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Monthly Report - December 2005

What an odd season…


December, as we remember it, has always been one of clear hot days and the start of the big dry which ends some time in April … well that’s not the way it panned out in 2005.  The lower south west of Western Australia has had its coolest December since nearly records began and this has caused all sorts of issues amongst the vineyards of the region as cloudy days and sprinklings of rain kept mildew pressures high and insects continued to hatch out of the ground.  The month therefore was dominated by training passes through the vineyard to reduce foliage and open the canopy up more as well as the start of the first set of wire lifting to get those canes in the air.


To date we have seen no mildews amongst the vines and I think we can pat ourselves on the back for reducing the foliage last month – and the insect pressure has also been reduced to naught due to a well timed spray which has caught all of the beasties unaware.  This lack of pressure has meant a set of lovely clean bunches with no damage at all in the leaves and the flower heads.  The vines are now completing berry set with the Merlot, Marsanne and Viognier half way through this process and the Cabernet Franc and Shiraz a week or two behind.  The Cabernet Franc continues to shine this year with excellent even growth amongst these vines and we hope this leads to an excellent wine post vintage.


When Margaret River isn’t really Margaret River…


One of the interesting aspects of growing grapes in the Margaret River region is driving to the vineyard each morning and going past 4 different sub-regions within the wine district known as Margaret River.  Each zone is actually quite different and makes us wonder when there will be a greater delineation of the zones as each set of vineyards within a district push for their own identity.  I’ll quickly go through them (pretending to be in my car driving along)…


The most northerly two zones are called Yallingup and Carbunup and they range from tiny estates along the Naturaliste ridge to huge plantings on the Jindong flats – last to feel the sea breeze and containing the best and worst of soils, these vineyards are the hottest in the region and need special attention to get the most out of their vines.  Jindong in the Carbunup region has the largest plantings of the total region and this is our “fruit basket” providing the bulk of the grapes for the large wineries Evans and Tate and Vasse Felix.


A typical Jindong vineyard

The next two couldn’t be further apart in every aspect of their plantings.  Willyabrup is the icon of the region with almost all of the best known names and high class estates – exceptional wines abound from all parts of this sub-region.  The Treeton sub region however has few vineyards and even less wineries, it is not well developed with much remnant forest about and this is due to poor soils and the lack of gravelly profiles that the viticulturists seek most.


We now enter the Walcliffe sub-region where Blue Poles finds itself – home of some of the wine icons this region goes from the coast to the eastern boundary of the appellation.  A bit cooler than the regions above it, and warmer than the Karridale sub-region below it, the area is subject to a bit of vintage variation but extended growing seasons.  We deliberately selected our site for the gravels and this climatic locality – we can only hope that our little “patch of dirt” can generate wine of the highest quality.


Oh you crazy skies….


We thought last month was “funny”, December turned out to be “crazy”.  Much lower than average temps and spring weather patterns continuing through the whole month brought out averages that are just plain odd.  A summary of the months “odd” weather records are as below:

December 2005:     

Avg Maximum Temp          20.1°C

Daily Max recorded            26.7°C


Avg Minimum Temp           11.8°C               

Daily Min recorded               6.5°C


Rainfall:                               24.0mm

In comparison to 2004 we are way behind in the temperature values, have a look!

December 2004:      

Avg Maximum Temp          25.7°C

Daily Max recorded            35.7°C

Avg Minimum Temp           12.3°C

Daily Min recorded               4.0°C


Rainfall:                             10.0mm

Keeping it clean…


All the work in late 2005 has been to set the vines up for fruit set and ripening, so now we have to make sure that our vines get the best chance to ripen great grapes.  Pressures such as mildews and insects need to be continually checked for and preventative measures taken when necessary and the opening of the canopy through leaf plucking and fruit thinning will aid us in keeping these pressures low.  Some further training in the Viognier and Shiraz will be required as well as some weed sprays, but that is just an ongoing task that never seems to reach an end.


From all of us at Blue Poles we hope Santa dropped off a parcel or two and that New Years went off with a bang.  Happy drinking everyone…





Mark Gifford

Blue Poles Vineyard

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