Tuesday, November 19, 2013

One Man Band by Iona, the history and philosophy behind this red blends as related by Suzy Gunn

One Man Band by Iona, the history and philosophy behind this red blends as related by Suzy Gunn

When Andrew Gunn and Rozy married in 2003 they kept both their farms – Andrew's was high on a mountain top with cool sea breezes and Rozy's was nestled in a valley full of interesting slopes.

They believed they now had the potential of two very different worlds in Elgin. It is from these significantly diverse micro-climates that the red varietals for the OMB are procured. Iona's breath taking and chilly perch provides the structure and bright purity of red berry fruit, while the valley farm yields grapes that are twice ripened by the warmer climate and the additional light and warmth which is reflected off the white quartz, which makes up much of the soil profile on these rocky slopes. It is from these vineyards that we get our brooding intensity, weight and colour.

The vineyards which produce the OMB have over the last 6 years, been the primary focus of our efforts to move into organic farming. No synthetic fertilizers, no snail pellets (we use ducks), no insecticides (each vine stem is individually wrapped with a "skirt" made of very fluffy fibrous material which inhibits the crawling snout beetle from reaching the leaf and bunch zone) and no systemic fungicides (we use organically registered sulphur and some copper in the allowed doses) have been used since 2007.

We are into our second season of Biodynamic applications. We have three cows, which we use to make our biodynamic preparations and barrel composts with. We are not fully organic because we still do a herbicide spray on the vine berm once a year. There is a long story behind this practice, but let it suffice to say that without this compromise for now – I cannot be green if I am in the red.

We make all our own compost and make extensive use of winter cover crops between the rows to flourish, then nourish the vineyards. We use a mow-and-throw grass cutter to spew these fibrous and nitrogen rich cover crops onto the vine berm where they serve as nutrition and mulch. Sometimes we just flatten these crops in situ to nourish and add humus to the whole vineyard area.

The mulches prevent dehydration, act as temperature regulators and provide home to millions of micro-organisms, worms, and other creatures. The humus content of the soil is also vital as a medium for the Biodynamic sprays.
My vineyards must be alive. I want to make lively wine. These combined methods of feeding, mulching and protection are an ongoing quest to nurture and express the individuality of the site and soil. Long known for our startling Sauvignon Blanc, we finally offer a red wine that is the culmination of 12 years of viticultural and winemaking effort and experience, of continuing endeavour that is the One Man Band 2008 red blend.
One Man Band is a serious and painstaking assessment of each year's harvest, each varietal, and each barrel. It is our attempt to put the best possible red wine in a bottle using any, some, or all of our Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Mouvedre and Viognier, regardless of planted proportions, creating a blend which surpasses any of the single varietals on their own.
A blend gives us the leverage to produce – in any given vintage a wine of substance, character, complexity and poise. A wine that will authentically and honestly reflect each vintage at Iona.

On the design front – I had much admired what Mouton-Rothchild had done with their premium label, which was to include a contemporary artist on their label (not any old riff-raff – but a serious superstar which included the likes of Picasso, Miro, and Chagal to name but a few). Andrew and I had often spoken of a collaboration between art and wine but somehow the right image, the right artist and the right wine eluded us.

It was just over two years ago when we were trying to think of something to call our new blend, that I muttered something about how all of Bruce Arnott's works had such great names, so pertinent and potent, yet at the same time humorous and modest. It was then that all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place and the collaboration between artist Bruce Arnott and ourselves for the label of OMB started in earnest.

I first met Bruce Arnott in 1987 as an undergraduate student at the Michaelis School of Fine Art. I was then fortunate enough to have him supervise my Master's Degree. Bruce is a man of few words but of rigorously high standards. 

This education was to have a profound effect on how I would approach much in my subsequent professional life.

In an age of increasing mediocrity I was drawn to the works of Arnott – which exhibited a level of craft, detail, intelligence and relevance that I was trying to mimic in my own farming methods as means to produce grapes of exceptional quality and which expressed their provenance.

Bruces's work has been described as linking past and possible future worlds. I wanted to grow a wine that had a thread linking each vintage to its terroir despite vintage variation. To make a wine that would one day speak of the progression of our endeavour. I would hesitate to ever call wine art, but the pursuit of growing and making an exceptional wine, certainly echoes the passion, vision, skill and experience of those needed by the artist.
I think the Label for One Man Band is a considered and successful go-between for the sculpture and the wine. 

The strong linear aesthetics of the illustration and the rigorous form of the sculpture with its African yet contemporary style is well suited to the complex, balanced and layered wine in the bottle.

One Man Band is a balancing act using many different instruments, aiming to harmonise, co-ordinate and integrate the separate elements. One Man Band is not a "fait accompli" – but rather represents the notion of continuous endeavour and striving. There is implied humility with necessary focus and dedication to the task at hand, which is the cornerstone of our farming practices, the making and selling of Iona wines.

Best wishes to you all and thank you for sharing in our endeavours by drinking our wines.