Monthly Report - September 2011
And it begins …
With budburst now through for all varieties, we can now state quite categorically that the new vintage has begun. As is the way of September, the (hopefully) last of the major weather fronts pushed through towards the end of the month and this bought us some scary moments as the tin roof on our house starts to get a staccato sound of hail tapping away. Fortunately for us, though there has been a bit of hail damage around the region I could see only the barest of damage on the most advanced vines in Blue Poles, and that is good news for us.
Budburst for the month is always a strung out affair as all the different varieties come on line. The dates for this year with regards to budburst at Blue Poles are as follows:
Merlot 7 Sept 2011
Shiraz 11 Sept 2011
Viognier 12 Sept 2011
Teroldego 12 Sept 2011
Marsanne 18 Sept 2011
Cabernet Franc 27 Sept 2011
The surprising aspect of this is how early the Merlot has kicked off – even beating the Shiraz and Viognier out of the blocks. And on the flip side, how slow the Teroldego was to wake from its slumber, as usually these alpine Italian varieties are often the first to burst, and then the last to be picked.
Pruning is now finished, vineyard has been mulched, and all the wires have been dropped and awaiting placement back up again. I will quickly do some under vine spraying next week, thus the place will look a picture for 3-4 weeks as the vines put on a bright green display of growth.
During the month of September we completed the final tasting and blending of the 2010 vintage reds and they are looking extremely good. The 2010 Reserve Merlot is just sensational, moving towards a slinky feminine style this vintage – makes me think of Margaux wines and their feminine descriptors. As for the Allouran, a sensationally complete wine that will match the 2008 for quality and strength, but with a bit more fruit preservation on the nose and the palate to give it a bit more sex appeal. Extremely happy with the wines and both will continue their respective line most admirably.
Wines from 2010 vintage fining trials
The rise (and fall?) of social media…
A few of you may be aware of Blue Poles on the Twitter site. We started about 3 years ago when it was a new thing and have had an enjoyable ride watching the ins and outs of the site, especially with the predictions and assumptions that have been made with regards to social media.
When I began “tweeting” away, there was a hard core group of about 100-150 who were in the wine industry (or closely related), and they were easy to find and easy to communicate with. We all grew, some faster than others, as some actively sought out new followers by chasing others, and some grew by reputation alone. It was all very easy going and it was easy to take shots at us by the “normal wine review system”, as just a bunch of blokes and blokettes chatting away with each other – and they were right, and oh so terribly wrong.
For those that really put the time in and chased bigger and bigger following groups started to get press by default, and the spin-off of this is that they became “found” and have had great success which begat more success as the promotion continues. For the guys like us who really just liked the social aspect of it all, we got to have access to a whole new group of folk that became good friends and supporters of the brand “Blue Poles”.
So for two years the twitter juggernaut for the Australian wine industry moved on in a steady upward motion. In fact I would say that Aussie wineries have perhaps been the biggest users of twitter amongst the other wine producing countries of the world. The usage in America, where you would expect an overwhelming uptake, is rather mute and the wineries treat the site as a form of “general announcements” and little to no banter is entered into which is a shame (there are exceptions and many of us have got to live Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon’s life quite vicariously as he tweets quite often and very wittily, which makes him unique in the world of American wineries).
I must admit a year or so ago I was taking it quite seriously with regards to ensuring I was active every day and chasing new and interesting followers as a regular “job”. However, I have started to step back a bit, though I do keep in contact with many of the twitterati, and I will outline the important events which made me think “this has gone a bit too far”.
Event 1: The arrival of Gary Vaaay Nerrr Chuk
When twitter was finally recognized by the “old guard” as a “wonderful opportunity” to promote Australian wine, they basically decided that the only way to do it was to get in an American who has a huge following and is from the wine industry. Funny really as all of the wineries and wine folk active on twitter at the time had about as much in common with Gary VNC as we had with Diana Ross from the Supremes.
Gary VNC rolled into town with a sponsored flight, hotel and every convenience. He talked and talked (crikey, he could talk), and made some amazing revelations with regards to social media while chatting away with invited wine folk. Surprisingly however, he was not tweeting to his near million followers much while he was here, and when he did tweet something along the lines of “Gee, these Aussie wines are pretty good” – you would have thought he had sold 1 million cases of wine for all the hoo haa.
He left. It was forgotten. He then had a sabbatical from twitter (well he threatens to, but never quite totally stops) and his impact in Australia and for Australian wines was basically limited to that one little statement. Funny how much money will be thrown away when the timing seems just right. The wine gods thought the timing was right, the rest of us were just gob smacked by the cost of that tweet (ironically he was flying back from the Hunter Valley in a helicopter when he tweeted it – huzzah for him!).
Event 2: The Brown Brothers Fiasco
As I mentioned at the start, there is a pretty solid group of primary Australian wine folk in twitter and as it became more mainstream some of the bigger wine companies have put up their hands and set up accounts. The most pro-active I am aware of is Yalumba, with the folk running that account really chasing down any mention or contact and being up front and supportive – kudos to them.
