Monthly Report - February 2013
I write this a bit later than normal as it has been a very introspective time at Blue Poles. After much discussion and a trip across to Melbourne to sit down with Tim, we have decided to not make any Blue Poles wine this year. For those that have been following these reports over the years you would have noted our desire to make only the best wine we can – and that means making hard decisions in regards to the capacity of the vintage to provide that opportunity.
This was not an easy decision to make – but the amount of heat on the vineyard since mid-December has been unprecedented and this has meant the fruit is extremely ripe in the vineyard currently (high sugar and reduced acid), but the tannins are unresolved and as such would have meant a different wine in style and form to what we are trying to achieve as our wine. It would be hard to explain later why the wines we were to make this vintage were so round and short when we came to present these wines at tastings, and even more difficult to provide an explanation when the wines would be within a vertical of our other same wines.
We understand the capacity to discuss vintage, or even look at generating a second label to account for this, but is it what we are about? No, we are not. We want to guarantee to all of our buyers, clients, friends, critics, nefarious types, that when you drink a bottle of Blue Poles wine you are assured of a wine experience that represents an ideal of style and quality. Any move away from that is just not achieving our wineries goals and compromises our position as a quality boutique vineyard.
We are not saying that the 2013 vintage will not be a very good vintage for Margaret River – I am positive it will be. Varieties such as Chardonnay, Semillon, and Sauvignon Blanc are safe varieties that have a solid window of opportunity to ripen within and their flavours do not vary dramatically from year to year – they are wine makers sort of wines. And in regards to Cabernet Sauvignon it is a bullet proof producer as well, and the older vines of the region have handled the heat well and will produce full flavoured and lovely textured wines. But where we sit on the eastern portion of the region in a spot that seeks the coolness of the evening breeze, with slightly younger vines (11 years old), we want the drawn out vintage with the slow ripening windows but due to the heat in front of the season this was not to be for us.
Next year. Next year. I am positive that we will bounce back, and if we can get these weather patterns to relax to a “normal” growing season we will be back in business. In regards to our stock situation – well be are pretty well off as we always hold our wines back to release them when they are drinking at the start of their drinking window, so we have plenty of 2010, 2011 and 2012 in the bank, so to speak.
The famous saying “Life’s too short to drink bad wine” can aptly be manipulated to “Life’s too short to make bad wine”. I am not compromising on our wines, now or into the future; that is the way it is, and that is the way it will always be.
Luxury, luxury, luxury…
Wine is a luxury item. I am sitting here tapping out this report while drinking a glass of 2010 Eldridge Estate Chardonnay, a beautiful wine made in the Mornington Peninsula for about $50 a bottle I think. It is a luxury spend, but the cost of this chardonnay is but a fraction of the best chardonnays in France, and then if we were to move to red wines from the same region then it be even less of a fraction of the price of these high end Burgundies.
To me wine is a luxury spend, we do not NEED to have a glass of wine, it is a little luxury we afford ourselves as part of life’s joys. With that in mind, in the marketing world they recognize that when you are to promote a “luxury” you need to make the brand desirable and meeting an expectation. So which of the luxury items out there are the equivalent to wine, and how do they go about their promotion?
A Stowa watch...a little luxury
There has been a lot of chat of how tea and coffee fits into the wine paradigm due to the capacity for highly exclusive tea leaves, or coffee beans. Though tea and coffee at their edge have these expensive products, the vast majority (>99%) of all their product ranges are relatively cheap, and as such are not considered exclusive or luxurious. And also, anyone seeing Tim without a coffee in the morning soon recognizes that this is a food basic and not an optional choice.
The one product that I believe fits the brief of being luxurious to the same level as wine is the humble watch. The watch over the past 10-20 years has become not just a time telling piece of jewellery sitting on your wrist, but it has been heavily promoted as an iconic piece of information about YOU.
There are millions and millions of watches that cost under $100 and these are the ones you find in the local jeweller or retail outlet and they are simply adequate to tell the time and the date. They are disposable in a way, and they represent the majority of the market place. In a way they are the $10 or less bottle of wine, and they don’t need a marketing campaign, they just need placement in the store window. Some have common names (Timex) which equate to common wines (Jacobs Creek) – familiar and reliable. But the interesting relationship occurs when you start to step up in price for both watches and wine.
If anyone is following me on twitter they may have noted that I’ve bought a few watches over the past year or so. Why? you rightly ask. Well simply because I like them. I like the fact that they are built to last, that they represent an artefact within society, and I like wearing them. My neighbour across the paddock has bought himself a Mazda RX-8 (red and everything), so as a mid-life crisis goes picking up a few watches is hardly extreme. But it should be noted that I just didn’t go out and buy random watches I actually hunted down watches that suited me and what I wanted to use them for – very much like any wine collector.
