Andrew Gunn, owner of Iona in Elgin, always makes the point that when it comes to the impact of climate on the taste and quality of his wines, his vineyards are some of the coolest in South Africa and are broadly similar to Bordeaux. In Spring, slightly warmer than Bordeaux allowing for better flowering and berry set while in the harvesting months, generally cooler and with less rain which contributes to optimal, disease free ripening .
Out of the 12 000 cases that Iona produces annually, about 80% is Sauvignon Blanc. To demonstrate that these wines are of particular refinement and ageworthiness, a vertical from the inaugural 2001 through to 2010 tasted blind and in random order. I did a similar exercise with Gunn back in 2009 and as was the case then, I came nowhere close to indentifying vintages correctly.
Scrutinising my tasting notes in the cold light of dawn, it seems to me that 2006 was the first vintage to display any significant bottle aged character, i.e. it takes almost six years from vintage for these cool-climate wines to start showing significant evolution. The wine which showed best for me yesterday was the 2007, which presented as relatively rich and ripe but perfectly in balance. A broad palate with moderate acidity. In terms of flavours, yellow apple upfront before some peppery bite on the finish. I scored it 18/20.
Fascinating to hear Andrew’s wife Rozy speaking of her plan to go organic, something she ultimately had to abandon after yields plummeted. “There’s a sticker above my desk that reads ‘You can’t be green if you’re in the red’ and I have reverted to one herbicide spray a year”.