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Monthly Report - April 2011


No excuses …


I am late with this report for the first time in 5 years – I could provide you with a list of excuses but that will not deny the fact I am late.  So enough of this procrastination, on with the report and a summary of a month that had me spending more time in hotels than my own house on the vineyard…


Wine in barrel…


Well all the grapes harvested in the 2011 vintage have completed their primary ferment and have been pressed off into their barrels and now awaiting their secondary ferment to commence over the coming months (known as malolactic fermentation).  The vineyard has gone into recess and really should not be touched as all the stored energy from the summer’s growing season is now being transferred back into the roots of the vines as they store up and expand for the next vintage.  The vines are quite amazing really, as they transfer their energies from the roots to the canopy and back again like breathing lungs – with each breath a vintage.  I do have a lot of work to do in the vines this coming year, with more than just pruning to be completed – simple maintenance and a bit of mulch spreading, soil conditioning and other bits and pieces means that I have to manage my time well and ensure this is done.  With my trip to Bordeaux for vintage last year (and their subsequent late harvest), I arrived back to vines that had shot away early and I was always chasing my tail – this year WILL be different as I have a spring at home planned and that should keep the vineyard in a tighter grip.


So as you can see, if the vineyard is quiet and the wines are pressed off and in barrel, why am I writing this report in mid May?  Well it is because I have been out promoting our wines left, right, and centre.  Gone are the days when any winery could make a lovely drop, sit back and watch the public and the retailers flock in and buy all the wine without a quibble.  It is a very tough market place out there and you constantly need to support those that support you and this means a variety of tastings, dinners and other promotional activities to keep our label in the limelight.


In early April I hit Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and spent a number of days with our distributor as well as taking the time to put on some dinners.  All was very successful with a great opportunity to meet many people that I have only ever chatted to over the internet or occasional phone call.  Dinner in Sydney was held at the La Casa Ristorante in Russell Lea and managed by the Ruggeri clan – an extraordinary Italian restaurant and a great place to showcase the Teroldego.  I also hosted an online function known as #spitbucket held at the beautifully located Coast Restaurant on Darling Harbour.  Ran by the delightful and effervescent Poppy, this function is simply a lot of fun and standing up and discussing some lovely Margaret River wines was an exceptionally easy task.

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Darling Harbour


Off to Brisbane, and though I have been to Brisbane many times I had never ran any Blue Poles functions out of the city, and I was unsure on how it would go.  Well I was rapt with the response from the locals and the level of enthusiasm for our wines was a little bit overwhelming.  A dinner was held at Bar Alto, near the river, and honestly the food was just sensational and the staff were incredibly helpful.  Time spent with numerous friends from the internet was also very rewarding and being able to chat through my wines with Jeremy Pringle, as well as have a boozy meal and river “cruise” with Julian Coldrey (both extremely talented young wine writers), was a real joy and provides me with a great sense of satisfaction that our wines are understood and liked by those that really care.  Locating myself in the centre of town I had a lovely morning stroll around the footbridges of the river, and even though it was overcast and the floods had been through the area only 3 months before, it looked great.

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A footbridge in Brisbane


Once I hit home, I had only a few days before I was off to work in Asia, but with great luck a Canadian friend I had met in Bordeaux had finally worked out a way to get to Margaret River and she stayed for 4 days over Easter. Nicole and I had similar experiences in Bordeaux where we loved the place and the culture but the people we found to be a bit “unusual” and as such longed for a more personable setting.  So I made sure that we got out and about and I hope she enjoyed her time patting the stingrays at Hamelin Bay, climbing the sand dunes of Injidup point, and drinking wine in the cellars of many a fine Margaret River winery … it was great to see her and share a few glasses of wine.


And lastly off to the Philippines for work and then on to Hong Kong to test out this export market which is seen as the road paved with gold.  Well Hong Kong is an eye opener from the perspective of wine sales – it is wealthy, I mean really wealthy, such that if you turn up to a liquor store miles away from the centre of town you will still see a room full of 1st growth Bordeaux wines (imagine finding those cherries in your local liquorland!).  But, surrounding this array of stunning wines are cheap price pointed wines that had little to get excited about.  A totally two-speed market place.


Walking through the myriad of wine bars in Soho and Elgin St on the island, it also became apparent that the drinking of wine is “by the glass” and usually whatever is cheapest – it is a social lubricant when in this setting and the price is more important than the label.  I am not sure where we would sit selling our wines there, and talking to the wine export Australia expert and an MW that lives in Hong Kong means we will have to have a big long think about how we move ahead with the “Chinese Option”.


Arriving back into the Philippines I landed just as a typhoon struck and this caused a fair bit of excitement for all and sundry.  Managed to get back to the hotel (just – see attached photo), and complete my contract work before heading home again.  So as you can see it has been a month of travel for me, and one that give us at Blue Poles a lot to think about into the future.

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Flooded roads in Manila as typhoon struck

Our health, or “wowser’s” gone mad?...


