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Monthly Report - January 2012


And it begins …


Welcome to the New Year, Year of the Dragon for the Chinese, and one that apparently promises prosperity and wealth – auspicious one could say.  I hope this is the case for all of my readers of this little report.  With the decision taken to not make all of our wines for this vintage, the weather has come and supported this decision by being extremely hot well in advance of the normal pattern (February is traditionally the hottest month of the season in Margaret River).  The weather is discussed below as per normal, but I will quickly show you a graph of the temperatures for the past 8 years and you can see how hot it has been this year in comparison to other recent years.



The average maximum temperature for January during 2005-2011 sits roughly between 25°C and 27°C – this brings the grapes on steadily and into veraison.  Areas such as Swan Valley are well through veraison as they have hotter weather in Perth from September to December thus the vines are approaching vintage in February.  As we are a cooler growing area, we usually have our grapes go through an extended ripening through to March and April for many varieties (mainly red of course) – giving us our fully developed flavours and fully resolved tannins.  By having such a hot January this year (3.6°C hotter than the average of the previous 7 years – i.e. ~14% hotter), the grapes have been pushed through the ripening process and this may create a lesser quality, especially if it continues to be warm during February as is the norm.


Whether this is a “blip” or a norm we are not to know for a few more vintages, but it will start putting some viticultural pressure to keep more shade in the fruiting zone (unlike the current position of high wire lifts and leaf / cane trimming providing a lot of exposure).  Vineyards such as Cullens, Leeuwin Estate, Moss Wood will be the ones to watch to see how they react to this changing climate scenario – it will give me a reason to go on a few tasting tours at least.


The vineyard is not its usual tidy self, but the more leaf coverage and a good dosing of irrigation has meant the vines are big and healthy, and the year off will not worry them at all.  I will get out amongst them this month once I return from my current tour of duty (the Philippines - see attached photo).  I am quite looking forward to that now, as I have had a few months of report reading, writing, and spreadsheet scrolling – time to get the eyes looking beyond my laptop’s screen.


Sunset at Acoje, Zambales region, Philippines

Wine Scores and what they mean…


Well I was a bit under the pump for a topic this month – I have not being drinking much wine, or talking to too many wine people as I have been running around various developing nations, so what to discuss?  And then up popped this review of Main Ridge Estate’s premium 2010 Pinot Noir, and written by the very well-regarded wine taster Campbell Mattinson on the Winefront website.


“In the history of The Wine Front I’m yet to come across a Main Ridge Estate Half Acre Pinot Noir that I don’t like. It’s wild yeast fermented, bottled unfiltered, and is of course a single vineyard wine.


This is a brooding release. It offers a sizeable amount of dense, earthen, cherry-plummed flavour. As a result it seems to lack some life and vitality – it’s not light on its feet – though it brings things home with ropey, muscular tannin and warm, spicy length. Needs a sleep and then, once it’s had it, it will need to be decanted. Can see this ageing long term."


Rated : 91+ Points

Alcohol : 14%

Price : $70

Closure : Screwcap

Drink : 2016 - 2022+”


Now the Winefront subscribers in general are well aware of the quality of Main Ridge wines, and the scores for this particular wine is usually 93-95 points with the 2007 only scoring 91, and now this wine.  With it being a premium wine ($70 / bottle is exxy for most wine buyers), getting a low score from such a quality critic may in fact make you think if spending your money on this particular vintage is a good idea.  In the comments section one buyer of Main Ridge wines expressed disappointment in the scores and had hoped for better, and though he knew the inherent qualities of the wine (as a past buyer), felt that he would rather see a higher score than a lower score in his future purchase – and stated “I can’t be alone in that thought, can I?”


Now I had popped up earlier and said to trust the source, the winemaker Nat White is a truly wonderful winemaker and if he credits this wine as being his premium I have every belief it is.  Also I then looked closely at the tasting note written by Campbell and there are some very good clues about the wine, as the appraisal is very well defined and to be trusted.  I will go through the “clues” and you see what you think:


  1. “This is a brooding release” – often when the term brooding is used it covers a broad base, but first up I would say that the wine was possibly quite mute in the glass, i.e. the bouquet smelt broad and thick.  Also if applied to the taste of the wine, it implies the tannins are dull and taking up many of the spaces on the tongue – providing a heavy feel to the wine.

  2. “dense, earthen” – CM re-iterates the heaviness of the wines aroma.  When you use the word earthen, it is a soil descriptor, that dull smell of a freshly turned sod – it is a sign of complexity in the wine and flavours to come.

  3. “lack some life and vitality” – “ropey muscular tannin” – here we have confirmation of the brooding opening line, and how the wine has opened up to the taster.  It is a big dense wine at the current and it is hard for CM to coax the more elegant and refined flavours from the glass.

  4. “need to be decanted” – “aging long term” - and as to provide an exclamation mark to his note CM ensures the reader that this wine is a “structured” wine and needs to be coaxed out of its shell through oxidation or cellaring.


Thus we end up with a score of 91+ (with the + highlighting that CM thinks this is the rating for now, with the wine having the potential to rate higher in the future).  It is not a bad score, but it is below expectations of the wine public.  Now having tasted our wines through every part of their little lives, we encounter exactly the same phases in the wines as they hunker down and this is one of the reasons that we release our wines a little later (our 2008 Allouran comes out later this year as it traverses through these moments of confusion).


Reading CM’s note assures me that this wine is “growing into its skin”, and upon release it will become more and more the wine that many people compare to some of the finest Burgundies of France.  Rest assured though points are a very good guide, read the tasting note, look at the wines history, and study the form of those involved as these too are all part of locating and drinking great bottles of wine.

201201_Nat Mainridge.jpg

Nat White appearing to get a Pinot sample from his estate. Love the basket.

Simply red...


Hot.  That best describes the month of January in the south west corner of Western Australia.  Over half the month the maximum exceeded 30°C, with the temperature soaring over 40°C on Australia Day the 26th January.  With little rainfall and many warm nights to match the days there was little respite during the month.



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


January 2012:     

Avg Maximum Temp          29.7°C

Daily Max recorded            40.6°C


Avg Minimum Temp           15.7°C               

Daily Min recorded               8.2°C


Rainfall:                               9.1mm

The maximum and minimum temperature ranges are significantly higher than last year, and last year was the warmest January since I have kept records at Blue Poles.  Rainfall was much lower, with above average rainfall last year due to an ex-cyclone and a mid-level rain bearing weather feature from the tropics providing 2 significant downpours in 2011.

January 2011:      

Avg Maximum Temp          27.1°C

Daily Max recorded            33.0°C

Avg Minimum Temp           14.3°C

Daily Min recorded               9.4°C


Rainfall:                              49.9mm


Summer continues …


Well we can only hope that the weather cools a bit and gives the vignerons of the region the opportunity to make fine wine from this vintage.  As I type this I have just received news of the first Chardonnay been picked in Margaret River – 7 to 14 days early, which is pretty amazing as it was a cool start to the season.  I will spend some time in the vines once I get back from the Philippines in the middle of February, and that should ensure I have a swim at the beach as well after a day out and about.  I hope everyone is enjoying their weather wherever that may be.

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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