Well when Brown Brothers started up their account, we found it very strange that they did not wish to chat with any fellow wineries (heck, if it was not for other wine folk most of us would not be talking much). One of our wine twitter patriarchs, Winsor Dobbin, just could not understand it either, and in his polite and demure way said something along the lines of “Mate, what the hell’s up with you? Start talking with us as we are all in this together” – and the response came back, much to our amazement, along the lines of “Piss off Winsor” but much more eloquently put. Hooley dooley – the first time we had had a break down in our unwritten pact of solidarity!!
You see we were all used to the thought that someone working in the winery would be the spokesman for a winery twitter account. Here was the first known break from this, with a social media “expert” running this account and simply deciding to converse through repeating comments from the great unwashed on Brown Brothers wine, and as their wine is well known throughout Australia there was a bit of traffic. The social media expert knew not much about wine or the characters within the industry and really did not care as he had a “plan”.
To cut a long story short the tweeting stopped suddenly after he ranted and raved for a day or two (did he what!). Whether Brown Brothers' owners became aware of the way they were being presented on line via twitter and gave the “expert” the chop, we will never know. The Brown Brothers twitter foray just sunk into the ocean as presumably no-one in that company wanted to run with it. It does seem to have fired up again recently and hopefully will be a little more inclusive this time.
Event 3: Another American, Rick Bakas enters the fray
Well the sponsorship of Gary VNC and the small return he gave them did not really sink in, so they had another shot with the hosting of Rick Bakas, a social media expert in the wine (retail?) industry of America. Bless him, they even sent him on a tour of the country asking all the wine industry associations to put him up for a night or two.
Rick even made it to Margaret River where we all had a bit of fun by putting in fake comments during the period in which he was tasting wines here – naughty I know. Again literally nothing came of this whirl wind trip except that about 100 wineries got on the twitter train for about a fortnight, before they forgot all about it and went back to sleep in regards to social media.
With both Rick and Gary you had the feeling that the group who sponsored them out were just “cherry ripe” and ready to be plucked – Rick and Gary obliged and had a wonderful time. It was not their fault that they could take advantage, the emperor just needed some new clothes.
So in summary….
Here we have it, social media in the form of twitter (as discussed here), and Facebook are seen as the new horizon for wineries. Everyone is on line now we are told, everyone will seek you via these social media sites – well that actually is not the reality of the world. It is true that the world, as we know it, is on line and active – but the activity is within a very small individual spheres and the thought of contacting a winery direct because you may have bought their bottle at the local liquor store could just seem downright weird (like contacting your toothpaste brand for example – would you?). If you just drink wine for pleasure and do not think twice about it, then the last thing you will want to do is highlight that to the world.
We expect more information to be made available via the net – but the capacity to act on it is becoming the inverse to the volume. As more and more wineries have entered twitter and Facebook, I note that the contact with drinkers who are not in the wine industry is becoming less for everyone. There is no amount of social media “expert” advice going on right now – but really the horse has bolted a bit. The world of social media is now like a shoe shop, where the “punters” are simply able to swip and swap their social “shoes” as they please and there is no come back or care.
For those in the wine industry who have a big social media following right now, they may be fine going forward as they are the first “picks” for any new entrants into this social world and if wine floats their boat. But for anyone new trying to build a following then it is going to be hard yards as there is no guarantee that anyone really cares when you click the “follow” or the “like” button any more.
I like twitter. I like the contacts I have made and I like chatting to them through this form of social media. But will it bring all the changes and profits to us promised by Gary and Rick? The short answer is no, but it is free, it is available, it is simple to use, and most of all it can be fun and enlightening. So take it with a grain of salt when someone sparks up with “Social Media will Rule the World” – it won’t and it can’t, but that doesn’t make it less useful and enjoyable in a small closet #hugwinsor sort of way.
Spring has not quite sprung...
With spring kicking off in Margaret River, we all expect a rise in the temperatures as the days get longer and the sun gets warmer – but not this month for some reason or other. The weather was near identical to that encountered in August and this has ensured the budburst has been slow and methodical. As I said last month “All in all it has been a month of pleasant winter weather, and the vineyard looks all the better for it.”
The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:
Avg Maximum Temp 17.8°C
Daily Max recorded 21.5°C
Avg Minimum Temp 8.5°C
Daily Min recorded 2.8°C
The maximum temperature ranges are a lower than last year, and this relates directly to the consistent cold fronts that brought weather from the south more than the west, but unusually the minimums are up and this confuses me a bit – I have no real reason for this at all! Rainfall in August is significantly higher and the year to date total is now >200mm higher than the 2010 total rainfall.
Avg Maximum Temp 18.3°C
Daily Max recorded 25.0°C
Avg Minimum Temp 6.9°C
Daily Min recorded 3.0°C
Bang a gong, it is on …
As said at the start of every “Iron Chef” episode, vintage officially starts now with the end of budburst. The weather from this point on will define the shape and structure of the wines that will be made at the end of the year and there is not much I can do about it. The 'to do' list has reduced slightly, however there are always a few more odd jobs to add to it such that you never quite get back to page 1. I love the look of a pruned vineyard at budburst – it is brimming with new hope and I am all for that.
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