Blue Poles Vineyard
Release the red…
It has been a year since we have released an Allouran, which is not unusual, but it has been 364 days since we have had any Allouran available for sale which is a bit unusual. Our iconic wine – the one the vineyard was built around after we had located the iron rich laterites sitting over both clay and sand which is perfect for our Merlot and Cabernet Franc – is now available all on the mailing list or reading through this monthly report.
With recognition around Australia that this wine is becoming a standard bearer for the famous “Right Bank” blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, it is now becoming more difficult to obtain due to the simple fact we do not make enough. Our obsession with quality first and ensuring the wine is never compromised by over-cropping or adding barrels in that do not quite make the cut means we have only a small volume of this wine once more.
The 2015 Allouran is a cracking wine and we have always thought it would be so since the earliest days. My record of the 2015 vintage was that we started with a cool but relatively dry October to December – even growth and even temperatures meant we set a small but well spread crop and vine health was perfect. No mildew pressures or hungry insects were distracting the vines in these critical months of flowering and fruit set. Summer months of January and February were warm and dry – almost totally dry – and the heat was pre-set avoiding any days over 36oC.
By March the grapes were in great shape, checking early in the month showed how they had evenly ripened and all look set for a stroll through picking. But the weather had other plans and major downpours occurred on 16 & 20 March – with our picking dates for the grapes being 17th for the Merlot and 19th for the Cabernet Franc avoiding the issues caused by the rain. The Merlot was exceptional, glorious and concentrated, and the Cabernet Franc was fragrant and lifted with the finest of tannins.
The 2015 Allouran is a blend of 74% Merlot / 26% Cabernet Franc. It combines the richness and concentration of the exceptional Merlot with the structure and fragrancy of the Cabernet Franc – making one of the most famous Bordeaux blends and giving up a wine of exceptional balance and length. We are extremely excited about the wine and the vintage and it sits amongst the finest Allourans we have made.
We have had Gary Walsh (WineFront) release a quick review and it’s presented below:
Gary Walsh (Wine Front) – March 2018
Blackcurrant, plum, menthol, perfume and lift, perhaps some stewed fruit, spicy biscuity oak. Medium bodied, deep plummy fruit, tobacco, plump tannin, juicy acidity, and fine pencil tannin and earthy flavours on the finish, perhaps some raspberry. Texture and drinkability is a highlight here.
Rated : 93 Points
Drink : 2019 - 2025
Philip White and Max Allen have also received bottles and those guys might pop a good word or two in the coming months. The wine is so consistent now, it is not really about the score anymore, it is about the recognition of its pedigree. Hence, the tastings ran earlier in April where we presented older vintages with the 2015 Allouran to provide that insight into its future. And the future looks bright.
Back vintages of our Allouran all lined up at Mayfair Lane Dinner, West Perth
Having the vineyard begin its recess every Autumn is a nice feeling – it gives a time to contemplate and a time to plan out some larger jobs. The release of the Allouran is one of our most important tasks, and I sincerely hope that you can purchase a few bottles if you are able – as it will be sold out once more within a short time span and there is nothing worse that talking to a Blue Poles comrade and saying that there is none to be sold to them as they were late with their order.
There are a few wineries in Margaret River that have an arbitrary cut-off for their vintage of Easter – regardless of where it falls. Easter fell at the start of the month and it was surprisingly warm during that first week, which means that those that waited on their acid profile dropping back a bit prior to picking may have got a break. It is also surprising the range of wine styles being made now in the region – some Margaret River wineries may have only just finished vintage the weekend I am writing this report and their reasoning? A sweeter fruit profile in their wines as they are tapping into the US and China markets which still appreciate a bit of “syrup” with their wine. Though I am not a fan of the wines, it is interesting that some major wineries are foregoing freshness and age-ability for the reconstituted taste of grape and bolstered by added acid – financial practicality has come to play in our backyard and I have a feeling it will become a greater component of the larger wineries in the future (especially if the vintages remain warm).
A walk with Tussock through the vineyard – Rule #1 never throw the first stick…
The leaves have held on well this year indicating that the vines have not turned back to their roots as they approach winter. The small amount of fruit on the vines when tasted in mid-April were still quite rich in flavor, but the tannins were missing, and the acid flavor went from present to absent in a matter of hours it seems. I have to give a feed to the shiraz vines and I may consider some more biochar as well as some natural fertilizers – this has come about by Clive indicating low nitrogen levels in the grapes, and this is easily fixed by a bit of fertilizing love in Spring.
Another interesting little bit of press came from Max Allen who wrote up a Teroldego tasting that he attended in Margaret River late last year – yes folks do not ever think the wheel of publicity spins too quickly. Max Allen's Teroldego Article also gave a quick history of how we managed to get the vines, and even better, recognized that our version is pretty damn delicious. Good winter wine and we still have a few cases out the back if you want a red for an evening of distinguished insobriety.
Where to next for wine retail?…
Australia has yet to touch upon the impact of internet purchasing and all that it entails as we still predominantly use physical stores and sites to buy our shopping and goods. We only need to start looking at America and Europe to note just how far behind we are in this area, and by default how much we will be catching up in the coming months / years. Now, you may think this will not change the dynamics of the wine industry much – but I actually think there has never been a more exciting and or scary time for small Australian wineries as they may either thrive or starve in this setting.
