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Monthly Report - June 2010


And it begins …


Pruning is a methodical process – every vine that is pruned will be initially reviewed, then cut and cleaned with bud counts and cordon coverage matched to the vines canopy and trunk size.  You get pretty quick with this when you know exactly what you are after (as I do with regards to our vines), but it is very hard to explain to someone else and this means that much of the pruning will be a task I will knock out with my wife Gail.  Pruning has commenced a little early but I have had flu for a week or so and this has put the program back a week or two, but once I get into the swing of things then it will not take too long to complete.


This month was also the release of the 2008 Blue Poles Reserve Merlot. It is our second reserve wine and one that we are very proud of as it keeps the extremely high standard set by the 2007 Reserve Merlot.  It has been reviewed in the “The Big Red Wine Book 2010/11” and within the book it was regarded as one of the top 2 Merlots in Australia.


The process of making a reserve wine is quite time consuming and teeth blackening.  Every barrel of wine from the vintage is tasted and ranked for various components that I am after in a wine – some barrels are quite tannic, some are quite aromatic, and others are very fruit forward but all of these components are required to make the best wine possible.  Once all the barrels have been ranked then the blending process begins with all possible combinations of various barrels put together and tasted once more.  After a few hours you locate the combination and this is then pooled and then put back into their marked barrels.  All of this tasting and re-tasting also gives me a window on the oak barrels we use and their effect on the finished wine, as well as guide me on other barrel purchases into the future.


Another job completed during the month was the undervine spraying, and this will make the vineyard look very tidy once all the rows are nicely cleaned.  The shed got a brush out once more as we lock down for winter proper, and I have had a quick run around tidying up some wires and clips etc – it is nearly impossible to be completely up to date when you run a vineyard!


Also this month we have the great honor of starting a relationship with 2 distributors based on the East Coast of Australia.  Vranken-Pommery will represent Blue Poles wines in Melbourne and Sydney, and The Wine Box will represent us in Brisbane – this is great news as it gives me more time to spend in the vineyard and winery to ensure the attention to detail is kept and the wine continues to be of the highest quality.



An indulgence …


For the past week or so I have been a bit ill with the flu – your sympathy is gratefully acknowledged – and normally when I am ill I lie in bed and moan a lot, and this week has been no exception. Apart from putting my pruning schedule out the back by 7-10 days it has given me the opportunity to read a few books that were building up and it also gave rise to a series of thoughts with regards to the similarities of wine to literature.


I have always read a lot, but never considered myself very good at English (in fact did not even take the subject in my last year of secondary schooling), as though I loved the text, I never could use words well to express what I was thinking.  Through university I must have read 1000’s of science journals and reading texts, but my writing skills were still pretty basic.  My poor old Professor, Roger Briggs, who worked with me through my Masters thesis must have just turned sick at the thought of me dropping off another chapter of poor tense and repeated words – I now remember him most fondly perhaps of this capacity to still grin (grimace?), at me even when I walked in with an A4 bundle of type.  When university was all done, off my wife and I went to the world to find work, and with that found, children came early, thus I read very little for 5 years or so until I started working away from home in the outback of Western Australia, and from this exile of mining camps I ignited my love of the well written word.


Drinking fine wine is a contemplative process, what is in the bottle is a whole world of delight wrapped in history, terroir, personality, and process.  By knowing some of these aspects of the wine in front of you, you suddenly have a greater and deeper understanding of the wine and what it represents.  This is so similar to many of the great works of literature, that to rush through them is almost blasphemous. What I would like to do in a totally self indulgent way is to provide a list of authors and relate them to the world of wine by country or region.  I will explain the connections as I go along and if you have read the author or drunk the wine I hope you can enjoy the analogies.


Günter Grass / German Wine:

The whole sweep of north eastern Germany (Polish) history is represented in the writings of the living shaman Günter Grass.  His writings are all distinctly his own as you swear half he has ever written is autobiographical, but then you think which half?  And which half of that half is the truth?  It is confusing but systematic, it is poetic but crisp, it is steeped in history but of the now – this is both the writings of Grass and German wines in a sentence. I am blowed if I can remember all the exact ratings of sweetness for all the various Rieslings, or all the varieties in Germany (why do they call Pinot Noir “Spätburgunder” for example) – but I know that there is a historic rumble within these wines.  Read Grass or drink German wine and understand you are been told a truth, a truth that comes from a deep historic consciousness.


Bruce Chatwin / Champagne:

Many people remember the day a President or musician dies – but with me I still remember the day Chatwin died.  I could not believe it, I had only just finished a few of his books and was in awe as they were some of the best books I had ever read.  And he was dead.  All the subsequent biographies have not dimmed the writings; they are genius through their brevity and insight.  Champagne has that diamond like clarity that Chatwin pared text to – the complexity is “your” reaction to the nuance, the fine bead of slimmed adjectives ensures you do not loll your head around, focus, it is there in front of you, just look!  Both are simply superb and are celebrations of a craft.


