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It’s the climate. The coolest vineyard in South Africa, with our ripening season showing the best of Burgundy and Sancerre with the advantage of warmer Springs and Autumns and lower summer rainfall. The vineyards are situated 420m above sea level – surrounded by the Kogelberg Biosphere overlooking the Atlantic Ocean a mere 3.5km away – benefitting directly from the cool southerly winds. Iona literally has its head in the clouds and its feet in post glacial alluvial soils.
This results in a long, cool growing season with the grapes developing their full flavour at low sugar levels and beautiful natural acidity resulting in balanced, delicate wines.
A perspective on Iona Sauvignon Blanc
By Richard Hemming, Master of Wine
Iona Sauvignon Blanc captures that charm: the ripe gooseberry fruit which defines the variety is unmistakable, but it retains an all-important savoury sensibility on the palate, as well as a chalky, flinty character reminiscent of the Loire. There is a sort of soft-focus elegance to the structure that makes it compellingly drinkable for casual drinkers, and grace notes of spice and hops for anyone paying closer attention.
The lightness of touch is thanks partly to hands-off winemaking (other than the inclusion of 4% Sémillon and 6% barrel fermentation, it is vinified to conventional standards), but surely owes more to the vineyard location in Elgin, the cool region to the south-east of Cape Town. In between passing clouds of mist, I took the below picture of one of their vineyards. This cool climate, thanks to an elevation of around 400 metres (1,310 ft) above sea level and prevailing winds off the cold Atlantic Ocean, accounts for the layered nuances of their Sauvignon Blanc – as indeed it does for their other wines.
The other reason to recommend Iona Sauvignon Blanc is much more pragmatic, but just as important as the wine’s intrinsic quality, if not more so.
A common theme of the Cape Wine is the economic unsustainability of many of the region’s wine producers and grape growers. Estimates vary, but 35% of producers make losses, and that only 14% are comfortably profitable. The reasons for this bleak assessment are inevitably complicated, but one of the key factors is very simple: that the low prices paid for most South African wine is hobbling the industry.
True, that is hardly the consumer’s concern, but Iona Sauvignon Blanc represents a model that produces a delicious wine at a good price, while at the same time facilitating much-needed investment in the people and quality potential of the South African wine industry. At around £12 in the UK, this Sauvignon Blanc has a quality- to-price ratio that far outstrips most of its peers, be they from the Loire, Marlborough, Chile or anywhere else.
So not only is Iona Sauvignon Blanc one of the best in its class for both quality and value, but it proves that South African wine can command a price that can sustain the wine industry. And that’s inherently satisfying too.
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