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Monthly Report - February 2007

Vintage begins…


Well it has for us with the Marsanne picked and pressed on the 27th February, our first white wine.  We only have a couple of rows of Marsanne currently (we will be doubling the area of this varietal over the next 2 years), and this small quantity of wine will give us much information with regards to optimum picking times and fruit flavours etc.  The next cab on the rank is our Viognier, and as with the Marsanne it is a small crop that we are expecting but it will give us the opportunity to find what flavours our location presents as well as give us a couple of blending options with both the Marsanne and our Shiraz.  Picking of the Viognier is expected mid-March, and then we get into our reds which are all holding up exceedingly well with lovely flavours already on show but skin and pip ripeness indicates they are still a few weeks away.

200702_Marsanne in Bin_resized.JPG

2007 Marsanne grapes

The months' work has been predominantly small jobs amongst the vines with the only big tasks being the placement of all our nets and some weeding around our newly planted vines.  Currently we have our whites and our Merlot covered by the nets, and when the whites are picked we will transfer them to the Cabernet Franc, and possibly the Shiraz – the Shiraz does have significantly less bird pressure than the vines closer to the river, so we might let the protection slip if there is little or no damage on these grapes.  It has been a very early year for most varieties throughout the Margaret River region with most of the white grapes are now picked and in the fermenter tanks within the wineries, most wineries are very happy, though the yields have been down in comparison to many years but the flavours are there as well as reasonable sugar levels.


This month I might wade into the murky area of wine critics and their influence and affect within the industry.  Wine is a product that has to meet consumer’s expectations from price to quality and everything in-between.  As we start down this path of presenting and marketing our wine it is immediately apparent that we have to get some “recognition” in the market place.  All new brands have to be more than just a shelf-filler as many consumers buy wine on the brand alone; the trusted option.  There are many ways of getting seen, for a better word, and this could involve press releases, wine show success, advertising, events presenting your wine etc – but one of the most preferred path ways is the use of wine writers and critics.


Historically there has only been a few wine critics in Australia.  They were often associated with newspapers and other print media, and they supplemented their incomes with annual book releases etc.  The most famous and probably most well regarded is James Halliday.  He has provided a service to the industry by keeping track of most wineries within Australia as well as providing a précis of their quality through regular tasting notes – a good note and comment from JH is a solid vote and an opportunity to increase sales.  As time has gone by more wine critics grew with the industry and some newspapers could start to have specialised staff associated with their wine and food sections – this has meant a jump in numbers as well as a regional feel to each critic as they present their articles.  In Western Australia, the wine critic of most note is Ray Jordan from “The West Australian” newspaper, and he provides tasting notes, recommendations and articles on wines throughout Australia as well as providing a book listing and discussing Western Australian wineries.


But times are a changing, and with the advent of the internet you are beginning to see the start of a whole new world to wine critique.  Wine forums have sprung up all over the net and within this setting every consumer becomes a wine critic and you can see the rise and demise of many wines as the public jumps onto and jumps off wines based not on a paid commentators viewpoint, but on the comments of “like minded” wine lovers.  If this doesn’t scare the average winery who has lived off comments from singular wine critics, then they get double whammied as the public then start off their own websites stating what they like and dislike.  For those in the industry who aren’t savvy to these internet options then you could be missing the boat, as googling of wine labels often leads to wine forums and wine blogs rather than the wineries own website, and poor comments there may lead to lower sales.


It has been an important part of understanding how our wine will travel in this new world of internet communication, and it confirms the attitude that the wine you sell has to be the best wine it can be.  Less than that and a poor attitude to your customers will spell trouble for those in the industry that think they are above the public’s perception of their wine.


A mild February, even better…


February is a month that leaves you in a state of anxiety.  In WA it is our hottest month and potentially the wettest with cyclone season up north sending down their remnants – both high heat loads and high rainfalls are definitely not required.  This February has been excellent with mild temperatures in comparison to the averages and nearly no rainfall at all.  No cyclones have formed this year in the north of the state so fingers crossed this is a quiet year, avoiding any unwanted rainfall to finish the vintage.  The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:

February 2007:     

Avg Maximum Temp          25.9°C

Daily Max recorded            33.5°C


Avg Minimum Temp           14.0°C               

Daily Min recorded               7.8°C


Rainfall:                               4.4mm

In comparison to 2006 the maximum temperatures were similar, with minimum temperatures being a little higher.  Rainfall is negligible for both months so this proved to be a lifesaver last year and a good quality fixer for us this year.

February 2006:      

Avg Maximum Temp          26.2°C

Daily Max recorded            37.3°C

Avg Minimum Temp           12.8°C

Daily Min recorded               6.9°C


Rainfall:                             3.2mm

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

Bordeaux August 2006:      

Avg Maximum Temp          24.1°C

Daily Max recorded            30.0°C

Avg Minimum Temp           14.0°C

Daily Min recorded             10.0°C


Rainfall:                                114.0mm

The season has turned with maximums and minimums now dropping quite quickly in Bordeaux, but the rainfall has continued with a further 114 mm falling during the month.  The red grapes would be well into veraison and the continuing availability of water on all but the most free draining sites would be causing problems for the chateaus.  It looks like a dilute vintage and one that will be difficult to ripen judging by the amount of cloudy days that have plagued the past 2 months.  As always you wonder what might have been and this year will be a lesser year unfortunately for the bordelaise.  September is the traditional start of vintage for Bordeaux so we’ll check in next month to see if the weather held out for them.


Fingers and toes crossed…


This is it.  March should see at least two varieties harvested and in early-mid April the last two varieties should be put into tanks for fermenting.  The vintage basically comes down to the next 4-6 weeks and if the weather can stay reasonably dry and warm then we should be in for some great wines.  This is exciting but a bit nervy so I’ll see you next month with the outcome of the vintage.

All the best everyone.





Mark Gifford

Blue Poles Vineyard

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