Let me explain.
Most small independent wineries are not present in the major Australian liquor chains and by default work on the fringes of the industry. Go into any Liquorland and count the “actual” small independent producers – nil. Go into any Dan Murphy’s and try and locate the small wine labels as well – they come and go but generally they are missing and are only present when a commercial wine critic has popped up a lot of praise and/or they have cut a deal with the winery. But, most importantly there is NO systematic support for small independent wineries from ANY major retail chain. And this is where the wine etailers have a niche.
By not having a huge outlay in bricks and mortar, wine etailers have popped up everywhere. The start of their rise came with the major wine glut of 2000-2010 where they literally could ask any winery for any wine at a significantly reduced price, and as long as the volume was large they were in. This was also a period of “cleanskins” which became a staple in many liquor stores and we were buying bottled wine at prices cheaper than water. But the glut has now minimized, many etailers went out of business or moved to the next product line, and many of the small wineries which were not quality driven are no more.
The inescapable reality is that we will be doing a much larger percentage of our shopping online in the coming years – especially in the major cities. Arrival of Amazon and the more portable and usable shopping purchase apps, tied in to reduced delivery costs and times means that a store for many products could be an oddity. Now, I know you will argue all sorts of statistics and anecdotes that shops are still required, and you are right – BUT – we are not currently using much purchase power over the internet in comparison to other equivalent nations, and even if we reach 70% of their levels in the coming years it is a HUGE change in how we receive our goods as a country.
Thus, we move into the crux of the discussion, how will this change the dynamics of the wine industry? Well, vitally it will take away the limited range which is offered by the major liquor retailers and offer the consumer with her computer / iPad / smart phone a hell of a lot more choice, and a much more convenient choice.
It also for the first time in years provides the small wineries who are making good wines better ways to access the market. If you are buying wine over the net, you can now access anyone’s wine thus the power of name recognition comes closer to being a click away from a purchase – for example if I type in “Holyman Wines” to a search engine, I immediately get the website of the winery and purchase options as well as a list of other suppliers and stores. Now this is not new – but the concept of this being the purchase methodology when you want a bottle of wine for the next day, rather than walking into a retail store is and that is mighty mighty powerful.
Speaking to Tom, Wade and team from Different Drop after we had completed our Allouran tasting in Sydney, it has also become apparent to these guys that forming more than just a simple buying only relationship with small quality driven wineries is critical to their future success. To have within your portfolio of wines for any wine retailer a list of interesting and quality wines will be the linchpin to the future for many of these operations – simply offering bargains is not enough, you can get them anywhere if the wines are generic and it does not induce loyalty. But having wines from small production runs, unique varieties and hard to get vineyards with provenance will ensure your buying base will grow within the wine buying world – as very rarely, if bitten by the wine bug, would anyone return to the generic dross pumped out by the major brands.
Sharing a few Allourans at The Rawson Bar with the team at Different Drop
With these points in mind, you may begin to see for the first time a bit of a power swing back to the small quality driven independent wineries and they for the first time in a long time will be able to define better on how and who sells their wine. It also means that the wine buyers who are seeking these unique and quality wines will step back from the retail chains and simply go to the source or the preferred etailer. This is good news for us, and we look forward to this more proactive future in not just the promotion of our wines but also working with retail partnerships rather than one sided affairs where the retailer holds the high ground.
Such a mild month with only a warm week to initiate it, and this was followed by mild weather with buffs of rain to keep the dust down and little else. With the low rainfall but the cooling evenings the local farmers are either complaining about a late start to the season or thankful for a delay such that their grass seed is not wasted – I have lost track of which it is this year, though last year it was the latter.
The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:
Avg Maximum Temp 22.9oC (Daily Max recorded 29.5oC)
Avg Minimum Temp 11.9oC (Daily Min recorded 7.9oC)
The maximum temperature average this month was a little higher than last year, with the minimum average this year also higher with some cloud cover lifting temperatures but not sharing much rainfall. The rainfall total for 2017 was extremely low, and though 2018 has had more rainfall, it too is a low total.
Avg Maximum Temp 22.3oC (Daily Max recorded 28.4oC)
Avg Minimum Temp 10.2oC (Daily Min recorded 5.7oC)
Upon my flight landing back in Perth International in a week or so, I head home to start delivering out all of the sold Allourans after Tim has completed the allocations. It is an extremely busy few days and quite slow going as the last thing we want to do is fail to get your order correct – only one case went awry last year with the release of the Reserves so I am trying to get my average closer to zero if possible. I will see if I can get some lime (CaCO3 – not the citrus fruit), spread as well if possible and maybe mulch the cuttings that Aidan and I formed when we hacked back a few rows of Shiraz for the incoming Chardonnay grafting. Plenty of other jobs on the go as always, so no time to kick back just yet.
As always if you have any queries about what’s been written or about wine in general, do not hesitate to contact us either by email or www.twitter.com/bluepoles and we’ll do our very best to answer any question.
Blue Poles Vineyard