top of page

Monthly Report - October 2008

A month of bending down…


Whenever I walk into the vineyard, all I can see is acres and acres of de-budding and shoot thinning that is required.  When almost anyone else wanders in, they say it looks absolutely lovely and what a lovely job you have.  Alas to complete de-budding and shoot thinning involves a lot of bending down as you need to clean to the base of the vine and continually train your eyes along the top of the cordon, shoulders hunched, scrutinising for any growth that is not required.  It is long winded, but oh so important as we need to have the vines putting their growth into the canes that matter (i.e. the ones that will be bearing grapes), and not using up energy on “trivial” growth. 


Another reason for the importance of cleaning the vines is because of the low level of fertilisers used in the estate, as we want the plants to search for nutrients and not be hand fed.  You can argue that vine health is more important, no problems here, but we have decided that you have to extract as much of the site as you can into the vines and that means making them search for nutrients in lower profiles of the soil.  We do mulch back in all the midrow growth, and we keep a sharp eye on the soil pH levels, spread some manure around smaller plants, but as for super phosphates and other such chemicals we avoid them as much as possible.  I noted with interest a peasant’s response to the question posed by Thomas Jefferson when touring the Bordeaux in 1787 “How do you manure your vines”, with the answer “sparingly” a pretty good response I thought.


Our spray program has begun in earnest with two sprays put out, mainly for the control of Powdery and Downy mildews.  The vines look very clean at the moment, though we do have a little bit of garden weevil poking its head out of the ground, and whether we spray a systemic insecticide for this pest will be decided in the next week or so as we do try and avoid using such chemicals if at all possible.


While cleaning the vines this weekend with my daughter Abi, we came across a bee hive that had flown into the vineyard and plonked itself on the cordon of row Merlot 4.  Unfortunately for me I was not looking up as I was cleaning the base of vines and managed to get a few stings from angry bees – it did make for an exciting few minutes as we both ran up the row waving our hats about!  We will be ringing an apiarist next week and getting it removed to collect honey elsewhere.

200810_Bee Hive.jpg

A bee hive in the Merlot

2007 vintage complete…


An interesting title, because most of my work on the 2007 vintage was completed post the picking of the grapes.  Back then we had an inkling that these grapes were special as the vintage was just so even and dry.  Once the grapes landed with Sharna, our wine maker, they went through primary fermentation and at that point, and staring into these inky black hedonistic young wines, we were further empowered by the thought that these wines were going to be good.  All the new oak, and some tender loving care, followed by concentrated barrel selections; we came to the point of bottling which occurred at the start of this month.  Three wines were bottled and all of them make us very very happy – and provide the confirmation that this site will produce wines of the highest quality, for now and into the future.  The wines made were:


  • 2007 Blue Poles 'Hopping Stone' Tempranillo

  • 2007 Blue Poles 'Allouran' (Merlot / Cabernet Franc)

  • 2007 Blue Poles Reserve Merlot


All three wines have a different story to tell, and as they are released each story will be told.  We hope to release in the coming weeks our 2006 Blue Poles 'Allouran' and 2007 Blue Poles 'Hopping Stone' Tempranillo – both are excellent wines and exciting in the context of where we are going with our style and our site.


A normal month, what is going on?...


Well when a month of weather is as you expect it then you start to worry even more, so fingers crossed this continues.  A lovely spring month in the Margaret River region with all the grass and vines exploding into life, with the colour green being extremely popular.  Minimum temperatures have been very pleasant with no hint of frost (with that danger passed us now), and the days have been warm but not hot and this has meant great growth throughout the estate.  Rainfall has been patchy and related to 4 events, with only the weather of the 23rd – 25th being the most worrying as hail was predicted, and fortunately no hail came from the weather during this period for the whole Margaret River region.


The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:

October 2008:     

Avg Maximum Temp          19.8°C

Daily Max recorded            29.2°C


Avg Minimum Temp           10.2°C               

Daily Min recorded               5.4°C


Rainfall:                               55.3mm

The 2008 maximum temperature average is warmer than last years, as is the minimum temperatures; quickly looking back at last year’s monthly report I was complaining about the cool start to the year.  Rainfall is more in 2007 than 2008, but the current year’s rainfall is more in line with the average for October in this region.

October 2007:      

Avg Maximum Temp          18.8°C

Daily Max recorded            25.6°C

Avg Minimum Temp             8.5°C

Daily Min recorded               4.4°C


Rainfall:                             85.6mm

I have been fortunate to get David Lloyd of Eldridge Estate in the Mornington Peninsula to agree to pass on some information on how their vintage is going, but I have not been able to get Prof from Majella in the Coonawarra to answer his email, hopefully next month.  Below are the October weather figures for both sites:

Coonawarra October 2008:      

Avg Maximum Temp          22.0°C

Daily Max recorded            33.2°C

Avg Minimum Temp             7.5°C

Daily Min recorded               0.3°C


Rainfall:                                5.0mm

Mornington October 2008:     

Avg Maximum Temp          19.8°C

Daily Max recorded            30.7°C

Avg Minimum Temp             8.5°C

Daily Min recorded               1.4°C


Rainfall:                              21.8mm

It is immediately apparent that Coonawarra appears a month ahead of both MR and MP for the maximum temperatures, but this is counterbalanced by the significantly lower minimum average.  It was reported that frosts struck the Coonawarra region, and I can not help but think it was on the 23rd of October, which is quite late in the month, when the minimum temps dropped to 0.3°C, implying that in low lying areas there would be quite a high susceptibility to frost.  The Coonawarra also has had its rainfall dramatically reduced this month so the region will be drying out quite quickly bringing the vines more forward in their growth.


David from Mornington has written that budburst for the Chardonnay was on September 1st, which is three weeks in advance of the average, and Pinot though a few weeks later in budburst also is in budburst 3 weeks earlier than the average.  The vineyard at Eldridge has dried out with the low rainfall for the past two months, and they have not incurred any frost damage, though there have been a few cool nights.  As with us, the growth rate in the vineyard has been phenomenal and he is doing a lot of debudding and shoot thinning to keep the plants “concentrating”.


More work I am afraid…


Last month I got all enthusiastic with the knowledge that the vineyard will be bursting into life and we will be flat out to keep up with it.  This month the knowledge that we still have a few more weeks of these continual rounds throughout the vineyard, my enthusiasm is not quite as perky as it was last month!  We do get a couple of friendly workers in for a day, which should be fun, there is the Margaret River wine show to look forward to, and I have got some remote exploration work to complete which will make a pleasant change – so all in all it should be a good month.

All the best everyone.





Mark Gifford

Blue Poles Vineyard

bottom of page