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Monthly Report - July 2006

End of Pruning…


Well we have had a busy month at Blue Poles with the entire vineyard’s pruning completed, 2 weeks ahead of schedule.  The reason for the speed at which we knocked off this job can be put down to the simple desire to get the job out of the road, and the excellent spur placement on the Merlot and Cabernet Franc which meant this pruning task took a lot less time than we had budgeted for.  Below is a photo from the base of the vineyard with all the pruning completed, and the weeding completed under vine.


Southern End of Blue Poles – Pruning complete 2006

During the 5 weeks of pruning we only had to don our wet weather gear once, this was very unusual and highlighted how little rain has fallen this year to date.  Fortunately the last half of July has provided some respite with some good falls over 4-5 days bringing the total rainfall up but still much less than average for the region.  Our dam still has yet to overflow, though the level is now increasing and if consistent rainfall continues then we can expect it to be full by early mid August.


One of the other jobs that tends to be a bit laborious is the preparing and placement of all the fruiting wires for the coming season.  We had no excuse to not get this tiring job done so this task of dropping all the fruiting wires and placing them on the steels for next season was completed over a weekend – a very long walk indeed as there is 24km of rows at Blue Poles, and each row has 4 fruiting wires to place.


Confusion Reigns…


One of the interesting aspects of owning a vineyard is reading the press and industry releases with regards to the wine industry in Western Australia and Australia as a whole. 


When we purchased and initiated our planting program in 2001, the wine industry was extremely bullish with exports roaring ahead (Yellowtail and South Australian Shiraz’s were flavour of the month in the US, and customers in Great Britain still purchased our wines at the retailers with religious zeal).  To make it even more exciting big volumes of red wines were predicted to be the “wine” sought from Margaret River, and substantial acreages were planted in 1995-2000 and were coming on stream to meet this so called “demand”.  On both counts the soothsayers had got it completely wrong.  Sales into the US and the UK were still moving ahead, but at much lower price points, thus bulk wine at $3-5 per bottle was being soaked up – something that we couldn’t produce in Margaret River – at the expense of boutique wine, and red wine in Margaret River was suddenly in “glut” and now no-one would purchase a red grape, with whites now being in demand.


What had we turned up into?  We had planted red varieties first as these varieties suited our site most and we thought this quality factor would be our signature.  White grapes were being sought but we were 3 years away from getting these varieties on line in commercial volumes.  We therefore decided to bite the bullet and make wine, not any wine, but wine that reflects the best of our soil and site, and is as rich and compelling as we could possibly make it.  Yield reductions, hand thinning of leaves, laterals and double buds, 3 individual wire lifts throughout the growing season, hand picking, and a restrictive watering regime became essential to meet our objectives – time consuming and tiring but the difference made by doing these tasks is dramatic and as we go forward every vintage will show something of the effort made in each year.


We should be able to roll through these years of grape and wine oversupply in Western Australia, with these early set-backs seen as an opportunity to develop a vineyard without chasing tonnages and growth in a commercial sense. We therefore may have vines that are healthier and generating higher quality fruit consistently for years to come, though at smaller tonnages, which will aid in the making of possibly great wine from our block.  Here’s hoping that you can enjoy the journey with us!


Mid winter blues…


It’s cold and it’s wet so it must be July, though that couldn’t have been said for the first 14 days of the month, but cold fronts have appeared off the Western Australian coast and they bring the wet weather as well as cold southerly winds and rain showers after their passage.  Here are weather values for July 2006 and 2005:

July 2006:     

Avg Maximum Temp          16.6°C

Daily Max recorded            21.2°C


Avg Minimum Temp             7.1°C               

Daily Min recorded               0.0°C


Rainfall:                               132.6mm

In comparison to 2005 the maximum temperatures were very similar, but rainfall was less in 2005 (a hiccup as the following and preceding months had extremely high rainfall totals).

July 2005:      

Avg Maximum Temp          16.4°C

Daily Max recorded            20.2°C

Avg Minimum Temp             8.1°C

Daily Min recorded             -1.0°C


Rainfall:                             99.8mm

It is very hard to predict what the weather will do in the coming months – we’re hoping for warming temperatures with higher rainfall in August and September before October breaks open a lovely warm dry spring … well we can hope can’t we?


Looking after the soil…


The vines need to have a soil that can give them access to both essential and trace elements – often this can only occur if the soil is in balance.  Therefore August is when we replenish the soil with some lime (the lateritic soils of the region are invariably slightly acidic so a touch of lime each year brings them into line), and some composted manures from one of the beef lots down the road (gorgeous stuff as it is composted with grape marc and hay).  Also on the cards will be construction of a fence around the lower half of the block as well as pruning and tending the roses at the head of all our vine rows.

All the best everyone.





Mark Gifford

Blue Poles Vineyard

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