From Iona's Kitchen - Autumn/Winter Edition

It’s all well and good being on top of a mountain when it comes to grape growing, but when the wind is howling and the rain pelts down at  such an angle that it actually “rains” under your front door and through the closed windows – emergency measures in the kitchen are called for.  There’s nothing quite as consoling and warming as a steaming bowl of French onion soup.

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Our News & Your Views - Autumn/Winter Edition

As has become our practise, Andrew and I like to visit a wine region elsewhere in the world each year to learn, be inspired and hopefully come home full of renewed vigour for our own endeavour here at Iona.  And believe you me, it takes a big person after visiting Burgundy, not to come home completely depressed, but comparisons are odious……  especially when it comes to wine prices!  

This year we spent a fantastic 10 days in Piedmont in Italy, home of Nebbiolo, walking Alba-to-Alba, which is a circular trek through Barbaresco, Alta Langhe, Barolo and ending up again in Alba.  Like the name Piedmont (Foot Mountain) suggests there are only two walking directions and that is seriously uphill or knee-damaging down dale. Thank heavens the area is littered with Cellars offering reviving wine-tastings, as a few of the more challenging slopes had at least one of us contemplating divorce, and being lost most of the time led to a rather impressive, if unintentional average of 28 km’s a day.   The tractors here all have caterpillar “wheels” for a jolly good reason.   There was no shortage of energy though when it came to our visits with producers, and we fell in love with the Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto and Arneis varietals in all their various styles.  One of the most rewarding things about the wine industry is the fantastic people you meet and Piedmont was no exception.  I love it that at the top end it is a sphere of agricultural endeavour that is driven by quality, an attempt to produce something authentic and with a sense of place.  Where aesthetics, taste, smell, family and culture all play a vital part.  (We are looking to replant a half hectare of Shiraz which wasn’t up to scratch for the One Man Band and of course now it just has to be Nebbiolo!)  The blend might just get a whole lot more interesting…….

On the home front we are trying to refine what it is that we do here at Iona.  I like to think that I have remained true to my mantra -Small is Beautiful - and with that in mind, we wish to take this relatively small family business to a higher level, not a bigger one.   Up until now, the backbone of the business has rightly so been our main focus – i.e.:  the grapes, the wine, our staff, the sales and distribution and the admin.  We would now like to indulge ourselves in upgrading the aesthetics of the business, our webpage, our home, our labels, our social media and our public offerings such as Open Gardens and Special Wine weekends and events.   This can be as fine a detail as improving the paper upon which we print our labels or the colour of the ink used, the driveway or the layout of our new Sauvignon vineyard.   Our website is undergoing a major revamp and our intention is to bring Iona and what it is that we do here closer to you via hundreds of new images and updated information.  Our offerings in terms of Open Gardens and wine weekends will in future be smaller, more personal and offer the kind of wine experience which we believe would do you and our wines more justice.

To all in the Iona family, thank you for your untiring dedication and loyalty and expertise.  You are all so good at your jobs, our regard for each one of you is enormous and heartfelt and without you, our customers we wouldn’t have a business, thank you for your ongoing support!

Grazie mille, tenere bene!

Rozy Gunn

Life on Iona - Autumn/Winter Edition

The onset of a cold and wet autumn marked a swift and definitive end to one of the longest seasons I can remember. It was unusually wet with the highest Winter/Spring rainfall in nearly a decade. This meant excellent growth but required an enormous amount of labour in the vineyard.

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Discovery Wines with flair and a smile

The charming Jessica Gunn, whose parents own the Iona winery in Elgin, South Africa, presented the Discovery Wines with flair and a smile. I asked her about the idea behind this range and she also gave me her thoughts about her stay in England. You can listen to our conversation here:



the Wine Maestro

Posted. 2013-09-24

Growing Our Grapes - Autumn/Winter Edition

To wrap up the season, we have thus far completed the onerous task of composting.  This is done entirely by hand - bags are filled and then emptied on the full length of the vine berm in a 10cm thick layer.  

Each season we try and cover a third of our vineyards using a generous amount of compost so that we have a three year rotation cycle.  This is more cost effective in terms of labour and the vineyards are supplemented in the interim years with the mow-and-throw green compost that is cut down in late spring.  The green compost consists of the mature cover crops which are also sown now in Autumn.  This year we are using a mixture of pink clover, serradella, bisurella, lupines, korog, oats, sweet vetch and some fescue.  The combinations are carefully considered and weak areas get more legumes while vigorous areas get more fescue which is not naturally nitrogen fixing. 

