top of page

Monthly Report - November 2007

I need new boots…


Due mainly to the amount of walking completed this month, it feels like I have been up and down every row a couple of times as we have pulled and shaped the vines.  The Shiraz has out grown even last years growth and we have had to tidy it up three times so far this year, but the evenness of growth is much better and the first wire lift has pulled much of this variety into shape.  Merlot and Cabernet Franc are now getting a bit of age and this makes the task of tidying up the vines a tad easier but there is still a lot of excess growth and we successfully cleaned up these two varieties.  They are now able to go through fruit set without the distraction of all those extra canes.  The Viognier is like a messy child and there will be a few more passes required through this block of vines, but the fruit is starting to set and we should have a good return if the weather allows it.


The only real annoyance this month has been a pesky bird called the 'Black Gang Cockatoo' of which there is a flock which lives in the area around our vineyard.  A local myth that goes around is that when you see these birds flying it is likely to rain in the near future – surprisingly accurate as you usually see them perched in trees and rarely flying about.  The issue is that when they sit amongst the vines they have a high old time chewing off canes in the vineyard and this is extremely annoying as much of what they chew off is required for next years pruning.  They are birds that are threatened due to habitat loss so shooting them is out of the question, and running around scaring them is an absolute waste of time as they really do not care about noise and flailing arms so it is another “crop reduction” method now employed at Blue Poles!

200711_Marsanne Bird Damage 2_resized.JP

Bird damage on a Marsanne vine

2007 Margaret River Wine Show – My Perspective


On November 28-30th the 2007 Margaret River Wine Show was run at the education campus in town and on all accounts it was very successful.  I attended the final day which has at the start of the day the judges’ comments and then a chance to go through as many wines as you can sup and spit before you get complete palate fatigue.  Notes taken at the summing up by the judges highlighted a few of the perceptions that the judges took out of the show and I will outline some of their points below:


  • Semillon / Sauvignon Blanc (SSB) blends were preferred to straight varietals of either grape, and they did not think the class of 2007 was as good as wines of less hotter years – indicating loss of aromatics as the major issue. Louisa Rose indicated that maybe Margaret River needs to pick its Sauvignon Blanc earlier to get more bracing acidity, and use of varying yeast strains may improve aromatics.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon was starting to show a regional characteristic and they wanted both fruit and herbal characteristics (how this was to occur was not explained).

  • Chardonnay was preferred in the leaner elegant styles and thus 2006 wines which were from a cooler year were preferred to 2005 wines.

  • Shiraz was not considered a Margaret River strong point and surprisingly the cooler year wines of 2006 were preferred to other vintages as more spice characteristics came out.


Now all of this is well and good until you go in and taste the wines that the panel rated highly and then you start to see the amazing level of inconsistency within such a relatively straight forward set of premises. 


In the SSB class the wines that won gold were overall extremely aromatic wines BUT on the palate were extremely light and lacking length – this was consistent with what the judges outlined but it made many winemakers raise their eyebrows to say the least. 


In the Cabernet Sauvignon blends category the top 6 or 7 wines were a complete pot pourri of dry herbal styles / fruity low tannin / fruity and tannic wines – not one style was preferred and it was a mish mash of choice from the judges (and the same was seen in the shiraz class).  While tasting through the straight Cabernet Sauvignon it became apparent that the judges were after wines with good palate balance but on the nose they preferred some “green” flavours to blend in with the fruit and the best wine in the show was in fact a Cabernet Sauvignon with just that.  Tasting these wines left you with the feeling of “sameness”, none really were complex or “exciting” for a better word and some very compelling wines rated quite poorly. 


And lastly the chardonnay class was even more difficult to decipher as many wines that were in an un-wooded style did well, and more worked chardonnays did poorly but there were exceptions even amongst the gold medal winners which confused most – what was the preferred chardonnay style?


