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Monthly Report - May 2011


End of Autumn …


The change of seasons this year has been a gradual affair as rain and cold from fronts from the Indian Ocean have been arriving at regular intervals for the past 6-8 weeks.  This has had the effect of greening the surrounding countryside after an extremely hot and parching summer.  May historically is our month off and at the start of this month I took the opportunity to get into Asia and do some geology work as well as check out the Hong Kong wine scene (which is bristling with bi-polar wines, you could almost say a manic-depressive market).  For the balance of the month I was expected to be working abroad again, but fortunately that did not come to fruition so I have done some work from home and spent some time doing general maintenance amongst the vines.


One of the more enjoyable but quite teeth blackening tasks that I had to complete this month was the selections for Reserve wines and the Allouran blend from the 2010 vintage wines.  The 2010 vintage was a good one; quite warm but a long moderate period at the end of vintage brought the grapes in, in excellent condition and full of flavor.  The wines post ferment looked great, and one year on the wines still look in excellent shape.  To complete the task of blending and selections I go through every barrel of wine and rate it for 3 aspects; aroma, fruit, and length. I do not worry too much about tannin, structure, acid etc as all of our wines have a distinctive character in these areas and what I am after is how they combine in those more “delicate” areas.


After 2 hours of working through the barrels it became evident that the vintage is a cracker.  I managed to define 5 barrels which met a very high standard with regards to “stand alone” qualities, and when combined made a wonderful expression of Merlot – the wine is possibly more feminine than the 2008 and 2007 models, but the length and aroma is sensational and it will age like a fine Margaux (or so I hope!).  But more satisfying was the standard of the Allouran blend – 30% Cabernet Franc and 70% Merlot and one of the most “complete” wines Blue Poles will have released when it makes it through the rigours of bottling and a year or so of waiting patiently.  I have no doubt that the 3 vintages of Allouran (2007, 2008, 2010) will set the benchmark for consistency and style for this “Right Bank” blend in Australia – we have been very fortunate to find this patch of soil that can provide us with such excellent expressions of a style of wine that I find the most compelling and interesting and classic!

201105_Merlot Vine to be pruned.jpg

A Merlot vine

A ramble…


There has not been one big issue on my mind this month – I have been busy with geology work and simple jobs amongst the vines.  But there have been a number of little wine related (and unrelated) stories that taken my interest and make me go “oh”.   I will run through a few of them in no particular order and let you have a ramble as well…


…Seaford Heights


Remember this name – it represents how governments and the elected representatives have turned against the people and the country’s best interests.  For the past years every vigneron and his tractor in South Australia have been fighting to stop a 1000+ home sub-division from being built on the outskirts of McLaren Vale.  It is located over prime viticultural soils, it is the entrance way from Adelaide to the vale, and it forms the view for many wineries in the region.  Every local group from Wine Growers to the CWA has petitioned to stop this proposed development – but as of last week the South Australian government approved it by saying “their hands were tied”.  It is a disgrace.  Not only did they make sure that the locally elected representative was on a plane when the decision was announced, they informed none of the stakeholders of their impending decision until the day of the announcement (many arrived thinking that they were turning up for further discussions, a normal meeting as such).


You see this is where governments are at.  They do not see their role as representing “us” any more; they see their role as staying in power.  They feel mining groups, business groups, developers are important allies (and benefactors) and they “need” their support to stay in power.  It would have been straight forward to legislate a halt to this development proposal – the local council would have been delighted with this – but under this bogus bullshit line of “compensation” they did not do anything but toe the line.  While we continue to fight off the reprehensible lies of the coal miners and their lap dogs, I am seeing problems ahead for us and all citizens of this so called free country.


…Points for Wines


I love a good stoush.  You know those arguments with no reason for being but the simple capacity for you to play the devil’s advocate from either side of the fence.  And giving points to wines is one of those beauties as you can go from the purist “no points please, I like wine as an experience”, to the crude-ist “I’m 99 points on that!”


