Monthly Report - January 2011
Warm and verdant …
Cherry red sunsets have been the order of the month, with one warm day after another only being interrupted by the occasional rainy day (though the interruption could have been dramatic as a cyclone collapsed away from us on 30 January). It has been a month where I have finished off the thinning, wire lifting, spraying and fruit dropping and am now letting the vines do their thing for the last 6-9 weeks of vintage. There is still the risk of mildews caused by large rain events, but when you get this late into the season, you are a bit in the lap of the gods as you may not recover your position whatever you do.
With regards to the vintage, it is really hard to pick how the fruit will come off – rich, ripe and early like the 2007, or will they push out with a cooler February and become more classic in flavor like 2008. It has been a funny old ride through vintage this year and I have this feeling that there will be further twists and turns to come.
As mentioned the vines are all securely locked within their wires – so it is a waiting game. We have however had a chance to sit down with a few bottles of the 2009 Teroldego, and we will be releasing this wine in the next few weeks. It is exciting as we believe it is the only example of this variety in Western Australia and it is so individual that sitting back and providing comparative notes is not worthwhile – so I will give you a tasting note from a bottle cracked yesterday:
“Deep red black, that when swirled stains the glass and provides tears of alcohol. The nose has calmed from the exuberance of youth and is now a combination of rich red fruit (cherry, mulberry, plum) with a savory note of Italian herbs and French oak spice – it smells fat and juicy but you sense the Italian sensibility holding it together. To drink it is a mouthful of flavor, rich and round in the mid palate but gives into a solid dry length. Tannins are very un-Blue Poles with big blocks of them to the fore, but they mesh in with the fruit such that you would say they are a required element of the wine. Quirky, puzzling, but golly this is delicious. I’m one for thinking this may be the wine of all wines for Mexican food – but just drink it and try to think of a reason not to pour yourself another glass (bet you can’t).”
Blue Poles Teroldego
All who have been my “guinea pigs” with the Teroldego have thoroughly enjoyed the wine and often just sit wondering what had just happened to them. We will deliver some bottles to wine critics to get their perspective and that in itself will be an interesting series of reads – they may need to realign their perceptions which could be fun.
This month, and for the next 2-3 monthly reports I am going to have a go at writing 1000 word essays on a topic associated with wine. “Gourmet Traveller” magazine run a competition each year, but due to my busyness I failed to get something in for 2011, so I will have a few practice runs (for 2012), and if anyone has any comments (or topics you would liked discussed), please feel free to drop in a line and I will take them on board. So this month is a generic look at cellaring.
Primal urges drive wine collectors, and to cellar their prey is the pin to the butterfly’s back. To explain the longing and then the passive control of a wine, makes for pages of psychoanalysis – but it must be said that the true avid collector will go to extreme lengths to obtain a wine he seeks, extreme lengths. So the wine is discovered and then sought, purchased with confidence of provenance, and then delivered to shaking hands – but never drunk instantly, oh no, it is placed away for another time. Why is the circle incomplete? The spoils of victory dashed?
Simply, the wine collector seeks a moment in time when and where this wine will be perfect. Not good, not brilliant, not even without compare – it is to be perfect. He knows (if he was honest with himself), that in almost every wine he acquires that perfection will never be attained, but with every purchase of a wine that is cellared this rudimentary fact is quickly forgotten. And here is the key, for any wine to achieve perfection it is to be carefully cellared – where the wine’s puppy fat of youth will be shed and a wine of weight, depth, and magnificence will rise.
So what is this magical mythical “cellaring” and what actually does it do? Cellaring is the storage of a wine in controlled temperature (10-17oC) and humidity (for cork sealed wines), in a stable environment (to be neither shaken nor stirred). Wine will then over time have its chemical components congregate (e.g. tannins bind and settle in the wine), or dissipate (e.g. acids reduce in strength). But to assume the process is constant or predictable is not possible as wine is a complex web of chemicals and how it ages will be unique to that bottle, one of life’s little mysteries. It is this transference of the wine from the brashness of youth, to mature complex rounded flavors that makes cellaring the key to unlocking a wine’s potential.
Red wines are the preferred cellar target, with regions and varieties that have passed the test of time, so to speak. Bordeaux (or our equivalents of Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot), Burgundy (Pinot Noir), Rhone (Shiraz), Barolo (Nebbiolo), Rioja (Tempranillo) form the spine of any red wine cellar. For white wines, fewer gain notoriety through cellaring, but wines that do include Burgundy (Chardonnay), Bordeaux (Semillon), Alsace – Rhein (Riesling) and Champagne are the best performing with some needing decades to develop a pitch perfect balance.
But the hiding of bottles into a cellar has a dark side and these are rarely raised or discussed in “train spotters central”, or wine clubs for short. Many (if not most), wines cannot be cellared for long as their structure is so flimsy that if you drop out the tannins, reduce the fruit and acid, you are left with … air? A nothing wine, a hole as such. Also many wines can bloom yeast known as brettanomyces, upon which a wine will be impaled with the flavors of a “horses arse”. Often wine collectors will drink wines cellared past their use by date and they will excuse them like doting parents and salve the wound with comments of “I quite like these lighter style wines” – a sad and regrettable fact. It is the cost of chasing the perfection they seek.
