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Monthly Report - April 2013




Well not for the reasons you may be thinking of.  This month has found me spending most of it in Manila completing geological tasks amongst the high and low rise buildings of Makati City, which is in central Manila.  Not much time amongst the vines that is for sure, and it was mighty hot in Manila town this trip which meant walking around (my preferred style of travel, a few dodgy taxi’s convince you of that) concrete pavements ahead of vine inter-rows was not very pleasant at all.  I have been asked a number of times “Why don’t you export your wine into the Philippines?”, and my short answer is “It’s immoral”.

201304_Manila View from Apmt.jpg

Makati City, Manila

I will explain.  I have spent a fair chunk of time in the Philippines for the past 3 years, and over this period of time I have seen some great things going on and some terrible things at the same time.  The growth of the Philippines over the past 3 years has been excellent, nearly 8% a year, but the percentage in extreme poverty has not dropped a millimeter, and in fact it may have gone up.  So the amount of money in the Philippines has risen ~30% but all the poor are still poor?  Well there is a reason for that, and similar to America the rich are getting extremely rich and the rest stay the same.  So to export wine into the Philippines, a series of wines which would be 20 times more expensive than a bottle of local rum, could only be sold to ex-pats and the extremely wealthy locals.  I cannot accept that, and I will stick to my guns on that one.


So, to the vineyard.  Well it is in recess, and has no intention of doing anything except drop its leaves and put all of the energy gained from this year’s growth back into the ground as a kick on for next spring.  What can I say … it’s nice and green between the vines now as the grass has started to bounce back after such a dry summer, but really, all is quiet on the western front.


Value vs Worth…


I have been involved in a running debate on Twitter over the latest craze in the industry to promote female only events, and to be honest I’m just disappointed in the level of discussion and the lack of respect for a history of subjugation and REAL sufferance that many of the current crop show.  So I’m just going to let that one go through to the keeper (here is Philip White’s take on the topic and it is much better than anything I could have cobbled together, with NSFW warning on one of the images), and chat about something else.


There was a topic that I found very interesting and generated a bit of thought, and that was the perception of value.  Robert Joseph who is a renowned wine critic and wine thinker brought up this topic on his blog, and it set me thinking.  The crux of the discussion revolved around what we as individuals perceive as being good value, or in another way, worth.  Robert listed 7 random things at the cost of £100 and asked you the reader to answer yes or no whether you would pay that.  I asked my wife the on her opinion on the list and I got a resounding no to everything listed (shirt, haircut, watch, etc, etc) – exactly what I expected – where as I would have answered yes to a few of them.  And why was there a difference between us?  Because of what we as individuals consider “worth” and not what we as individuals consider “value”… which made me ponder.


Where we live, how we were brought up, the wealth of our parents, the quality of our schooling, the capacity to travel, the capacity to earn well; every one of these links in our history provide clues on how we will consider the value or worth of any item.  I look back at my history and I was not brought up in a wealthy household, anything but, but I never felt the stress of being without and my parents were extremely stoic and achieved a very comfortable and opportunistic life for all of their children.  My memory is crap from my childhood years, but I do remember the excitement of annual duck dinners my father mostly controlled.  Wine was bought and devoured by all the guests (an expensive drink for us at the time) – and it always makes me enjoy wine dinners that I have attended with friends or put on with friends as it still provides a point of connectedness with the past.  The expense of the dinners is actually irrelevant, it is the value of the memories and the camaraderie that makes it of “worth”.


Thus we are to separate value and worth and then we get to the crux of the issue.  £100 haircuts, shirts, watches, concert, bottles of wine are all worthwhile if the experience matches the expectation, thus it is more on the situation than on the value of the event.  Buying a £100 shirt from a department store and going home could be a complete disappointment, but buying it bespoke from a tailor in Hong Kong recommended by friends in some back street of Mongkok, well that is a story and an experience.


So let us join the dots and put wine into the frame.  I have discussed pricing of wine in the past and how difficult it is to determine where your wine sits price wise.  Just this week Penfolds will release the 2008 Grange for ~$800 a bottle and you will hear many saying that the pricing is silly – BUT – what is it worth experience wise? 


2008 Penfolds Grange - $800/bt

Well I suggest that to every buyer it will be that quiver of excitement at the point of laying it down, or better still cracking it open that will determine the “worth” of the wine.  There may be 100 wines of similar style and/or “better” than Grange, but will they give that frizzle of excitement upon opening?  Will they make the room stop as the wine is poured?  I say most probably not – thus the value vs. worth argument meets it nemesis, memory.


If you remember a wine, a restaurant, a view, a friend for a special reason, I doubt you put a cost to it.  The pricing of our wines is based on a number of factors, most of them practical, but nothing pleases me more than to have someone write to us exclaiming how much they enjoyed the wine.  It means they have a memory which is indelible and positive and as a wine maker you feel very content to know that something grown, vinified, bottled and delivered by you makes a “world” of difference somewhere.


There will never be a graph which plots value vs. worth.  But to everyone who has a life, moments will be recorded that will provide the sustenance and the support for all the years ahead.  Make the most of it all folks, not everything can be judged by shekels so enjoy something that you can afford but also provides the memory to sustain.  I have got a month of friends and visitors coming through to the vineyard, and I am very much looking forward to opening some bottles and having a shared memory of good times ahead.


March is on replay...


There is an unusual similarity between the climate data from last month and this month – the averages are so close as to spark surprise.  The reason for this surprise is that post summer, the weather progressively cools month on month – it does not plateau again until July-August-September before it starts the warming trend to summer.  Maybe it is a quirk of the seasons, but these quirks may start to play with our vintage timing in later months and we may need to consider different viticultural practices to keep pace with what appears to be our forever changing climatic conditions.


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


April 2013:      

Avg Maximum Temp          24.5°C

Daily Max recorded            32.3°C


Avg Minimum Temp           13.2°C               

Daily Min recorded               4.9°C


Rainfall:                               33.8mm

The maximum temperature range is significantly higher than last year and this temperature average for April is quite unusual.  The minimum is also higher and indicates that there is an element of latent heat in the “system”.  Rainfall is low and as such the “break of season” is yet to kick in – unlike in 2012 where April had some solid rainfall.

April 2012:      

Avg Maximum Temp          23.6°C

Daily Max recorded            30.6°C

Avg Minimum Temp           12.6°C

Daily Min recorded               4.7°C


Rainfall:                              56.7mm


May is a month at home …


Yes, some quiet time in Margaret River to enjoy the change of season – which autumn and spring I believe are the best times to visit the region.  Lots of planning for many events around the country during June, as well as planning the release of the 2011 Reserve Merlot as it approaches its drinking window, and the delicious 2010 starts to run out in the storage shed.

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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