Iona Sauvignon Blanc vertical tasting

By , 2 February 2021



Previously an engineer, Andrew Gunn acquired the run-down Elgin apple farm that was to become Iona in 1997 and the first vintage of Sauvignon Blanc to be produced here was 2001, meaning that with the recent release of the 2020, the property has now achieved 20 consecutive years of this variety.

Today, Sauvignon Blanc makes up 25ha of Iona’s 40ha of total plantings and annual production comprises between 150 000 and 180 000 bottles. Winemaking generally involves fermentation in tank using a variety of commercial yeasts but small portions of barrel-fermented Sauvignon, as well as Semillon, are also included.

To mark the occasion, a tasting of every other vintage from 2001 to 2019, which is to say all the odd years. If Elgin is cool, then Iona is particularly so, situated southwest of Grabouw at an altitude of some 400m above sea level and just three kilometres from the sea – the resulting Sauvignon Blanc tends to be bone-dry, high in acidity and low in pH which makes for extra longevity.

Wines were arranged in random order and tasted blind – in most cases, the wines pretty much showed as you might expect of their age although the 2013 looked particularly spritely and was generally considered the wine of the day.

Tasting notes and ratings as follows:

2001: Deep straw yellow in colour. Advanced on the nose and palate. Aromatics of honey, hints of blackcurrant and naartjie, quite pronounced fennel and some white pepper. Nice palate weight matched by a good line of acidity. Layers of flavour and still remarkably satisfying to drink. 92/100.

2003: Straw yellow. Lime, lemon, honey and a somewhat unfortunate pyrazine character on the nose while the palate is a little awkward and unbalanced. 89/100.

2005: Golden in colour. Honey, mushroom and asparagus on the nose. Rich and thick textured on the palate with nicely integrated acidity, the finish long and savoury. 92/100.

2007: Straw yellow. A top note of thatch before white peach, naartjie and white pepper. The palate is rich and broad with a pleasant waxy texture, coated acidity and a savoury finish. 93/100.

2009: Straw yellow. Pyrazine-driven – a definite herbal note before white peach and a hint of honey. Intensely flavoured but the acidity appears quite hard and unyielding. Drink up. 91/100.

2011: Deep yellow with a green tinge. Some leesy reduction to go with blackcurrant and grapefruit on the nose. The palate is rich and smooth textured – plenty of fruit power before a salty finish. Holding well. 94/100.

2013: Pale yellow. Aromatics of citrus and blackcurrant plus a little waxy character. Lovely fruit definition, nicely integrated acidity and a nicely savoury finish. Drinking very well at present and set to go for a while longer. 94/100.

2015: Deep yellow. A flinty top note before citrus and peach on the nose while the palate shows pure fruit and racy acidity before a bone-dry finish. This presents as rather severe but still very much alive. 92/100.

2017: Pale yellow. The nose displays slight waxy note before white peach, apple and dried herbs. The palate is rich and broad and very flavourful – nicely balanced. Drinking well now but should still have general appeal until at least 2023. 92/100.

2019: Pale yellow. Very primary on the nose with notes of flowers, cut grass, pear, peach, citrus and green apple while the palate shows pure fruit, racy acidity and a salty finish. Lovely poise and energy. Should age beautifully. 94/100.

The 2020 (price: R135 a bottle) was subsequently tasted sighted, note and score as follows:

Includes 4% barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc and 4% Semillon. Aromatics of white peach, black currant plus a subtle herbal note while the palate is rich, full and smooth textured, the finish gently savoury. That much more forceful than the 2019.

CE’s rating: 93/100.

Find our South African wine ratings database here.

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