Iona ... Set Apart


As 2018 draws to a close we reflect on another absorbing year finishing off with a strong endorsement of our endeavour by the well-respected Richard Hemming, Master of Wine on Jancis Robinson's website, undoubtedly the most influential wine critic in the world.

It was part of a report entitled 'South Africa Scrutinized', on Richard's visit to Capewine in September this year.

Iona was rated very highly, being awarded highest scores for our Solace Syrah and Iona Pinot Noir with the other wines being rated 17+.

I’m delighted that, across the board, our wines performed well. Richard is exposed to the best wines in the world and it is a strong ratification of our quality to be so positively rated by him.
— Andrew Gunn, Proprietor of Iona

What makes Iona so special?

It's a combination of the unique climate and the wonderful team of diverse, committed individuals who work our vineyards, nurture the wines and service our customers.

Iona is the coolest vineyard in South Africa, with our ripening season showing the best of Burgundy and Sancerre with the advantage of warmer Springs and Autumns and lower summer rainfall.

The vineyards are situated 420m above sea level, surrounded by the Kogelberg Biosphere overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, a mere 3.5km away benefitting directly from the cool southerly winds. Iona literally has its head in the clouds and its feet in post glacial alluvial soils.

This results in a long, cool growing season with the grapes developing their full flavour at low sugar levels and beautiful natural acidity resulting in balanced, delicate wines.


Richard's tasting notes of the Iona wines are as follows:

Iona, Solace Syrah 2014


Outstanding in its field – just the perfect combination of ripe black fruit and exquisite pepper and sweet spice. Only just entering its prime. What a wine! (RH)



Iona Pinot Noir 2015


11 months in 300-litre barrels (30% new); 100% destemmed.
Incredibly smart nose, with the earth, bracken, rose petal and compost of proper maturing Pinot. Still bright with cranberry and raspberry fruit. Supple tannin, whistle-clean and with lovely savoury nuance on the finish – excellent clarity and delicacy. (RH)   13.5%



Iona, One Man Band Red 2012


57% Shiraz, 15% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 7% Mataro, 3% Viognier.
Dried meat, ripe fruit with greater juiciness than their Syrah – still full of fruit and power. Smooth, silken, powdery tannins with soft acid and long, beef-stock notes on the finish. (RH)   14.4%



Iona Chardonnay 2017


Whole-bunch pressed. 11 months in mostly old oak (18% new).
Sparky, light citrus fruit with gummy, full texture. Subtle, restrained green-apple fruit and juicy, tangy acidity. Lovely buttery note giving subtle complexity on the finish. (RH)   13.5%



Iona, One Man Band White 2016


Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. Barrel fermented in second- and third-fill 500-litre French oak barrels.
Waxy, lanolin note, with the Semillon giving a lovely smoky tone. Creamy, lengthy biscuit notes on the finish. (RH)



Iona Sauvignon Blanc 2018


96% Sauvignon Blanc, 4% Sémillon; 6% barrel fermented.
Grapefruit, spice, a slightly hoppy note, long and graceful and with soft-focus edges that make this easy to drink. The nose has superb flinty, chalky character – very much a Loire style. (RH)



A perspective on Iona Sauvignon Blanc


Iona Sauvignon Blanc captures that charm: the ripe gooseberry fruit which defines the variety is unmistakable, but it retains an all-important savoury sensibility on the palate, as well as a chalky, flinty character reminiscent of the Loire. There is a sort of soft-focus elegance to the structure that makes it compellingly drinkable for casual drinkers, and grace notes of spice and hops for anyone paying closer attention.

The lightness of touch is thanks partly to hands-off winemaking (other than the inclusion of 4% Sémillon and 6% barrel fermentation, it is vinified to conventional standards), but surely owes more to the vineyard location in Elgin, the cool region to the south-east of Cape Town. In between passing clouds of mist, I took the below picture of one of their vineyards one week ago today. This cool climate, thanks to an elevation of around 400 metres (1,310 ft) above sea level and prevailing winds off the cold Atlantic Ocean, accounts for the layered nuances of their Sauvignon Blanc – as indeed it does for their other wines.


The other reason to recommend Iona Sauvignon Blanc is much more pragmatic, but just as important as the wine's intrinsic quality, if not more so.

A common theme of the Cape Wine event was the economic unsustainability of many of the region's wine producers and grape growers. Estimates vary, but 35% of producers made losses in 2017, and that only 14% were comfortably profitable. The reasons for this bleak assessment are inevitably complicated, but one of the key factors is very simple: that the low prices paid for most South African wine is hobbling the industry.

True, that is hardly the consumer's concern, but Iona Sauvignon Blanc represents a model that produces a delicious wine at a good price, while at the same time facilitating much-needed investment in the people and quality potential of the South African wine industry. At around £11 in the UK, this Sauvignon Blanc has a quality-to-price ratio that far outstrips most of its peers, be they from the Loire, Marlborough, Chile or anywhere else.

So not only is Iona Sauvignon Blanc one of the best in its class for both quality and value, but it proves that South African wine can command a price that can sustain the wine industry. And that's inherently satisfying too.