When we were recommended Iona it was with the caveat that it was somewhat difficult to find. We happened upon the sign to the winery on the main road and took a chance detour. After following a dusty dirt road approximately 7 km uphill we arrived at the gates. The winery was empty and the tasting manager was out on other business. Luckily the accountant was on hand and was kind enough to present the wines free of charge. It is great to see all members of the team engaged in the product and eager to show off the wines.
Production at Iona is not diluted by too many different varieties or cuvees – they only list 4 wines – and it would appear this allows them to focus. Compared to other wineries this was a no frills tasting experience. There is no restaurant, art gallery, delicatessen: the wines are allowed to speak for themselves Hell, they don’t even need a paved road.
Pride of place in the tasting room goes to a vintage Porsche, owned and renovated by the proprietor. The car and wines both had a certain ‘Je ne sais quoi‘, the sense of something classic, elegant and refined. I suspect much is of this is the result of cool climate and high altitude as well as diligent winemaking practice.
I would certainly visit again if in South Africa, and I will certainly be getting hold of some of the wines of Iona here in the UK. Indeed, based on our pretty small sample, the wines of Elgin include some real gems at very competitive prices. Unfortunately the Chardonnay was out of stock at the time of our visit, although I understand it is also very well regarded.
Wines Tasted: Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Pinot Noir 2013, One Man Band 2010
Iona Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Alcohol: 13.3%, Residual sugar: 2 g/l, Total acid: 6.6 g/l, pH: 3.25.
Price: Around £10-12 in UK, cheaper in SA.
Appearance: No formal note, appearance as expected.
Nose: Green/citrus fruits take center stage.
Palate: Fruit predominantly green apple and lemon on the palate. Very refreshing, effects of cool climate notable. Good minerality, long finish. Delicious.
It comes as no surprise that the vineyard opposite Iona (Tokara’s Elgin highlands vineyard) also concentrates on Sauvignon Blanc – this is great terroir for it.
Conclusion: This was up among the best Sauvignon Blanc of the trip. Great intensity but retaining elegance and restraint. I find it particularly pleasing that green apple dominates the palate as this property was a former apple farm. The note is brief because I was too busy enjoying this one!
Iona Pinot Noir 2013
Alcohol: 13.5%, Residual sugar: 2.3 g/l, Total acid: 5.3 g/l, pH: 3.6
Price: Just under £20 in UK, cheaper in SA.
Appearance: Ruby of moderate intensity.
Nose: Black cherry.
Palate: Slight sweetness, soft forest fruits with overlying savoury/animal notes. Moderate finish, moderate (+) silky tannins . Reasonable power for pinot noir. Well balanced with a good length finish.
Conclusion: Pinot Noir is always a hit or miss grape. Having just come from Hemel en Aarde valley a high standard had been set but this really rose to the challenge.
Iona One Man Band 2010
Syrah 44%, Cabernet Sauvignon 26%, Merlot 23%, Petit Verdot 5%, Mourvèdre 2%
Alcohol: 13.6%, Residual sugar: 2.4 g/l, Total acid: 5.1 g/l, pH: 3.63
Price: Around £20 in UK, cheaper in SA.
Appearance: No formal note.
Nose: Spicy, rich nose, dark fruit but savoury overtones.
Palate: Rhone blend, Moderate(+) tannin, black fruits yet balanced with savoury character. Intensity without slipping into sweetness. Long finish, manages to retain elegance. Even more delicious than the other wines.
Conclusion: I am glad Iona keep this for a a few years ageing as it is really starting to shine. There is a tonne of fruit and plenty of tannin to resolve as it goes forward. Keep for a few years and I think the complexity is going to really start building. At the current price of around £20 in the UK this is a steal.
Stockists: The above wines are all available from www.sawinesonline.co.uk although I am sure there are plenty of other stockists. The Chardonnay is also stocked by M+S for around £15 and judging by the other wines would be a great wine buy on the high street.
Overall: Given the price and that they are easy to get hold of I may just have to order some of these in for the other editors to taste next time they are in my neck of the woods. This winery is definately worth the drive!