The annual herbicide we use on the vine berms continues to be a huge source of frustration for me.  I really don’t like it.  So this Autumn the vine berms are also being sown with low growing serradella  and biserulla to try and see if they can smother the weeds and grasses which are so competitive for food and water in the summer months.  If this practise proves successful it could be the answer to end the use of herbicide sprays.  I’m not holding my breath but this is my latest “good idea” – i.e.: to create a living mulch- so watch this space!  Or not…


Top 10 Wines in the UK Press

Anderson's recommendation was for this Sauvignon Blanc which he said was one of the "finest versions" of the grape he had tasted from South Africa.  

Hamish Anderson's recommendation was for this Sauvignon Blanc which he said was one of the "finest versions" of the grape he had tasted from South Africa.

He said: "I sipped this at the end of a long three-hour tasting; it revitalised me and sent me bouncing to work. It is so vibrant and intense without being over-the-top. There is fruit in the form of lemon and kiwi, but it is its savoury nuances and icy-cool, long finish that make this one of the finest versions of this grape I have had from South Africa."

Lauren May
Original publication. the drinks business
Posted. 2014-04-22



2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Iona £12.99 (
I sipped this at the end of a long three-hour tasting; it revitalised me and sent me bouncing to work. It is so vibrant and intense without being over-the-top. There is fruit in the form of lemon and kiwi, but it is its savoury nuances and icy-cool, long finish that make this one of the finest versions of this grape I have had from South Africa.

Hamish Anderson
Original publication. The Telegraph
Posted. 2014-04-19


Iona Pinot excels in the global pinot noir 20-30 pound category

In a crowded wine competition arena, The Drinks Business Global Pinot Noir Masters stands out for its assessment of wines purely by grape variety rather than region.

Divided only by price bracket and, for ease of judging, whether the style was oaked or unoaked, the blind tasting format allowed wines to be assessed without prejudice about their country of origin.

The wines were judged by Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers on 5 February 2014 at The Modern Pantry restaurant in London.

Read full article report on the drinks business.


Patrick Schmitt

Original publication. the drinks business

Posted. 2014-03-20


Q&A: Andrew Gunn of Iona

What factors in your view make a Pinot Noir great?

The site is the most important factor as Pinot Noir needs cool summers with minimum bunch exposure to direct sunlight. The growing conditions at Iona between the important months of January and March (July to Sept in the northern hemisphere) are remarkably similar to Burgundy but with slightly lower temperatures and less rain. Although we have huge respect for Burgundy we don't try to make a Burgundian Pinot Noir, but rather focus on doing the best that can with our terroir. The season dictates the winemaking style, so every year it's a new challenge. Pinot Noir is a variety that really likes to express itself and the site it comes from; it doesn't need much help from the winemaker to do that if the site is appropriate.

How has your own approach to getting the best from Pinot Noir changed over the years?

It starts in the vineyard – we make sure the vines and grapes are healthy with no use of synthetic fertilisers and insecticides and we are also committed to converting our farm to 100% organic and biodynamic practices. As our vines are getting older we are achieving more concentration. We hand harvest and make sure that only healthy and the best quality berries end up in the fermentation. Whole berry, natural ferments, some whole bunch depending on the season, as well as gentle pump overs and punch downs later in the ferment all play an important role in getting the best out of our Pinot Noir. Sensitive use of new oak, generally around 30%, ensures fine tannins and good fruit expression.

What sort of evolution in the style and popularity of Pinot Noir are you currently seeing in South Africa?

South Africa is better known for its heavier reds, however consumers are starting to appreciate that despite its lighter colour Pinot can also be a powerful wine. They are also intrigued by the variety and more people want to drink it. Lower alcohol, mid-price point and accessible Pinot is doing well.

What is it about Pinot Noir that gives it such global appeal?

At the top end of the market I think it's about the ageing potential, complexity and the scarcity of the top red Burgundies. The wonderful fruit and complexity found in Oregon, Central Otago, Mornington Peninsula and the cooler regions of South Africa offer great value.

Is there a winemaker or wine whose expression of Pinot Noir inspires you?

My wife Rozy, our winemaker Werner Muller and I were fortunate to spend two weeks in Burgundy with Remington Norman in 2012 where we visited many of the top producers, but I would venture to say that François Millet of Comte Georges de Vogüé's approach to Pinot Noir, his modesty, his long term commitment to the domain, intellect and passion appealed to us most.

Gabriel Savage

Posted. 2014-01-23