Carrie’s Corner: The Iona story – founder Andrew Gunn

In the late 90s, Johannesburg businessman Andrew Gunn left the hubbub of Egoli in pursuit of his next career move – farming. Described as a “pig in a poke” by Gunn, his apple farm was soon transformed into a gorgeous vineyard. Nearly 25 years later, Andrew Gunn runs Iona, a winery that focuses on just four select wines. Andrew’s wife, Rozy, joined in on the fun too. – Jarryd Neves

Andrew Gunn on the beginnings of Iona:

I’m originally from Johannesburg and had a business which was sold in the mid 90s. I was contemplating my next move and I ended up coming down and looking at a farm in Franschhoek. Fortunately, it was in February – and I’d never been as hot as that. Quite frankly, coming from what was the old Transvaal in those days, a farm is where you can’t see neighbours. To cut a long story short, I ended up buying this farm on top of the southern border of the Elgin Valley – totally surrounded by nature conservation. Our nearest neighbour is like seven kilometres away.

I bought a bit of a pig in the poke. I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. If you come to Elgin in February/March, the trees are groaning with apples. I was fundamentally a businessman and I thought, “surely I can make a living from all these apples”. Little did I realise that the trees were old. They weren’t producing quality.

Andrew Gunn on planting the vineyards:

We planted vineyards in 1998. It was with a bit of skepticism from the likes of Eben Archer and other people in the know. But very quickly, we realised that we’ve got a very unique property. Our first vintage was 2001. That’s another story because I didn’t have a cellar on the farm – I was only able to get enough planting material for two hectares.

Carrie Adams on Andrew Gunn:

He was standing in the doorway at Norman Goodfellows in 2001. He came and introduced himself with your little Coke bottle in hand – so humble and modest – and just so completely and utterly endearing. I said, let’s have this taste – and we did. I tasted the sauvignon blanc and it was just completely different and delicious to anything that I tasted from South Africa before. That was the beginning of our relationship, which has gone on for the next 20-something years. To see Iona go from tiny beginnings to one of the most successful wineries in the country at the moment.

Rozy Gunn on Solace:

Planting a vineyard and making Solace was really my little way of… at the time – circumstances have changed radically for me – I’d lost a husband and it was my way of taking my pain and transforming it into something. Some kind of a story, some kind of an endeavour. I think it’s what artists have always done. We frame our trauma as best as we can and we kind of make a little offering of it. If our offering is really authentic and selflessly done, it turns into a gift.

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