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Monthly Report - June 2006

Break in the Season?…


Since I have been putting this report together the one consistent factor through all the months has been the inconsistency of the weather.  It seems like every month has some sort of weather record broken, and this month has to be the most dramatic of them all, the lowest rainfalls in June since records have been kept. 


For all of those who live out of town I’ll quickly explain.  The south west corner of WA relies on a weather pattern that lifts all the cold and wet frontal weather from the Indian and Southern Oceans into the lower WA regions.  These cold fronts usually start in late April, mid May and keep on bringing rain and wind until spring which is about September / October when the fronts begin to head south again and the weather clears.  Farmers rely heavily on the break of season after hot and dry summers such that their grass grows for feed, and that they have enough soil moisture to plant their winter crops.


Not this year.  There has not been one major front reach the coast of WA so far this season; rainfall has been less than 20% of normal, with the ramifications for farmers throughout the southern half of our state disastrous.  By June 24th 2005 our farm dam was overflowing, this year it has yet to rise from our summer low point, truly amazing.  We have our fingers crossed for a very wet July and August, and we hope that most farmers can get a crop in or raise some grass for the coming season.


Back to the vineyard, though a lack of rainfall is not good for the region it is not a real problem for the vines as the cool nights of May have continued into June and this has ensured the vines are dormant.  Rather than delay pruning anymore we oiled and sharpened up the secateurs and got into it.  First cab off the rank was the shiraz and we moved on this variety first so as to ensure a bit of an earlier bud burst, giving it time to ripen in the heat of February and March and to get the beaumé and flavour profile to where we feel would make excellent wine.  Pruning shiraz is often quite tricky as it grows like a weed and the growth at times can be enormous – on our vineyard we have decided to cane prune this variety (and the Viognier, which also is a vigorous grower once it decides to get going), and this limits the amounts of buds that the vine can burst forth, thus making it less likely to grow too vigorously.


Below are two photos that show the before and after of cane pruning a young shiraz vine at Blue Poles.


Before (top) and After (bottom)

We have started pruning the Viognier as well (about 40% of the way through it), and the growth in the season was very good and we can all look forward to a glass of Viognier from the 2007 vintage – another exciting step forward at the vineyard.


Weed control was also order of the day in the older portion of the vineyard, but in the Shiraz and Viognier blocks weeds will be left alone until after pruning and then they’ll be dealt with.  A few odd jobs occurred with the shed and the chicken coops, but overall it was a good month work wise, with the satisfaction of knowing the first 2 hectares of pruning is under our belt.

The weather report (again)…


I must be turning into a farmer as the weather is becoming all too dominant in all that we do.  As I discussed at the start of the report it has been dry and cool without much (if any) rainfall.  Here are the numbers:

June 2006:     

Avg Maximum Temp          17.4°C

Daily Max recorded            20.8°C


Avg Minimum Temp             5.6°C               

Daily Min recorded             -0.5°C


Rainfall:                               61.4mm

In comparison to 2005 the maximum temperatures were slightly higher in 2006, but as we’ve discussed there was a lot more rain fall in 2005.

June 2005:      

Avg Maximum Temp          16.4°C

Daily Max recorded            20.9°C

Avg Minimum Temp             9.3°C

Daily Min recorded               5.0°C


Rainfall:                             217.0mm

July is often the wettest month of the year in southern WA, so let’s hope this is the case in 2006.  There’s nothing that a good 300mm of rain won’t fix!


Pruning, pruning, pruning…


The month of July is basically an opportunity to don your wet weather gear and gumboots and stand in a paddock with some ties and a pair of secateurs.  Not totally inspiring one could say but hopefully by the end of the month 80% of the vineyard will be pruned and the dam will be overflowing.  The bonus is that it is nice and quiet and you can put your mind into neutral while you ponder the intricacies of spur pruning Merlot.


All the best everyone.





Mark Gifford

Blue Poles Vineyard

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