Meet the winemaker: SI Vintners' Iwo Jakimowicz
Alongside wife Sarah Morris [Sarah + Iwo = SI], Iwo Jakimowicz produces wines from two very different locations - the lush surroundings of Margaret River in Western Australia and the dry, rugged Calatayud region in north-eastern Spain. He tells us about his philosophy of wine, nascent vinegar business and adventures in chicken wrangling…
How did you become a winemaker?
It’s totally not a family business - it was just something I wanted to do. So I came straight out of high school and went to university to study winemaking. From there I started getting various jobs in vineyards, travelling around the world, following the harvests. In 2010, we purchased our property in Margaret River, with about 10 hectares of vines. And we also had an opportunity to buy a bit of land in Spain - where we’d had a job a few years earlier. That was mainly to stay in touch with a lot of the people we’d met in Spain but it’s a spectacular place to work.
What wines do you produce from the Spanish property?
It’s mainly old vine Garnacha. We’ve got five hectares on seven different sites, and they vary in age from 60 to 120-year-old vines, very low-cropping - just beautiful vineyards to work with and be a part of.
We let the wines decide themselves whether they need it [sulphites] - I’m sounding like a bit of a hippy saying that! But it’s true - they’ll let you know when they need a little to keep them safe.
Tell us about your winemaking philosophy…
We try to do everything organically, we work with biodynamics and the majority of the winemaking is very ‘hands-off’. It’s all about the vineyards. We make some wines that are more serious and some that are a bit more fun - skin-contact wines, that sort of thing - and we do use some sulphites, depending on the wine. We’re not fundamentalists about them. But the key is to use them responsibly, in minimal amounts, where necessary. And we let the wines decide themselves whether they need it [sulphites] - I’m sounding like a bit of a hippy saying that! But it’s true - they’ll let you know when they need a little to keep them safe.
What are the different challenges that you’ve faced making wine in Australia and Spain?
They’re very different terroirs. Spain is a very dry climate, at high-altitude, the soil is all schist, it’s really rocky. Whereas Margaret River is more lush, it’s very green, more rainfall. And we’re working with very different varieties. Spain’s all Grenache, but in Australia we’re using Cabernet Sauvignon and more of the Bordeaux-type varietals. So they’re very different challenges, but as far as the processes go, it’s very much the same - hands off.
We try to do everything organically, we work with biodynamics and the majority of the winemaking is very ‘hands-off’. It’s all about the vineyards.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned, being a natural winemaker?
That you never know everything… just when you think you know it all, it comes round and kicks you in the butt! We’re forever learning something.
Got any war stories of things that have gone badly wrong?
Too many! But I’ve actually started - from a lot of our experiments - my own little vinegar company. Every year for the past few years when something’s gone wrong, I’ve put it into my vinegar pile, so now I’ve got a mother culture for vinegar in my shed out the back of the property.
Do you have a favourite style of wine to work with?
We have our favourite sites. At the moment I’m giving particular attention to our Chardonnay block, as it’s quite fickle for us and requires a bit more attention to detail than some of our other varieties to get right. It crops quite low and we’ve had some problems with pests like weevils because we don’t use pesticides. They’ve taken out quite a few of our vines. We’re learning all the time how to combat them naturally and I’ve actually become a poultry breeder on the side!
Yeah - we have a moveable chook pen that you can put into areas that have been badly affected by the weevils and they’ll scratch them out, eat them and in the process fertilise the ground. So that’s been a learning curve as I knew nothing about breeding chickens!
What other natural wines or winemakers do you like?
I think Pierre Frick’s [Alsace] wines are amazing and there are a couple of American producers that I saw at the Real Wine Fair that we don’t get much exposure to in Australia. Ryme, in particular [from Sonoma County, California] I liked.
If you weren’t a winemaker, what would you be?
I don’t know… a brewer? It’s all I know, really. It’s been 20 years since I started after high school. If I wasn’t farming wine, I’d be farming something else. Ever since I was a small kid I liked being on farms and had a few friends who had big farms out in the wheat belt. Margaret River’s a beautiful place to farm and you still get to be near the beach, so it’s the best of both worlds for an Australian!
Want to find out about other Australian winemakers? Read more in the Aussie Awesomesauce feature in the archive.
If you wish to sample or learn more about the wines by SI Vintners please contact us directly: [email protected] | +44 (0)1483 554750
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