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Monthly Report - October 2006

One year on…


This is the first anniversary of our monthly reports and it will be interesting to compare the previous season’s reports with the future reports as they come out for the corresponding months.  Last year was hard work and we are hoping this year’s vintage won’t be quite as difficult.  The seasons seem to roll around very quickly and it is always good to take stock through these reports and it lets me pass on what makes our vineyard tick.

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The Cabernet Franc

The vineyard is looking a picture at the moment, the vines have all shot up and many are approaching the point that they’ll require a wire lift to keep them all tucked in on the trellis.  Our first sulphur spray was put out 2 weeks ago to control mildews and this year we added some Molybdenum (a trace element) to the spray over the Merlot so as to enhance the fruit set – it is a precocious variety with regards to flowering and we got this little tip from the team at Moss Wood in the Wilyabrup. 


A major component of the early seasons work is shoot thinning and de-suckering and we have really cracked on and completed 80% of the vineyard.  It is a big time consuming job, but it is critical in our eyes as it limits what the plant will put its effort into and growing excess foliage and grapes does not give you the quality that we want and expect from our site. 


The growth within the Shiraz block has been phenomenal this year, and we have reduced the cane count to ensure the vines just don’t go too “woolly”. The Shiraz vines do slow up as the ground dries up and if we do water later in the season it will be only sparingly so as to maximise the flavors in this our first vintage of the variety.  I must admit I’m really excited about this particular variety as last year the flavors we were seeing in the pre-vintage grapes were outstanding, unfortunately there was not enough heat to lift the fruit to an acceptable level for our estate wine and we dropped the fruit.  We’ve got our fingers crossed for this year.


Global Warming, the elephant in the room…


I note with interest that the topic of global warming has been making news of late.  Al Gore’s movie, estimates by the British government on the cost of the greenhouse affect ($900 trillion if we don’t do anything apparently), and the promotion of nuclear energy as a viable alternative for Australian power supplies has meant that this topic will be debated hard and long.  But is it real?  Are we in a particular weather pattern or cycle and this is within the “normal” set of parameters for such things?  Well the simple answer is yes, global warming is here and it will creep up on us as long as we continue to burn fossil fuels and smelt metals in excess – but the effect on any point on the globe is not possible to quantify.  Areas near the coast, such as Margaret River may be only affected by 2-3 degrees for maximums in the next 20-30 years, yet areas inland such as the wheat belt of West Australia could have disastrous increases in temperatures and lowering of rainfall totals.


When we bought our vineyard back in 2001 we had accounted for potential warming of the environment and selected a location in the southern half of the Margaret River wine growing region partly to account for this.  The location also gets the cooling sea breezes earlier than other locations nearby due to a quirk in the topography, thus we keep the maximum temperatures moderated during our hottest months.  We have also planted varieties in spots that would have varying levels of exposure to assorted climatic conditions and be able to accommodate (and hopefully thrive) in these settings.  The development of a catchment dam was a precaution as we are predominantly dry-growing the vines once they are above the cordon, however if heat is excessive in the future we can provide some relief to highly stressed vines.


The impact of global warming can only be moderated by human intervention and the combined will of the world’s nations will be tested.  While China and India are expanding at a massive rate it is going to be difficult to stop the generation of new greenhouse gas sources – but the buck doesn’t stop with them.  Australia’s huge reliance on fossil fuels for power supplies and our production of enormous quantities of primary metals for the world generates vast amounts of green house gases for a population as small as ours.  As a country we will need to be prepared to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and the phasing out (rather than planning in) of coal fired power stations must be the first step.  Acceptance of a contained nuclear power program would be next and then the development of viable alternative energies (wind and solar energy in their current forms do not have the capacity to have significant input into the national grid), would follow.


We live in interesting times and as I have an avid interest in the weather and how it affects the wine made in our vineyard, this is one topic that I will be keeping a very close eye on.


This is how we remember it…


Fantastic.  The weather has become as we remember it for October, lovely crisp clear mornings with the temperatures rising to the low 20’s before subsiding into a calm pleasant evening.  The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:

October 2006:     

Avg Maximum Temp          19.7°C

Daily Max recorded            28.4°C


Avg Minimum Temp             9.7°C               

Daily Min recorded               6.0°C


Rainfall:                               51.2mm

In comparison to 2005 the maximum temperatures were quite a bit higher, with minimum temperatures a little higher as well (it was the coolest October ever so this is to be expected one would’ve guessed).  Rainfall is significantly less this year, and it has been a very dry winter in the South West of WA.

October 2005:      

Avg Maximum Temp          16.0°C

Daily Max recorded            20.4°C

Avg Minimum Temp             8.5°C

Daily Min recorded               4.6°C


Rainfall:                             126.4mm

As with last month I’ve included below the weather values for Bordeaux during their equivalent of the month of October in the southern hemisphere.

April 2006:      

Avg Maximum Temp          17.2°C

Daily Max recorded            23.2°C

Avg Minimum Temp            7.1°C

Daily Min recorded              0.0°C


Rainfall:                             33.0mm

Temperatures are now becoming closer and closer aligned, it should be noted that the region of Bordeaux is at a higher latitude and this means longer days thus more sunlight hours.  The effect of more sunlight on the vines would start to push budburst along and reduce the period of low temperatures.  In the previous month Bordeaux had nearly 300mm of rain so it’s good to see they got to dry out a bit.


Steady as she goes…


All of the vineyard is now up and running and all we are doing is fine tuning the plants as they head towards flowering and then fruit set.  Thinning and de-suckering will continue throughout the month as well at least 2 sprays for mildews.  We are hoping that the weather keeps moderately warm and dry as this helps reduce many disease pressures.


Our house on the vineyard will also start construction late in November with the laying of the pad, as well as the building of a large water tank, the completion of our roadway, and installation of our “biolytix” septic system.

All the best everyone.





Mark Gifford

Blue Poles Vineyard

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