Moving closer towards artistic expression by “feeling our way to taste and flavour,” is the object of desire for Margaret River’s natural wine creators, Si Vintners. Owner/Winegrower’s, Sarah Morris and Iwo Jakimowicz (Si), fell into the deep dark, beautiful hole that is wine via a quirky combination of architecture, travel, art, surfing, and the obligatory goon sack. Both first generation winegrowers, they studied, and then traveled to Spain together to work on a number of vintages, before returning to Australia with the ambition to start up their very own label.
Si Vintners was born in 2010 after a chance afternoon drive down Davis road in Rosa Glen, where Sarah and Iwo came upon a property for sale that featured an already established vineyard. A opportunity like this Sarah said, “was beyond our wildest dreams, because we never thought we’d ever own something in Margaret River.” Within 12 months they had moved in and began the process of establishing their own label, Si Vintners, within the Mediterranean-style climate of WA’s wine growing region. Prior to moving to WA, Sarah and Iwo worked together in a co-operative in Spain, where grapes with a higher Baumé were sold at higher prices.
This demonstrated to Sarah and Iwo that the analytical side of winemaking had taken over some of the more intuitive processes. So now, with the freedom afforded to them by having their own label, both are trying to emphasise that intuition by moving away from such analytical indicators (without dismissing them altogether), and placing more of an importance on flavour and taste, rather than °Brix and Baumé. “We don’t want to make clinical wines by any means, but we also don’t want someone to open up a wine and say, ‘oh my goodness the VA on that is horrendous, or the Brettanomyces is out of control’, we want them to be of a certain level of quality, while maintaining that artistic expression,” says Sarah.
In order to maintain that artistic integrity they quickly adopted organic farming methods in their vineyard, and to help paint a clear a picture as possible, Si uses wild yeast ferments, and make no additions to their wines whatsoever – except for the minimal amount of sulphur just prior to bottling. Their wines are also unfined, and unfiltered, leaving a deliciously unorthodox coloring and sediment in all of their wines. “Our lifestyle has always tended towards more natural approaches to things, and organic vineyard management is just an extension of that,” explains Sarah, “and when we took over the property, organics was just a no-brainer, with biodynamics being something we’re slowly moving into,” adds Iwo. Early in 2013, Si were confronted with a really severe weevil outbreak in the vineyard, and not just their own, as Sarah explains, “it was really hard watching the surrounding vineyards spraying their chemical applications” in order to rid themselves of the pests, “and then have them question our decision not to spray”. This planted the seed of doubt within Sarah and Iwo and they started to question their own organic approach to dealing with the problem.
However, “we didn’t break,” continues Sarah, “and the people that we saw using the chemical applications didn’t have the same positive outcomes that we did using our alternative methods.” As a consequence of this encouragment of ease, rather than dis-ease, the vines were strong enough to survive the worst of the weevil attack by relying on their own strengthened immune systems, and with the assistance of organic sprays, the vineyards not only survived, but thrived and became stronger as a result. “It was a really great lesson, and as stressful as it was for us, it re-instated, and strengthened our beliefs in what we are doing as winegrowers,” says Sarah.
“Nothing added, nothing taken away,” says Iwo to describe the philosophy behind their wines. Si Vintners make natural wine – wines that encourage a change of state from the vineyard to the bottle – with natural yeasts to kick off the ferment and no additions, apart from a minimal amount of sulphur in order to “provide that particular level of protection” for the consumer. “We would love to be sulphur free, if the wines were coming directly from cellar door, here, and people were taking them from our hands into theirs and we could say, this is what you need to do with them, that would be great… but on an export level, and even getting them over to the eastern states, having wines that don’t have any form of protection is quite risky for the consumer, and also for us as new winegrowers,” says Sarah.
Si Vintners produce a modest selection of incredibly intricate and delicious bottles of booze. The label alone is enough to peak an interest, featuring a vine and nesting bird motif that catches the eye and extends the artistic metaphor from the inside out. Sarah and Iwo are doing incredibly unique things in Western Australia, establishing an identity, not only themselves, and for Si Vintners, but also the Margaret River which has been accused of, from time to time, of being rather too boringly consistent and samey year on year out. By using an organic/biodynamic approach in their vineyard, with ‘nothing added, or taken away’ they are able to avoid smudging the image that is presented each year inside the bottle, and therefore can convey an honest sense of time, place, and provenance that is unique and distinctly Margaret River.
TASTING NOTES: Si Red, 2009 – The 2009 ‘Red’, a triple blend of Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec/Petit Verdot is a memorable mix of ambition, talent and flavour. When spun in the glass, the wine creates a rose red and black hole, not to dissimilar to the one some of us find ourselves lost in from time to time. This lifts up the spice and licorice aromas, and intermixes with crushed pepper and clove, until a surprising smoothness mellows out over the palate in a gentle wash of curvy plums, figs, and chocolate. The grippy tannins hit their mark precisely and leave a finish that is impressive without being arrogant as the flavour drifts away in a mysterious and playful swirl…
Si White, 2012 – The 2012 ‘White’ is a dual blend of Semillon/Chardonnay that rests in the glass exhibiting a misty yellow straw colour and gentle hues of green grass. A forceful burst of lemon and jarlsberg open the show with a cute hint of VA paitently sitting stage left, but never taking centre. A heady weight rides roughshod over a tingling tounge spelling out mellow butters, thin caramel, and calming acids which lift the whole experiene to vitalic heights. As the wine disappears it does so with memorable complexity and balance, full flavour leaving traces of lemon and shortbread… – – – –
D// – The Wine Idealist
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