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Monthly Report - March 2006

Picking grapes in May?…


On the last day of the month a collection of 10 large samples was compiled for all our red grapes and taken to our contract winery for testing.  By this time last year we had picked the Merlot, and were waiting for a break in the weather to pick the Cabernet Franc (which was picked on the 9th April) – oh what a difference a year makes.  The results from the grape analyses confirmed what we have thought, we are 3-4 weeks late in 2006 and this means great opportunity but great risk.  Let me explain …


Opportunity – the fruit flavors developing in the grapes are maturing slowly and are in synch with sugar ripening, and having the flavors come into the grape when the temperatures are not extreme means no loss of aromatics and depth (… the flavors of our shiraz tested yesterday were outstanding with wonderful raspberry and strawberry sorbet notes coming through without a hint of “greenness” and a very long length, and this is with grapes that have yet to break 10 beaumé, which equates to <10% alcohol!).  Also acid levels are slowly dropping, but this slow rate is matching in with our target acidities, especially in the merlot – last year the merlot ripened slightly before the acid backed off, we won’t have this issue in 2006.  Tannins will be fine and “chalky” as they too have been slowly developed.


Risk – Well it’s simply the weather, we have put the nets out and all our sprays have kept the insects and mildews at bay, but we can’t control the skies.  Cyclone Glenda ripped through the north of our huge state on the 31st March, but fortunately for us it appears to have missed dumping its rain payload on the SW corner of West Australia.  Rain fronts will now start pushing up from the southern ocean and the rain and cloud will slow down ripening and risk splitting grapes with the resultant moisture.


The arrival of our new netwizz and slasher/mulcher was the excitement of the month as these two pieces of equipment will be very valuable to us at Blue Poles to ensure our rows are tended and nets put out in a timely fashion.  Our next door neighbour Gary Cain drove the tractor and learnt with us the finer points of putting out nets with our new toy – we did very well in fact and had all the nets out in quick time and are now working on some tricks to help us get them in with little problems as well.


The last of the wire lifting was completed early in the month and apart from keeping the chickens fed and doing some maintenance on nets we purchased last year it has been a quiet work month.  So with this lull before the storm our liquor license application was completed and delivered by hand in Perth, and if everything goes to plan we should have wine available to the public by May. 


Our wine continues to be commented on in websites around Australia and the latest comments can be found at Gary and Lincoln’s website Winorama.


It makes one nervous….


March has been warm and predominantly dry at Margaret River with only one rain front coming through on the 22nd March.  A summary of the month’s weather records are as below:

March 2006:     

Avg Maximum Temp          26.7°C

Daily Max recorded            37.1°C


Avg Minimum Temp           12.4°C               

Daily Min recorded               6.1°C


Rainfall:                               26.4mm

In comparison to 2005 the temperatures were slightly lower, but there was less rain fall.

March 2005:      

Avg Maximum Temp          27.6°C

Daily Max recorded            37.8°C

Avg Minimum Temp           15.2°C

Daily Min recorded             10.1°C


Rainfall:                             46.0mm

We now wait with baited breath for the “break of the season”, which is the start of the grass growing season for the local farmers.  We are of course hoping that this won’t occur until the end of April and give our grapes the opportunity to get their sugar levels up to solid levels (12-13 beaumé which equates to 12-13% alcohol).


Fingers and toes crossed…


All we can do is wait for the grapes to ripen and hope that the weather is kind to us.  Everything is in place for vintage with friends and family put on yellow alert, and extra beer has been bottled to account for their appetites after a hard morning bringing in the vintage.  By the time the next monthly report comes out we should be able to tell you of the vintage and the quality, and if I get time I’ll have a ring around to see how others in the district went with their vines.


All the best to everyone and have a very happy Easter.





Mark Gifford

Blue Poles Vineyard

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