Monthly Report - November 2010
A vineyard full of growth…
I must admit to feeling a bit tired. This month has been hectic and I can not see the end of this “busy-ness” for a good 4 weeks due to the mad rush of growth the vines are currently in. Being only one of me, and 13,000 of them I am a bit outnumbered by the vines – but I know they can not run away so I will eventually get through them all and give them a good thinning and general health check. The season is just rushing through with the weather feeling like midsummer, and the ground as dry as old boot leather it has given me little respite from wire lifting, cane thinning, and pretty soon fruit thinning. I am not used to it being quite as dramatic as this, though in 2006 it was very dry preceding the 2007 vintage, but I did not have the vineyard as advanced as we have it now and this has meant a lot of review and thought on how to handle this situation.
Thinning the Merlot
While dropping one of the children off to the dentist this morning there was a list of weather records broken this month and season, and it makes me wonder what a typical season now is?
Hottest November on record
Driest spring since 2006 (which was the driest on record)
First occurrence of a heat wave in November (3 days >35°C) which was achieved twice
“Sunniest” November on record.
All these records add up to me as a headache. I just do not know what the effects will be within the vineyard with regards to fruit quality and quantity this year as these heat waves have occurred during flowering and many of the vines have set what appears to be incomplete bunches. For all this it may still be a fantastic season – who can tell – but with the heat and the dry we have had no pressure at all from mildews and the like, with the sprays I have put out keeping the vineyard very clean. One of the side effects of a very dry spring is the massive load of insects that appear – weevils and snails are still hanging about, but pleasingly with our 'no insecticide' policy we have a big load of spiders and ladybugs throughout the canopy and for the first time I have encountered some praying mantises (which are pretty cool bugs). The damage to date at Blue Poles therefore has been pretty minimal, though this can not be said to be the case throughout the region as many vineyards have been hurt by the heavy weevil infestations this year.
November is also Margaret River Wine Show month, and many of you do not need reminding that I am not really a fan of the show system and all the guff that goes with it. We enter the wine show to simply have an opportunity to taste through all the wines from the large to small producers of the region to see how it all goes out there. This year I must admit to encountering the most inconsistent judging within classes that I have seen since attending these functions. To be honest it does not mean much to anyone anymore with regards to who wins gold or bronze, but if a judging panel wants to be taken seriously then they must do better than what we saw with the chardonnay, Merlot and a few other classes.
It appears the rule defined by this show was that “if it is very aromatic, regardless of what it smells of, then you are up for a medal” – it became quite a sad commentary of the show system if nothing else. Talking to other winemakers post the tasting it became almost a general agreement that the show system is there solely for the people within the system and the thought that some generic promotion can be generated for a lucky winner – it has zip to do with defining good wine anymore in my eyes. From the perspective of the wines the 08 reds are looking good in a more classical way, the few 09 reds I saw are a touch variable but appear more fruit driven and may prove better drinkers in the short term. With regards to the whites, it seems that the region has found consistency vintage after vintage now with lots of lovely wines, but the 09 chardonnays are becoming leaner with the years passing and that may be due to the trend with this variety. It does highlight that Margaret River is a great place to grow grapes and that I do not disagree with.
Also this month we have started a promotion to raise funds for the No Coal!tion action group based in Osmington. As a vineyard who is in the firing line, so to speak, we are not prepared to let this mine go ahead unchallenged and potentially stopping our capacity to make fine wine and destroy the hard earned reputation of the region. We have re-released the 2005 Merlot / Cabernet Franc and in conjunction with the 2009 Viognier we are offering single or mixed 6 and case lots at discounted prices with $2 from every bottle going to the fighting fund. If you are after some great wines at a great price please pick up some and help a good cause, both wines are drinking extremely well and should provide great pleasure over the next few months.
So in a nut shell this month has been flatter chatter. It has been slashed and sprayed and wires lifted all over the shop, but the thinning is ongoing and ongoing. For all the work the place still looks pretty good and the vintage may prove to be a cracker – time will tell.
Teroldego – grape of mystery…
Our first vintage of the Teroldego vines has been bottled, giving us a grand total of 69 7/12 cases of this unusual and rare red wine. This month I will try and give some background to the variety and outline how we managed to secure the cuttings that led to this wine.
With the advent of the internet all such research issues as finding out about the Teroldego vines and wines are now assumed to be easily achieved. Or so I thought. The first site to visit is Google, which leads to the second Wikipedia – with the total information pertaining to the Teroldego grape being as below:
Wine has been produced since ancient times in "Campo Rotaliano", an alluvial plain between the rivers Adige and Noce (in northern Italy). Teroldego takes its name from its traditional method of cultivation, trained on a system of “tirelle” or wire harnesses, an explanation that's more likely, if less pretty, than its legendary association with German dialect for gold of the Tirol. It has recently been discovered to be a full sibling of the Dureza variety from France, which is one of the parents of Syrah.