Salman Rushdie / Ribera del Duero, Spain:

To discuss Rushdie is to provide ballast to his image – but to read Rushdie is to find that an author’s view of the world sometimes will overtake his imagination and defy debate, it simply, is.  All of Rushdie’s books have in their heart the separation of colonial India into the 3 nations we see today – it was an event that has a black core.  The wines that match such a definitive event are the inky wells of Ribera de Duero where the black grape Tempranillo underpins all of these brilliant wines.  The wines and their wineries are grand gestures of taming an environment and showing the wealth of the idea – and like Rushdie’s penmanship, the gestures are embroidered with a knowledge that one day this region will be one of the most well regarded in the world.

201006_Bodegas Protos Winery.jpg

Bodegas Protos Winery – Ribera del Duero, Spain

Gabriel Garcia Marquez / Bordeaux:

Some authors have with them the “legend” of their fame brought forward as the reason why they are great rather than the literature itself.  The same could be said of the Bordeaux region.  But to read Marquez is to marvel at the world through a set of eyes that are irreplaceable – the haughty prose is infused with magic and legend that baits the reader with desire to know more, but the information is drip fed or inferred leaving you that little bit desperate. Fine Bordeaux wine has the same effect, to know the communes and classifications by wrote means nothing – to know the communes and classifications by smell and taste means everything.  Where reality confirms legend then this is the work of Marquez and Bordeaux.


Thomas Pynchon / Chateauneuf-du-Pape :

Some books are unreadable, you start, restart and feel belittled by the text – welcome to the world of Pynchon.  Itis hard, but you persevere until a light goes off and then like having learnt a foreign language you can read this book, you can track the 100’s of characters, you can place the story line in history, you are hooked.  The wines of southern Rhone have that exact same appeal, difficult to follow a thread, hard to decipher the flavours, a myriad of grape varieties to confuse, but once you allow emotion to overtake analysis you are hooked.  You revisit often as much is still murky, but in the immersion you confirm the wicked trickiness of both, and yes, you are hooked.


Peter Carey / McLaren Vale Shiraz:

Some authors have a voice in text that will not be quiet – like an accent that is so broad that you enjoy the “saying” of a word as much as the word itself.  But it is an acquired taste, like oysters, where the flavour is dominant at all times you need to acclimatise and work your way along enjoying the pearls.  The fat redolent expressions of Shiraz from the McLaren Vale are like these works of Carey, pitched for those who enjoy the round beauty they never give in to moderation or modulation.  Drink and read knowing that this is unique, this is how they are, and this is something that you cannot get elsewhere.


Jim Crace / Mornington Pinot Noir:

There is a theory in Physics that provides for the presence of many parallel universes to explain mass and energy – what Jim Crace does is outline to the reader what our nearest parallel universe is like.  He writes of cities and towns, fields and forests – but they are not of this world, they are not named, they are not revered, and they are in a world where you see the similarities but can not see the connections. It is hellishly spooky, but oh so clever and oh so delicious.  To attempt to mimic Burgundy you need to generate your own parallel universe, it needs to feel similar (but be on Mars), you need an expression that finds a way into your heart without explanation.  Mornington Pinot Noir has that “Crace-esque” quality where wines tremble at the edge of vision.


So to finish this little treatise I will define a selected author’s book and a wine to drink with the book – a perfect way to spend any evening.


  • “The Meeting at Telgte” by Gunter Grass

    • J Prum “Sonnenuhr” Auslese Riesling

  • “Utz” by Bruce Chatwin

    • Pommery Champagne

  • “100 years of Solitude” by GG Marquez

    • Ch La Conseillante

  • “Mason and Dixon” by Thomas Pynchon

    • Ch de Beaucastel

  • “The Fat Man in History” by Peter Carey

    • Marius Simpatico

  • “Arcadia” by Jim Crace

    • Eldridge Estate Pinot Noir

  • “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” by Rushdie

    • Pesquera Tinto Crianza

201006_Peter Carey.jpg

Cover artwork of “The Fat Man in History” by Peter Carey

Cool and grey, but dry...


I remember last June, it literally poured every day and I was starting to go a bit stir crazy with the repetitive nature of the weather and the jobs in front of me.  This year the weather has been consistently grey and overcast but the heavy rainfalls have not eventuated.  But for a drier month than normal, there has been a lot of grass growth and our next door neighbours have had a significant jump in milk production (which is great for them and their bank balance).


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

June 2010:     

Avg Maximum Temp          17.3°C

Daily Max recorded            20.1°C


Avg Minimum Temp             7.1°C               

Daily Min recorded               0.7°C


Rainfall:                               84.3mm

The maximum temperature range is very similar to last year, but the minimum is not as high as last year due to lower levels of cloud cover.  As mentioned above, it hardly stopped raining last June, whereas this year there have been a few wet days, but many days with rainfall of 1mm or less.

June 2009:      

Avg Maximum Temp          17.0°C

Daily Max recorded            22.5°C

Avg Minimum Temp             9.2°C

Daily Min recorded               4.6°C


Rainfall:                              298.2mm

Pruning gets going in earnest …


I have had an unusual month of work, travel and illness – enough of the variability! It is time to get to work and get cracking on the vines and complete a large section of the pruning prior to the start of the following month.  I will also have a look at pruning the roses at the head of the vines as well as doing some more work around the house if we have time.  As always there are 100 jobs to do and the only way to do them is to start at the beginning.

As always if you have any queries about what’s been written or about wine in general, do not hesitate to contact us either by email or and we’ll do our very best to answer any question.





Mark Gifford

Blue Poles Vineyard

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