I am no judge and my perceptions above are my own.  But it must be stated, why do we bother with wine shows in their current format?  To be quite honest not one winery owner will change their attitudes to wine based on this event, not one wine maker will alter the way they treat fruit received, and not one vineyard owner could take any of the comments and apply them to his or her vineyard.  The show is there merely as window dressing for the wine region and to the lucky producer who wins the gong and the few plaudits worthily thrown their way.  The days of having wine shows to “help” the poor regions winemakers with sage advice has well and truly passed – most of the associate judges were local winemakers anyway, so who is being taught?  What knowledge is being passed to the public?  Very little one could say in the most polite form and I would say many of the public may in fact not appreciate the styles that were presented as being the “best” available in Margaret River.


The whole process needs overhauling and it needs to be more open to the public like many of the arts awards throughout the country.  I am of the belief that there needs to be more focused tasting events and presented in a form that is digestible by both the industry and the public.  For example you could have a Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon and blends weekend, where the industry reviews the wines on one day and the public reviews them on another (maybe even paired with foods if like minded industries wished to show off their wares). 


In its current form the Margaret River wine show is just a big lucky dip and with many entrants having little to lose, means this show system has an opportunity to survive (note that the famous Margaret River wineries of Cullens, Moss Wood, Pierro, Graylyn, Leeuwin Estate were nowhere to be seen, as you would assume they actually had something to lose).  I for one would like the system changed such that we as an industry can gain a perspective from both the independence of selected judges and the independence of the great unwashed public.


Good to see blue skies...


This is the month of hay in our little piece of south west Australia.  Tractors drive in ever decreasing circles with a variety of additions hanging off the back of them.  Rain is a distraction and this month we have had a wonderful period of clear blue skies giving into dry warm days that both set the hay crop and dried out the upper section of the soil profile in our vineyard.


With the month ending with 11mm of rain, it really took off the thrill of recording only 3.4mm of rain for the month. The average maximum and minimums were both well up on October and there was a very hot day in mid November which brought many of the vines growth forward.  The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:

November 2007:     

Avg Maximum Temp          23.5°C

Daily Max recorded            35.1°C


Avg Minimum Temp           10.7°C               

Daily Min recorded               5.0°C


Rainfall:                               14.4mm

The 2007 maximum temperature average was very similar to last years, but the minimum temperatures were quite lower due to clearer skies in 2007 in comparison to 2006.  Rainfall is a lot less in 2007 and this was welcome after a couple of wetter than average months in September and October.

November 2006:      

Avg Maximum Temp          23.5°C

Daily Max recorded            30.2°C

Avg Minimum Temp          13.1°C

Daily Min recorded              8.4°C


Rainfall:                            52.8mm

The comparison with Sonoma Valley continues with the data from the month of May 2007 (northern hemisphere’s equivalent to November) is presented below:

May 2007:      

Avg Maximum Temp          24.1°C

Daily Max recorded            33.3°C

Avg Minimum Temp             6.6°C

Daily Min recorded               1.7°C


Rainfall:                            10.9mm

The weather at the end of Spring in the Sonoma Valley has now become comparable to Margaret River.  The minimum temperatures however are still much lower than Margaret River minimums, but the maximums are quite similar.  Rainfall is very low and all of the falls occurred at the start of the month so I am assuming fruit set went quite well with clear warm days for the balance of the month.



Christmas is coming…


So we had better finish off all the odd jobs before we sit down to a feast of biblical proportions.  Completion of the 2nd wire lift, cleaning the base of vines, tidying up the Viognier and a further weed and mildew spray is the order of the month which should keep us out of harms way.  Also this month our house will be approaching completion and if all goes to plan we may be able to have Christmas dinner in our new lounge room.

200711_House NE Corner_resized.JPG

The Gifford residence on the Blue Poles estate nearly finished

It has been a busy and exciting year and as we look forward to the first addition to the Markwell family, we here at Blue Poles wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

All the best everyone.





Mark Gifford

Blue Poles Vineyard

bottom of page