The grapes ripen around the last week of September or the first week of October.
Cultivation & winemaking
The wine Teroldego Rotaliano, which is made with this grape in the Province of Trento, has had DOC status since 18 February 1971. It is planted on 390.5 hectares and is cultivated by over 300 producers.
Some California authorities compare Teroldego to Zinfandel, with its spicy red fruits, and hints of tar, pine, and almond, but few tasters would confuse the two varieties in a blind tasting. Its snappy acidity makes it a versatile food wine.
And from this point on the information above is repeated ad nauseam. We do find out a little bit about the region in which it is grown from one website www.snooth.com where they discuss some aspects of the vines history, taste a few bottles, and give a brief summary of the geology. The geology bit was interesting I must admit, as the area “Campo Rotaliano” is a man-made alluvial plain through the redirecting of the Noce River away from a perpendicular confluence with the Adige River (massive flooding would occur without the redirection), see the diagram below:
So the area in blue is very young outwash sediments that now harbor the best growing sites for the Teroldego grape. But really that is about it from the vine and location point of view – even Hugh Johnson’s Wine Companion barely raises a mention of the vine.
Even wine information is pretty sketchy. There appears to be 2 main styles, the first is light and crunchy with lots of bright red cherry flavors and a little tannic (beefed up Beaujolais is often used here), and the second a bigger wine and I will quote “lush, concentrated dark stone fruit and black cherry flavors and aromas offset by smoke, herb, and bitter almond notes”. With the difference between the two assumed to be yield only, though I am sure the winemaker will have a role to play. There appear to be numerous producers but many sell into the major wineries (Cavit and MezzaCorona), and it is apparent that only a few produce wines from their own vines in their own wineries.
The most well known and now beatified as the savior of Teroldego is Elisabetta Foradori. It is through her promotional activities as well as the improvement of the Foradori wines that Teroldego was saved from total obscurity. It was Elisabetta that John Durham (ex- winemaker Cape Mentelle) met while travelling in Italy and this meeting led to him importing the variety to Western Australia and planting on his property on Bramley River Road, Osmington. Unfortunately John never got to make a Teroldego from those vines, but one year he gave to us 42 cuttings from his small batch of ~40 plants and from this we have raised our small allotment.
So in a very roundabout way we come back to the first 69 7/12 cases of Blue Poles 2009 Teroldego. This is not a wine that you can in any way describe as lightweight! It is a deep dark brooding wine that in the glass looks like swirling obsidian. The nose is rich and full of deep fruit flavors and those savoury hints that we often associate the wines of Barolo – tar and dry herbs – a compelling mix. Not overblown at all, this wine when drunk gives one the feeling of deep fruit and structure but with that “Italianate” flavor that is so distinctive and delicious. The source of this wine can go directly to the hands of Elisabetta Foradori and her vineyards, and her love and respect for the variety – I think we have done it justice and we look forward to the release early in 2011.
Dry and even warmer...
As mentioned at the start of this report the weather has been extremely warm for such an early point in the season. I am pretty sure we are the only wine growing state that is in this position as in the eastern states of Australia there has been deluges of rain throughout spring such that many vine chemicals for the control of mildews have been sold out, while we sit here and swelter.
The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:
Avg Maximum Temp 25.1°C
Daily Max recorded 36.2°C
Avg Minimum Temp 11.3°C
Daily Min recorded 5.3°C
The maximum temperature range is a lot warmer in comparison to last year, but the minimums are similar, ensuring that this was a very hot month. Quickly checking back through my records the highest maximum for November we have encountered since we have been growing grapes is 23.5°C in 2006, thus you can see just how big the heat load has been this month. Rainfall is again very low, thus our total spring total is <100mm of rain, which put with a very low winter rainfall makes the whole groundwater recharge and vine growth windows potentially quite distressing moving into summer.
Avg Maximum Temp 22.7°C
Daily Max recorded 32.4°C
Avg Minimum Temp 10.8°C
Daily Min recorded 4.9°C
The vineyard yells …
I have to crack on such that all the vines are thinned and cleaned up by Christmas, my normal deadline for this job. Thus there is little time for anything else, which means presents may be bought on the net this year and delivered to the house! A couple more sprays should be put out and the top wires will be put in place as well so all should be neat and tidy as we await veraison and the heat of summer. We hope you are all excited about Christmas and New Years and we here at Blue Poles wish you all the very best for the coming festive season.
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 www.twitter.com/bluepoles and we’ll do our very best to answer any question.
Blue Poles Vineyard