Iona Winery, Elgin, South Africa

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.

IonaCar.jpg

Wines Tasted: Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Pinot Noir 2013, One Man Band 2010

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Wines from Stellenbosch

The following wines are a mix of wines tasted by the bottle with friends in South Africa. I tasted these wines with no preconception and minimal knowledge of the producers. Unfortunately for two of these I did not have any appropriate glassware available so they were sampled from a flat bottomed tumbler (unfair I know).

StehuisMorgensterWines: Morgenster White 2012, Sterhuis Merlot 2013, Eikendal Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

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Eagles’ Nest Winery, Constantia

Eagles’ Nest winery lies at the north end of Constantia on the slopes of the Constantiaberg to the south of Table Mountain.  The location of Constantia, a suburb of Cape Town, means access for visitors is straightforward and we traveled to the winery by Uber allowing us both to enjoy the wine.  Being in close proximity to the Atlantic on the west and False Bay to the East, Constantia is blessed with a coastal breeze giving its wines a cooler climate feel than those regions further inland.  I had hoped to make it to the majority of the Constantia wineries, however, due to a last minute excursion to Durbanville I only made it to Eagles’ Nest and Steenberg (link to follow shortly).

The vineyards at Eagles’ Nest were destroyed by fire back in 2000 but have now been replanted with Shiraz (Syrah), Merlot and Viognier in terraces leading up the mountain slopes.  Given that Syrah and Viognier grown together leave me thinking of Cote Rotie in the Northern Rhone I had high expectations for these wines.  Eagles’ Nest is an idyllic spot, with a modern tasting room opening on to the garden of the estate.  If I had more time around Cape Town it is a spot I would certainly return to for lunch and a glass of wine on a sunny afternoon.

Tasting Facilities: Mondays-Sundays from 10:00am – 16:30pm.
Appointments are not required, and tasting is in the gardens of the estate.
The cost of tasting is 50 Rand per person (this is refunded if spending over R500 on wine).

Refreshments: We accompanied our tasting with a superb Antipasto Platter for R165 which was more than enough for 2 to enjoy as a light lunch.  I understand it is also possible to arrange for a picnic in the grounds during the summer months.

EaglesNestWinery

Wines Tasted: Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Viognier 2015, The Little Eagle Rosé 2015, Merlot 2011, Shiraz 2013

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Lidl: South African White Blend

Having returned from South Africa I got home to find my father had picked up the 90+ scoring wines from Lidl’s latest wine release.  Decanter have also been giving them a swirl so I thought I would post my thoughts.

South african blend 13.3.16 web

La Meridonale, Western Cape, South Africa. 2015.

Chenin Blanc, Grenache and Roussanne blend, 13.5%
Sold in Lidl for £5.49. Imported by offpistewines.

Given I was unable to find anything bout La Meridonale I can only assume this is a bottling for another producer.

Tasting Note: Peach and pear on the nose and this fruit continues on the palate.  The wine has a medium body and is in dry style but vanilla notes on end of the palate lend a slight sweetness. High acidity keeps wine in focus whilst oak gives structure. 13.5% alcohol suits the style. Surprisingly for supermarket wine at this price point this also expresses good minerality and salinity on the finish.

Having just returned from 2 weeks in the Western Cape I would be very interested to know who is making this.  This wine is fresh, in an early drinking style and very accessible when considered alongside the more majestic whites from the cape.  The Quality:Price ratio is superb – drink up!

Conclusions: Representative South African white in a new world style. Unusual but well balanced blend with judicious use of oak.  For the price you can’t really fault this.

Score:89/100