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Monthly Report - February 2011


Vintage nears …


Well I am typing this in a hot house as the weather to finish off this month has been warm, very warm.  All is well in the vineyard with the vines looking in great shape, but the heat load has brought them all on a little more quickly than I would like so it looks like all the varieties will be picked in March (with only the poorly understood Teroldego possibly getting its arrival date delayed into April).  The last of the fruit thinning has been completed, though just prior to any vintage I will run through and get rid of another pass that does not quite make the grade.  Nets are out to keep those pesky birds at bay – so all I am left to do is tasting runs through the vineyard with my trusty refractometer, prior to the mad rush of picking.


Yields this year look up, but we do not break 2 tonnes / acre (5 tonnes / hectare) in any of our blocks as the whole mission here at Blue Poles is to get maximum flavor into the glass and I believe we can not do that with big yields.  This may bite us in years to come, as some big hairy accountant will stand over our books and tap a column or two, but too be honest we are beholding to quality, not volume and that is always the goal.


It has also been a big month with the release of our first Teroldego.  Crikey, everything went mad for a day when we released it to the mailing list.  As of today we have about 4-5 cases left of the rarest wine in Australia (if it is not, then it is very well close to being the rarest) – we do not expect them to last the month, so do yourself a favor and grab a few and tell us what you think.  Everyone is on a learning curve with this wine, even the wine critics, with a couple of notes below.


First is the following comment from the most renowned Gary Walsh on


Well there’s one thing for certain: it’s the finest Australian Teroldego I have tasted. New from Blue Poles with a tiny make of about 70 cases. Oh, and I could not find a vintage on the label, but I’m told it’s 2009.


There’s arguably a bit too much nutty barrel influence obscuring the fruit character, but that to one side, it’s a lovely and interesting wine. Dark cherry, black raspberry, a touch of pepper with an earthy hazelnut and coffee tinted flavour. It’s full bodied with blocks of mouth-coating tannin that recede given a good bit of air, but still grip with a slick of powdery Turkish coffee on the finish. I’m not afraid of a bit of tannin and like how they sit in this wine – adding interest and rusticity. There’s some dried herb flavours in there too along with some bitter chocolate. An unusually muscular wine of  scale and impact given the producer, but one that’s well worth investigating. Held up well over at least three day’s tasting too. Score round about right I think – I’m ok with 91 or 92 – it’s all a bit new to me you know, is Teroldego.  

Rated : 92 Points


And secondly the most thoughtful Jeremy Pringle on Wine Will Eat Itself


Dense and brooding in the glass, packed with intense black and red fruits of all kinds. A little high toned blueberry appears with extended breathing (which the wine does need at this stage in its evolution). Rich dark chocolate, dried herbs and some tea leaf round out the flavours and aromas.

Big, chunky tannins are right at home in this setting; it's a wine to sink your teeth into. At its best on the second and third day of tasting, as it fleshed out and came together. I've a minor quibble with how the wine segues from plush fruit to a dry, assertively tannic finish...but it's hardly much of an issue. I'm really noting it as I'm fairly certain the winery will produce even better expressions as they become more familiar with the variety and how it interacts with their site.

No need to wait though...indeed only 69 or so cases were made and word is most of that run is already gone. It's an extremely worthwhile detour and very well priced at that. Should only improve over the next five years minimum too.


And to finish off the month, our dog Jackson gets a special pat on the head for saving Gail from standing on a 2m dugite snake and possibly getting bitten down near our dam.  As Gail approached our chestnut trees to check on progress, Jackson jumped forward of her, grabbed the snake in the middle of its back and threw it 5 metres to one side, where it took off to cover.  Dugites are extremely poisonous and definitely worth avoiding, so extra serving of dog biscuits for Jackson!


As promised here is the second effort at a 1000 word essay – I will take you on a road trip to southern France, so belt up and remember to drive on the right hand side!


Meeting Picasso …


Travelling to France is every vigneron’s dream – you are raised in the understanding that the wines from this hallowed ground are the cream, if not the cream of the cream.  Names of famous regions ring out from every tasting you attend “Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhône, Chablis, Alsace….” - like a roll call of past and present heroes.  And dutifully I called in for my pilgrimage to Bordeaux in 2010, to be part of that flock of fervent followers arriving at every vintage to learn and worship.


I do not deny it, Bordeaux is where I am at with wine – but something niggled at me.  Working in a large winery took away some of the romance, visiting huge estates with their 100’s of workers gave me a feeling of remoteness to the wines, and lastly I felt small in this setting.  I needed to reconnect with a personalized French wine, not one of regal waves, but one of small sheds and salty individuals – rental car ahoy with the first destination due south, Madiran.


I could have gone anywhere south I guess, but there were two things that lit the wick of interest.  Tannat.  A red grape that sounds like you have been slapped twice and as rustic and mouth-puckering as it actually is, and Alain Brumont the self proclaimed “6th best winemaker in France” who not only revived the region but has brought it back from the brink of extinction and now heads a vibrant wine growing community in a world class appellation that Alain pressed so hard for.

