about notices.

❭  Iona Sauvignon Blanc 2015     94

Iona's Sauvignon Blanc launched a white wine revolution in cool climate Elgin and is still the brand to beat in the region. Partially wooded, with 4% Semillon, this is a leesy, understated, saline white with a herbal tang and a touch of gunflint.
[ 13,5% ]   DRINK: 2016-18

❭  Iona Pinot Noir 2014     92

By the fresh, pristine standards of Iona's wines, this is something of a funky departure. Old wood. 25% whole bunches, a pale colour, tangy acidity and notes of game, wood smoke and forest floor. The palate is very poised and refreshing.
[ 13% ]   DRINK: 2016-20

❭  Iona One Man Band White 2015     95

You'd expect a white blend that contains Sauvig­non Blanc from Iona to be good, but it's the presence of 60% Semillon in the blend that really brings this wine alive. In only its second vintage, One Man Band has joined the very best of the Cape: complex, herbal, toasty and savoury, like a South African Domaine de Chevalier.
[ 13% ]   DRINK: 2016-20

❭  Iona Solace Syrah 2014     93

A first vintage for this organically farmed, partially whole bunch fermented Syrah from the farm next to Iona. It's a subtle, elegant, refined style showing clove, dried meat and white pepper notes and a savoury finish. An exciting new direction for this impressive Elgin producer.
[ 13,5% ]   DRINK: 2016-21

❭  Iona Chardonnay 2015     94

Less celebrated than the Iona Sauvignon Blanc it may be, but this is every bit as good. The altitude of the vineyards (at 420 metres) and the proximity of the Atlantic contribute to the freshness of the style: tangy, focused and deftly oaked, with a smoky undertone and a long, balanced finish. Impressive stuff.
[ 13,5% ]   DRINK: 2016-20

❭  Iona One Man Band 2011     92

As its name suggests, this is a blend of all sorts of things: mostly Syrah with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Mourvèdre and Viognier. Deliberately released late, it's more than the sum of its parts, or instruments, showing clove spice, a touch of toasty oak, a core of raspberry and blueberry fruit and firmish tannins.
[ 13,6% ]   DRINK: 2016-18


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❱  Christian Eedes White OMB and CY results

Another old friend of both the wine industry and Iona. We like Christian even though he gave us 1 and a half stars for our Sauvignon Blanc in 2003 – used to good effect by a competitive friend who chose to mention this to Andrew on his backswing during a game of golf – the follow through was lack lustre to say the least!

The White OMB was the highest scoring wine and the Chardonnay a credible second with 94 points.

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❱  October: Jamie Goode comes to Elgin

Elgin hosted its first Chardonnay Colloquium, aimed at gathering Chardonnay enthusiasts together in Elgin for a weekend of non-stop Chardonnay, general banter and fun. A-grade guest was UK based journalist Jamie Goode. As a relative outsider – I say this because I cannot take any credit for conceptualising or organising this event – it seemed obvious that Elgin was attempting to take charge of Chardonnay as a varietal ... if not exactly ownership. The results of the various tasting panels and discussion would lead me to say that it was also fitting. Long known / dismissed! as a Sauvignon Blanc region, I believe we are still in for a real treat: very evident in the astonishing array of precise Chardonnays that are being consistently produced from this Elgin Valley, and which still seems to have so much up its sleeve. This is no flash in the pan: years of waiting for vine age to play its part are slowly coming home to roost. For an in depth and far more professional take on things please do yourself a favour and read Jamie Goode's report. If you are looking to be wowed by wine, listen to people who really know their stuff, be indulged on a culinary front, meet all the owner-producers at an intimate event and have a good laugh – do make an effort to come to next year's Colloquium.

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Image collage with Rozy and Andrew receiving 5 star platter and Jamie Goode and Tjing Tjing award

❱  November: 5★ Platter nominations and results

An all time record for us here at Iona: 4 wines receiving 5★ Platter nominations and 2 wines getting them! Despite the mantra we are constantly hypnotised by – Great wines are grown in the vineyard – I would venture to add that having an intelligent and inspired and fastidious winemaker goes a long way to making a great wine as well. Werner you're a complete Rock-Star. Thank you. So on the red carpet were nominees:

  1. IONA SAUVIGNON BLANC 2015
  2. IONA CHARDONNAY 2015
  3. SOLACE 2014, and
  4. WHITE ONE MAN BAND 2014

... with five stars going to the IONA CHARDONNAY 2015 and SOLACE 2014.
 

❱  December

Rozy gets struck off the Christmas list for showing off.
 

Wishing you our friends and customers all a successful conclusion to 2016, our heartfelt thanks for your support, and to our fellow wine producers may we have an epic vintage.

In conclusion a huge thank you to all who work here at Iona and make our jobs easier. You all know who you are and more importantly that myself and Andrew could never have achieved any of this on our own.

And finally and emphatically – a salute to Andrew Gunn who runs this business with the broadest of shoulders and a huge heart. Thank you.

In gratitude

ROZY GUNN
November 2016