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Monthly Report - July 2007

One word…


Pruning.  Each year this job takes a little more time as vines are reaching maturity and the amount of growth becomes a bit greater than the previous year.  This year the pruning has been very steady with only the Viognier to be completed.  This vine is a particularly messy grower so a few more days at least will be required to get it ready for the upcoming vintage.  Working through the estate I must admit to being very happy with the amount of growth and bud placement within the Merlot and Cabernet Franc blocks and this bodes well for another solid year with only a few adjustments required in these two varieties.  The Marsanne rows were very vigorous and I have cut the bud count down on this variety to try to bring some sort of balance into the vine.  It is a vine that just loves growing canes so we will try a few ideas in making the vine concentrate on fruit rather than leaves and hopefully this will lift up both fruit quality and quantity.

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Pruning well underway

Having a look through the records I note that I have only had two days off from the pruning task this month, but on one of those days off I was lucky enough to attend a presentation by Cornelis (Kees) van Leeuwen, the viticulturist at Chateau Cheval Blanc.  As Merlot and Cabernet Franc are two of our most important varieties, and Chateau Cheval Blanc being considered the best expression of these grapes in the world, it was a presentation that I could not afford to miss.  Kees presented his talk around ‘terroir’, which in essence is the placement of a wine to a site and all the influences that make the wine what it is.  Much mystery is applied to ‘terroir’ as the mythical influences of specific sites, vines, climate, human inputs become overpowering and do not really answer the question of what makes a better or worse site for growing vines and making wines.


Kees presented a talk that scientifically broke down the factors of ‘terroir’, and through a series of vine plots on various soil types presented data that accounted for climate, soil and vine type.  This type of data is fantastic, for as a vigneron it gives you the information to determine what individual component makes the most influence on your vines in any specific growing season.  I will highlight a few examples below from the areas of vine growth, yield and grape / must composition:


The percentage of influence is in brackets for each individual area of climate, soil and vine.


Vine Vigour

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This information indicates that the timing of the vines major growth stages during any individual season is nearly totally controlled by the climate, but the speed at which the grapes ripen is set by the vine and the amount of growth is determined by the soil type.


Vine Yield

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This was a surprise, the soil type on which any vine is planted controls the yield and berry weight more than climate or vine type – thus soil type is critical to keep yields low and ensuring fruit quality (through smaller berry sizes).  There is the added influence of water availability in the various soil types and the more water restricted gravel and clay sites were considered the higher quality sites and this is borne out by these yield results.


Berry and Must Composition

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Another big surprise, climate does not control sugar levels in the grapes as much as the soil type and vine cultivars, thus it is basically “set” by where you have planted!  Thus if you have very high sugar levels attained when the grapes are fully ripe, various climatic conditions will not alter significantly these values and you will continue to have high sugar levels (thus high alcohol levels) regardless of vintage conditions!  Climate does control other aspects of the berry and must composition, but much less than many commentators have indicated over the years, therefore planting the right vine in the right area has a significant influence on keeping the resultant wine in balance as the climatic conditions do.


As indicated above, the data presented in this talk is a goldmine of information to us here at Blue Poles as we can now start the process of ensuring that our practices match the best estates around the world, and in doing so we may be able to make better wine that can emulate some of the best wines as well.  Of course we are at the mercy of the climate but now knowing that soil and vines play an important role in specific areas we can assure a more consistent approach to our vintage practices and wine making philosophies.



It’s raining, it’s pouring …


When it gets wet in this part of the world, it gets very wet and for the past two weeks I have gone to work with my wet weather gear on, ready for the day ahead.  With the weather being one cold front bearing rain after another, the groundwater levels are now fully topped and the dam is full and overflowing.  Water is flowing out of the ground throughout the estate and we have an opportunity to work out how we need to form the area around our house to stop it being flooded in years to come!  The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:

July 2007:     

Avg Maximum Temp          16.9°C

Daily Max recorded            20.9°C


Avg Minimum Temp             9.5°C               

Daily Min recorded               1.1°C


Rainfall:                               243.7mm

The 2007 maximum and the minimum temperatures were a little higher than in 2006 and this is due to a bit more cloud cover associated with the extra rainfall and strong cold fronts that passed over the region during the month.  Rainfall is significantly more in 2007 and there most probably will be more to come as the winter pattern is now fully dominant.

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

Finishing the job…


Well it is now a simple matter of getting the pruning out of the way and finished for another year.  With the vineyard being a tad wet it is not possible to do much tidying up but there will be some specific weeding in some areas and possibly some hand spraying of some grasses that seem to have hung on throughout the year.  Maybe a shed cleanup is due, but we should not get too carried away!

All the best everyone.





Mark Gifford

Blue Poles Vineyard

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