The best part is that even when folk agree on wine having a point’s basis – what is the point’s structure?  The 100 point scale really starts at 80 – so it’s a 20 point scale, but the classic 20 point scale really starts at about 12, so is it an 8 point scale (or 16 point as they do use halves quite commonly) and then there are variations within these.  It is all so wonderfully vainglorious!


So what do I prefer?  Well I just do not care to be quite honest.  When I first got into wine and for the following 20 years I took notes on all wines I drank and gave them a score.  It helped me list the wines in a simple way of what took my fancy the most.  For the past 5 years or so I haven’t score any wine, and I now write notes also only on the points of difference or quirks in the wine.  But if you are a wine critic you have to put a “value” on the wine as it is that thread which can quickly connect the triptych of customer-critic-wine.  For everyone else, do whatever – but I am always reading their notes as first point of reference as the less crafted, less knowledgeable, less expressive, the less likely I would really bother with their recommendations.


So as in the words of the great greased ball of hot (cigar smoke infused) air James Suckling would say “I’m 100 points on that!”


…Carbon Tax


Oh no, you are thinking what is he going to say here.  Well settle, relax and take a deep breath as I am not going to jump the shark on this topic.  What I am going to say is this – how does it work?  Do not lather up and think I am being obtuse – but if the objective is to make “sustainable” energy the preferred option how do we get there by getting us to pay more for all goods as there is simply not enough “sustainable” options out there to provide that purchase power choice.  Power utilities are to raise their costs to cover the carbon tax – how do we then choose a “sustainable” alternative?  Products cost more to transport so you would assume more local produce in shops – but right now all lemons (for example), in Coles and Woolies are from the USA, would the carbon tax alter this filthy duopolies policies?


I am all for sustainable energy, you would be a numbskull if you were not, but how do we get there by going down this road?  If the Carbon Tax was raised and invested directly back into “free and sustainable” energy sources to the nation then I would support it. But it is not and I am struggling to find a logic in this – please if you think there is a simple step I have missed then email and tell me, but right now I am befuddled.


…Dire Times


I say this with my tongue in cheek obviously, but is watching the television now a dying habit?  I have a strange but intricate relationship with the television – I can not watch the TV during daylight hours unless it is sport, I like a maximum of two hours a night for which I can literally turn the scone off for those hours.  But of late I have not really watched any TV at all … it just all seems so … dull.  Reality shows make my skin crawl so much I can not bear it, comedies are not that funny at the current, and the news in Australia has a tinge of the Abbot/Gillard and their crew in a quest for simpleton high ground.


God bless the Tour de France arriving this woolly winter, and I have discovered a new show on Saturday night called “Outcasts” that appears to be a good one – that may be enough to get me through to next spring.  Fingers crossed.


Winter approaches...


It feels actually quite “normal” if there is such a thing weather wise.  May has been three rainy events (each lasting 5-7 days), separated by glorious sunny moderate days – just picture perfect.  With this good rainfall I had expected our dam to start to be back on the rise again but absolutely nothing – it is like the aquifers of the region are taking in a big drink and recovering after such an incredibly dry winter last year.


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

May 2011:     

Avg Maximum Temp          19.9°C

Daily Max recorded            24.2°C


Avg Minimum Temp           8.6°C               

Daily Min recorded             4.5°C


Rainfall:                               109.7mm

The maximum and minimum temperature ranges are very similar to each other and this also fits into an expected average for May in the region as well.  Rainfall is higher with three good rainy periods during the month and this has crept up the year to date total to 245mm which is a good start to the season.

May 2010:      

Avg Maximum Temp          19.3°C

Daily Max recorded            23.9°C

Avg Minimum Temp           8.8°C

Daily Min recorded               1.0°C


Rainfall:                              80.2mm

It starts once more …


Pruning that is.  Start date this year is the middle of the month and I am looking forward to it – regardless of the fact that it is 40 odd days of standing in a paddock dressed like an Eskimo.  I do have a week or so abroad with some geology work at the end of the month so it is not all cold hands and secateurs.  We also have a couple of wine dinners to attend with friends and as one of the events is a Bordeaux night I will be there outside the door the day before dressed and ready to go.

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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