Expensive and exclusive watches are generally categorised as either manual (where you wind them up each day) or automatic (where they keep wound by the movement of the wearer’s wrist). They are meant to last a life time and be serviceable for decades after that, the classic heirloom. Expensive watches can also be categorised as boutique (small producer making small batches of specific styles of watches), exclusive (small production runs, but extremely costly), fashion (brands that have a variety of luxury items under their name, Chanel, Armani etc), and Super Brand (where the name is synonymous with the watch itself). So let me put this into wine terminology – boutique (Blue Poles), exclusive (Cullens), fashion (1000 Candles), and Super Brand (Grange). And each category goes about promoting themselves in a completely different and unique way.
Boutique watches: Well they just simply don’t throw money at advertising they throw all their effort into making beautiful watches and offering value for money. These are the watches that hardly anyone but watch aficionados know about and are deeply in love with. Have you heard of these brands? Stowa, Helson, Magrette, and Steinhart. No? Well I am not surprised, these watches are generally small batch watches made to a very high standard and rely almost exclusively on the watch lovers promoting them within watch lover’s circles. Not surprisingly I have bought a watch from each of these producers and I think they are fantastic. Cost ranges from $300 to about $5000 depending on the mechanism used within, and the finish of the timepiece.
Exclusive Watches: This is the step up from the boutique brands into the world of money and exclusivity. Their marketing budget revolves around the time piece itself and the amazing cost of owning one. Some of the very complex complications are worth more than $1 million and are truly amazing. Most exclusive watches sit in the $10,000 to $50,000 range – and surprisingly can be bought all around the world even with their exclusivity.
Fashion Watches: These are the new age watches – everyone wants to be associated with these exclusive fashion brands and now you can so very easily by picking out one of their watches as well as their perfume, belt, pants, dress or shoes. The marketing budget for these watches sits within the brand marketing and as such it seems simply unlimited. I’ve seen a 5 story billboard in Hong Kong promoting Armani watches, quite shocked me. Often associated with brand ambassadors you can see how your money is being used when you buy one of these watches. Quite expensive ($2000-$20,000), but often made with quite simple mechanisms you really are paying for the name and not for the watch.
Super Brand: The big hitters of the watch industry for both volume and quality. Rolex, Tudor, Tag Heuer fit into this title of super brand as they are seen as both the best examples of the genre and a solid investment in your image. Their budget almost matches the fashion watches, and uses the cult of personality as well, but they are careful to not spread their product range too wide in case they undermine their pre-eminent position within the watch world. Costs are $5000-$100,000+, but they are also careful to limit the creation of a totally exclusive watch within their range.
The connection with more expensive wine sits quite comfortably in this range of watch types as we see the way the world has perceived products. The super brands such as Ch Latour and Grange are big volume wines but very very expensive – their price has been cultivated by years of dedicated quality and solid marketing of their product in the press and within the circle of critics. The fashion brands are those that are born of new money and have invested in a concept of fine wine – their price is not based on a history but a theatre of events and relationships of their wines with related products or ideals. Exclusive wine is simply that, the wines that just do not need to make a noise to be heard – they are the end of the wine industry that has accumulated the wines that are recognized as the best of their type and can charge accordingly to the demand. And lastly the boutique wines that work under the radar and are trying to move into that exclusive bracket by hard work and word of mouth – each blip on the screen of publicity is that step closer to the recognition that many of them deserve....
I am not much of a marketing sort of guy. But having gone through a process of purchasing a few watches and seen how the business of self-promotion and presence has been achieved by some of the boutique watch makers it has provided me with a few ideas to follow up on. And as with any collector type, I am still hunting down a couple of nice watches to fill out my collection…
On it goes...
Last month I highlighted just how hot it has been, and this month I really can not say any different. Even though February is traditionally our hottest month, the maximum average equals the highest we have had (2011), and this is after a pair of very hot months in December and January. As indicated in the start of the report, this heat load has made subtle changes in the vines growth and grapes ripening.
The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:
Avg Maximum Temp 30.0°C
Daily Max recorded 39.4°C
Avg Minimum Temp 14.7°C
Daily Min recorded 9.2°C
The maximum temperature range is significantly higher than last year however it is still well above average. The minimums are quite similar and at all time high levels as well. Rainfall this year was very similar to last year. Very little rainfall is expected during February and this is seen once again.
Avg Maximum Temp 27.5°C
Daily Max recorded 36.4°C
Avg Minimum Temp 15.1°C
Daily Min recorded 10.2°C
Work on a variety of fronts …
The start of March will place me abroad geologizing and in mid-March I will be in Singapore pounding the streets and running a wine dinner with our friends and new friends. With the decision to not make wine this year, the vines will drop into recess early and we will simply do some clean-up work so as to make the place tidy. Our wines continue to find new homes in restaurants and retailers and that is great news – this is an area that Tim and I are pushing along as we want to see our wines out and about that bit more.
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