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The sky over Bordeaux on the day of my departure


Heading off under a vapor trail laced blue sky, a series of impatient French drivers and an insistent satnav system made the drive south from Bordeaux town all that more exciting and character building.  The area of Madiran is small, maybe 20km by 20km, with most of the more well known wineries well north of Madiran the town, and located near two particular villages, Maumusson-Laguian and Viella, both separated by a river valley.  The vineyards arch over the ridge tops with small windy roads jostling for space with the vines.  Tractors pulling behemoth, black grape filled bins shared the laneways as vintage was in full swing this early October, making my left from right driving skills somewhat jittery.


With cellar doors available and generally no appointments necessary, touring the region seemed very familiar so the car scrunched across the gravel into the first stop Chateau Laffitte-Teston.  Simple grounded wines were tasted over a cherry wood bench top - spicy meat aromas wafted above all their Tannat rich wines making them both exotic and approachable.  My one appointment was with Didier Barré, a man with passion and his black as obsidian Tannats were there to prove it – so across the valley to Viella and into the house of Domaine Berthoumieu.  Met by Didier’s wife I tasted some chewy tannic beauties before the black ruffled head of the man barged through – picked up and swept to the cellar, we thieved some wine from barrel after barrel and it was good, oh so good.  A richness and depth wrapped up in tannins that grit your jaw made me feel “this is it!” – Didier talking like the last man who knew the signs, pointed out just what Tannat meant to him, and I – with teeth of black – smiled and nodded like I had always known this to be.  I left with one more stop to complete the day – Chateau Montus – where Alain Brumont reigns.

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Ch. Laffitte-Teston

Into the drive and up to the estate wall, I parked and wandered into a spacious tasting room.  A dapper fellow called Alfredo plied me with numerous wines that stood out more for their consistency than fireworks.  Being the sole taster we talked, and once it was determined that I had a winery, the top wines were opened, and oh what a change – swirling depths of flavor came rising to the rim and Alfredo stood like a proud parent each time a new bottle was poured.  Then just a simple request “Would you like to have lunch with Alain tomorrow?”. This was met with a simple answer.  Reliably informed that I am to bring a bottle of my vineyards wine for Alain to “peruse” and to arrive “punctually” at midday – off I went to find a bed.


I arrived on time, but Alain did not.  When he walked through to the dining hall he was trailed by numerous staff as well as a young wife.  Placed opposite the man, he spoke English as well as I spoke French – so what else to do but slap the wine on the table and find our common ground.


Wine was poured.  A glance, an offhand swirl and straight to the mouth.  No airs and graces, no vagaries of aroma were to distract Alain.  A swallow, a cocked eye and an owl like weighted pause … “magnifique”.  With swift gestures he ran through the wines strengths “fine tannins, good acid balance, fruit forward, great length” and then without pause asked a simple question.  Are you happy with this wine?  Like falling through the clouds, I now hit the ground, happy?  Yes I said, but … and then he smiled like a fox.


Time passed quickly with question and counter question.  Hearty food consumed, revolving staff and family, with Alain never moving up or down, left or right.  Like the centre of the wheel he ensured all gravitated around his demands; be they a raised eyebrow or an insisted comment from his young winemakers.  I listened hard … I had to; we all had to, as the demands of attention were universal and universally understood.


As Alain got up to leave – a wave or shrug (a glance?) – brought over Alfredo.  “Give him Le Tyre and Les Larmes Celestes”, a simple turn and outstretched hand said it was over.  I shook it.  Everyone got up and left as I sat back down – no photos were taken, no requests for signatures or support, it was simply the moment when you realize that you have been privy to something which goes to your soul – you have met Picasso.



Hot and dry, very hot and dry...


Well we thought it was warm in February 2008 with a maximum average of 28.1°C for the month, well that has well and truly been smashed with this month breaking the magic 30°C maximum average, a very rare event indeed in Margaret River.  The weather has been hot and we believe it may be associated with a large number of cyclones that have been threatening the state to our far north, and with their clockwise motion they have pushed hot air from the centre of our desert state to the south and to the coast, bringing with it hot easterly winds and warm nights.  With no rainfall to buffer the warmth it has been dry out there and the hills are as brown as they have ever been to prove this point.


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


February 2011:     

Avg Maximum Temp          30.0°C

Daily Max recorded            36.0°C


Avg Minimum Temp           16.5°C               

Daily Min recorded             12.5°C


Rainfall:                               0.4mm

The maximum and minimum temperature averages are much warmer than last year, which means there was a significantly higher heat load in the vineyard this month.  Rainfall is very similar with both years receiving little to no rain to dampen the heat of the month.

February 2010:      

Avg Maximum Temp          27.7°C

Daily Max recorded            34.4°C

Avg Minimum Temp           14.9°C

Daily Min recorded               5.9°C


Rainfall:                              2.5mm


Vintage is here …


I have a sneaky suspicion that all of the grapes at Blue Poles will be brought in during the month of March for the 2011 vintage.  Whether we pick all varieties will be decided based on the quality and the weather’s influence – but we are confident that the grapes we take through to the winery will be 1st Class and should continue the proud tradition of excellence in all wine grown under our label.  This is also the first month where I am not required to head back to the Philippines for 8-10 days of the past 3 months, so I can put a fair bit of effort into ensuring that every variety picked, is picked at that moment of best flavors and pitch perfect balance.  So it is time to oil up the picking snips and ensure there are some band-aids in the medicine cabinet – as it is all about to happen.

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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