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Monthly Report - December 2010

A sea of green…


While the surrounding countryside continues on its relentless march to a deeper shade of brown, our vines form a quilt cover of green in this quiet patch of Margaret River.  And it must be said, Osmington is as quiet as you will find in this neck of the woods – I work almost every day amongst the vines and if a vehicle goes past I always pop my head up to see who or what it is.  9.20am used to be the Challenge Milk Tanker, 4.05pm is the Margaret River school bus, 11.10am on Tuesday was the next door neighbor heading off to do her school lunch duties in Busselton, and so on and so on.  It is like having a big clock ticking away, settling you into the rhythms of the day – we all lead busy lives but I am very glad that I can take time to notice these little things as they are been squeezed out of modern life and that I am not so sure is a good thing.


This month has been a lot of hard work.  But at the end of 31 December I have managed to complete all the wire lifting, all the thinning in the Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and the Shiraz (as well as the fruit thinning – earlier the better I reckon), as well as keep the sprays up to date.  During November there was a tremendous amount of growth out there, but December was actually cooler and post flowering the vines have settled down a bit and all of the foliage looks about normal again.  Very happy with the Merlot and Shiraz, both look in good shape – but my old friend Cabernet Franc is just such a funny (frustrating) grape to grow and every year throws up another issue, ahh well it keeps me on my toes.

201012_Canes on Ground - Cab Franc 1210.

The spoils of thinning foliage

I have let the Viognier go a bit feral and will clean it up over the coming weeks – the reason for this is that I want a bit more leaf to fruit ratio such that the plant can store up a bit more energy for finishing off the ripening.  Viognier has a habit of having either very short or very long canes, but the same weight of fruit is on both and as such the “plant” tends to ripen the fruit rather than the cane on which the fruit sits.  This is a little bit anti-establishment but that just appears to be a feature of the grape and looking at photos of the fruiting vine in Condrieu you can see the same thing but within the “bush” vine setting.


With it being such a dry year I thought I would be irrigating by now, but that has been delayed until early Jan as we got two little periods of rain (about 15mm each) over the month and this meant I held back on applying more water.  You have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the irrigation as you do not wish to use it at all, but the vines in such a parched environment are unable to function properly without some support.  It should be noted though that the amount of water we irrigate with at Blue Poles is pretty much a tenth of the volume used elsewhere and is altered every week to account for what is happening out there in the vines.  With a series of heat waves expected in early January I will be keeping a wary eye on the weather charts as last year we lost a lot of fruit to sun burn when the mercury crept over 40°C on the afternoon of  17 January – I have left a touch more cover on the most affected varieties and kept the top wire on the west side off (or lower), so as to give some shade on this exposed section of fruit.


I had a quick look in the diary and I noted that I spent 24 days in the vineyard this month, and with the remaining days (and most nights), involved with work for some of my geological clients I have had a cracking month of work.  I was trying to find something in the attic a few days ago and noticed my golf clubs, I had to laugh to myself as that is one thing I would like to do but I have never had time.  Eight rounds in 6 years are not enough to warrant purchasing the clubs, but one day, one day….



Selling yourself…


Here is the trickiest part of doing what we are doing – and we still have no real understanding on how to do it.  The art of self-promotion is one that confuses and befuddles me as being a “natural born cynic”, anyone that talks themselves up tend to ensure I believe that they are “full of it”.  So in a sense I am the worst person in the world to tell the world that we are making the “best wine in the world”, as:


  1. I know that is not true, we make damn fine wine but not the best in the world (and who wants to hear my rambling excuses?)

  2. You would see through me straight away and you would most probably think “why is he saying this?” and a level of distrust would kick in before we have even started


But I look at an industry that has its fair share of spruikers and I just shake my head and wonder how they get away with it.  And unfortunately I know how they do it – simple really – just DON’T THINK ABOUT IT – just SAY IT and BELIEVE it.  Unfortunately for both Tim and I (and our families), this is like learning to speak an ancient Mayan language and we have to come up with alternatives to this form of self-promotion (self-flattery?).


So how do we get our name out there without spending a motza of money on advertising or free giveaways? (Oh how we love to give our wine away to functions that promise us “high profile” placement, to find out that most do not drink wine and those that do treat it as a social “fuel” to be guzzled quickly and voluminously).  It has made the gentle aspect of raising grapes and making wine into a bit of a puzzle that does not resolve itself.


We are grateful to our distributors, as they have managed to place us in some excellent restaurants and boutique retailers and from this we do get some name recognition and follow up contact.  Also the use of some wine critics and wine bloggers who are not under the sway of the retail giants have given us some great feedback and support – with all of our wines scoring in the top 10% of the wines tasted by the respective groups.  This is a great achievement for us as a start up winery, and to have taken the punt we have it perhaps is the most satisfying feat to date.  Social media in the form of twitter has been a learning curve and it has become a chat room of fellow wine makers and die hard wine lovers so as such is not really an “expansive” setting but one which makes the support base wider.  Facebook is the devil’s spawn – so we will skip that one.


So in summary we are still waving our arms.  We like to think that all our wine buyers are our biggest advertisement and this may be the key to it all.  The level of positive feedback from drinkers of our wine is ongoing and really pleasing – everyone that gets on the Blue Poles train really enjoys the trip.  So to all of you out there who drink and enjoy our wine, thanks so much and congratulations on being able to find some of the “best wine in the world” without having been told just that!



A touch of normality...


The month’s weather has pulled back from the heat waves of November and gone to a moderate heat more typical of this time of year.  The only odd aspect is the continual easterly winds which have blown strongly everyday due to the weather in the Eastern States as well as to the north of Western Australia.  The interconnectivity of all our weather patterns is quite astounding; with floods to the north of us bringing our weather in Margaret River back into line – difficult to comprehend at times.


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

December 2010:     

Avg Maximum Temp          24.5°C

Daily Max recorded            32.6°C


Avg Minimum Temp           13.6°C               

Daily Min recorded               6.7°C


Rainfall:                               32.1mm

The maximum temperature range is very similar to last year and this is pretty much on the warmer side of average since I have been collecting weather data.  The minimum temperatures are slightly warmer this year, and this is attributed to the constant easterlies which bring warmth from the centre of the state into the region from early morning.  Rainfall occurred over two periods with ~15mm from 5-8 Dec and ~15mm from 21-24 December, providing a small respite from the dry conditions.

December 2009:      

Avg Maximum Temp          24.9°C

Daily Max recorded            33.6°C

Avg Minimum Temp           11.7°C

Daily Min recorded               5.8°C


Rainfall:                              3.6mm


The annual rainfall for 2010 was 681.8mm of rain – a paltry total as we expect (and need) about 1000mm a year to keep all aspects of our ecology stable.  Another dry year such as the one just been could start to put some real pressure on our groundwater supplies and the health of our forests and pastures.  As Dave Dobbyn sings “Everywhere you go always take the weather with you” – so please if you feel in a wet and miserable mood roll on into Margaret River next winter and give us a top up J



A change of colour …


'Tis the month of veraison, with the white grapes getting soft and slowly getting a golden hue and the red grapes moving from green to blushing purple to a nice deep obsidian black just prior to harvest.  Still some cleaning up to do amongst the vines but the bulk of this work is complete so we fall a bit into the hands of the vintage gods going forward.  Nets on the whites may be in place at the end of this month, which is always a fun job and here is hoping they do not end up in the boundary trees as they did last year.  My parents make a trip west to stay for a few weeks so everyone is looking forward to that, and I have some geological work abroad to help pay for all the new barrels for the vintage.  An exciting time as always, so all the best everyone and a very happy new year to you all.

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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