I have come back from abroad to be confronted with a series of advertisements developed by the Cancer Council of Australia on free to air television in Australia that outline (via images of wine forming a gruesome body image), that every drink is “killing” you.  The fact that they are using red wine to convey their message is bad enough, but the assumption that EVERY drink is killing you is a real wake up call to the wine industry.  In a bizarre twist to the verbal statements of the advertisements, they then finish the advertisement with the statement “Drink only 2 standard drinks a day”.


What the…?


Like dementers waiting for their call, the Cancer Council has latched on to research published in the Medical Journal of Australia and bombarded the media with their cry that any alcohol causes cancer.  Like their anti-smoking campaign, they have gone for the jugular and are trying to generate a fear based campaign which links YOUR DEATH with YOUR DRINK.  Let me say this – what a load of cobblers.


I do not disagree that alcohol is a poison, and it may well be linked to all sorts of cancers and poor health issues.  I also would never disagree that drinking alcohol to excess is EXTREMELY damaging to your health, and personally I strongly recommend against it.  The linkage that the Cancer Council has jumped on and now bleating like a lost lamb on the high ground, is there, but it fits within a huge amount of research on this topic and fills a small part of the picture.  It is like saying that the time you walked past the “smoking corner” when in the city last and inhaled a breath tainted by cigarettes, it WILL KILL YOU – utter garbage.


We as a species on this earth owe much of our health and growth simply to alcohol.  Without it we may never have got through any city building phases as the water became contaminated by the wealth of people in a confined area, and alcohol (the natural antiseptic), ensured there were drinking fluids available that did not harm us.  Our bodies have grown up with alcohol for millenniums as we have a liver that produces the exact compounds required to break down this harmful poison and ensure we are not damaged – of course if we drink in excess of our bodies capacity to break down the alcohol we can get damaged (as any good hangover can be testament to).


But “every drink” has direct linkages to cancer? – I say phooey.  As we extend our average life expectancy throughout the world, this type of research highlights the vagaries of statistics and their potential misuse by such wowsers as the cancer council.  Yes we may have cancers that are more prevalent if you have drunk more over your life time, but when are you damaged if you are a moderate drinker?  Unlike smoking where the damage is immediate and we have not evolved with a system to remove all the carcinogenic products that are inhaled into our lungs – you are at risk immediately (and to everyone out there – DON’T SMOKE it’s bad for you) – but drinking alcohol is part of many regions, lifestyles and habits for centuries and now we say that those cultures are all to fall prey to cancer, right now?  It is a sensationalist hoo-haa that frustrates any well balanced thinking individual.


Of course this leads to the major objective of the Cancer Council - the prohibiting of advertisements and promotions for any alcohol derived product.  It equates to their stance on smoking, where any advertising is seen as promoting:


    a. drinking to excess,

    b. providing a false perception of the product, and

    c. promoting underage drinking by making the product appear “cool”.


This again is total hokum and a huge over reaction to this issue – have they looked at how most wine is advertised?  Most probably not, but if they did they would note that most wine highlight the quality of their product, and recommend that wine be drunk in moderation.  If the Cancer Council had an atom of sense they would be fighting for the reduction in the ABUSE of alcohol and the best way to do that is to price alcohol, in the form of an alcohol volumetric tax.


But no, here we have it – a campaign based on falsehoods and malignant concepts placing all of our products into this big bin of evil doers.  I am sorry, but this is really quite a sad state of affairs and while we have cheap generic wine sitting on the shelves of liquor barns throughout Australia the bleating will continue.


I promote the drinking of quality wines, beers and spirits in moderation.  I believe that this can be part of a healthy lifestyle and need not be demonised by the Cancer Council of Australia.  And, I sincerely hope that all of my readers of this monthly report have similar ideals as fine wine is one of the great joys of life, and I am hoping to make some for all to enjoy.


A breaking season...


After such a warm and dry March, we moved into a break of season rainfalls early in April and then good follow up rains at the end of the month (to keep my dairy farming neighbour very happy as he sows his grass seed).  It still is very warm however in comparison to the average for April over the past 10 years, and I am wondering whether that will continue into winter, which then impacts on bud burst in early spring.


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

April 2011:     

Avg Maximum Temp          23.8°C

Daily Max recorded            32.6°C


Avg Minimum Temp           12.4°C               

Daily Min recorded               6.5°C


Rainfall:                               86.2mm

The maximum and minimum temperature ranges are a lot higher than last year, with warmer days lasting through to mid April.  Rainfall is actually higher with the break of season occurring on 7 April and good rainfalls falling over the weeks 7-13 April and 24-30 April.

April 2010:      

Avg Maximum Temp          22.0°C

Daily Max recorded            26.4°C

Avg Minimum Temp           10.1°C

Daily Min recorded               3.4°C


Rainfall:                              80.1mm

Off again …


My travelling is not quite over, as I have geological work to do in Africa to end May and the start of June.  The vineyard is still in recess, so all is well there as pruning will commence in June – and in the winery I will complete the selections for the reserve wines and the Allouran blend from the 2010 vintage grapes (a very “black” teeth sort of day J).  Our wines continue to expand their locations in restaurants and retailers throughout Australia, which is great news for us and makes us work harder to keep the quality of our wines at the highest level.

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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