So you enjoy a glass of wine, you have had a glass of “older” wine and quite enjoyed it, and then during an epiphany of clear thought you feel the need to …”cellar a wine or two that could improve with age”. I am afraid to say that you have taken that first step down a very slippery slope – but as a fellow tragic I will try and sort the wheat from the chaff for you at these very early stages. So pen you take up Luke Skywalker, and numbers you follow:
How to store wine: Quite simple, buy a wine cabinet. It may seem expensive but considering the bottles you may ruin if you do not it will be a bargain over time. Buy the largest you can afford, and then try and get something bigger – you can NEVER have enough storage for cellaring, which is as proven as the law of gravity. Only when the bug has infected you would you consider building a cellar – think of yourself as a child learning to play the violin, there is no point in getting a Stradivarius until you have learnt to play a chord.
Wine to cellar: I am afraid to say but at this point on your vinous travels this is when you become a wine snob … sorry. Most wine in the WORLD will not age that well, and even more if the wine is worth <$15 – wines made to a price point or from grapes without pedigree. So no matter what you hear about amazing “age-able” bargains, walk away and get back to basics. Buy from regions or varieties that have a history of cellaring well, and then select from producers who rely on the reputation of their wines. For red wines, if you can, buy a bottle of the wine you want to cellar – open, pour and drink a glass or two, leave overnight, drink a further glass or two and repeat. If the wine is still enjoyable on the second, third or even fourth day you have a stayer. For white wines it is less clear cut, but often if a white is enjoyed more the next day than the first you are on the right track.
How long to wait: Oh the cry of dismay as a cherished bottle is poured down the sink as it was well past its best. If you are to cellar wine it is imperative that you purchase a minimum of 4-6 bottles, as you can then drink one or two as the years pass and avoid a scenario as painted above. There is no hard and fast rule on how long wines will age – check the progress after about 4-5 years and then if all is well plan the next bottle as short or as long as required.
Wines during the early years of cellaring go through phases like children entering adulthood. Sulky and recalcitrant behavior is common, so if a wine you have cellared is a touch mute and dull on the first tasting, do not panic. Realize that like a teenager, it will become a member of the human race in a few years – wait them out. Be careful of wines that are jam packed full of fruit, tannin, and alcohol – many will not age as they are built for instantaneous pleasure, not grafted love. And lastly if a wine tastes green hard and awful when young, do not believe your cellar will kiss the frog – it is a frog.
Drinking and enjoying wine is one of the world’s greatest pleasures. To sit down with a wine that you have cellared from youth and drinking now at its peak of flavor and complexity is memorable at worst, life changing at best. You see just sometimes the stars align and the wine and the world are … perfect.
Warm with a touch of wet...
It has been a touch warmer than average this month at Blue Poles, with both the maximum and minimum warmer than most months in the past 10 years. Though unusually for January we have received some “significant” rainfall events with two days in the month providing over 15mm each of warm tropical like rain – this has kept the vines perked up and the irrigation programs going on/off/on/off/on etc. While I type this we had a tropical cyclone heading down the west coast of the state, which has now turned away from Margaret River and weakened significantly and may put some rain on the roofs of the good people of Perth. It is a touch nervy seeing these large cyclones making it around the North West cape as they could cause serious damage to vintage and the vines.
The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:
Avg Maximum Temp 27.1°C
Daily Max recorded 33.0°C
Avg Minimum Temp 14.3°C
Daily Min recorded 9.9°C
The maximum temperature range is very similar to last year, but the minimum is higher than last year due to more humid air and a fairly consistent easterly each morning keeping the warmth. Rainfall is ~40mm more this year in comparison to last, with most of the rainfall coming as “events” rather than days of rain and cloud.
Avg Maximum Temp 26.9°C
Daily Max recorded 39.3°C
Avg Minimum Temp 13.2°C
Daily Min recorded 7.2°C
Vintage is creeping up on us …
February is the month that basically finishes off the grapes and defines what sort of vintage you will have. Extreme heat (which is common) could bring the grapes forward too fast and reduce the flavor profile and structural integrity, rain and humidity could cause an outbreak of botrytis or other mildews and that could ruin quality and volumes, and cool weather could set the grapes back and make ripening to their full potential difficult. All we can do is roll with the punches, nets will go out and keep the pesky birds off, and a further run of fruit dropping may be the order of the day if I am not too happy with the set I put out during thinning in November and December. Like the nervous nineties in cricket – just keep your head down and concentrate on the ball and it will work out in the end.
Now, I know I made a monumental mistake in saying Dave Dobbyn wrote “Weather with you” in the last monthly report – I have been emailed left, right and centre. The song I was thinking of was “Outlook for Thursday” which had the following start:
“Evening love, how's your day?
I'm bringing you the weather from the satellite jigsaw.
Today was fine, tears at times.
A weak ridge from pressure from the hinter to the heartland.”
But that is still no excuse, as I was born of the Split Enz era, with the Finns living down the road in Te Awamutu and even coming to our school in Morrinsville to do a concert. So to pay penance I will type out the words of a fantastic Finn song, this time “Distant Sun” which to me is more poetry than lyrics, enjoy:
“Tell me all the things you would change
I don’t pretend to know what you want
When you come around and spin my top
Time and again, time and again
No fire where I lit my spark
I am not afraid of the dark
Where your words devour my heart
And put me to shame, put me to shame
And your seven worlds collide
Whenever I am by your side
And dust from a distant sun
Will shower over everyone
You’re still so young to travel so far
Old enough to know who you are
Wise enough to carry the scars
Without any blame, there’s no one to blame
It’s easy to forget what you learned
Waiting for the thrill to return
Feeling your desire burn
You’re drawn to the flame
When your seven worlds collide
Whenever I am by your side
And dust from a distant sun
Will shower over everyone
And dust from a distant sun
Will shower over everyone”
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