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Monthly Report - February 2014


Reaching a crescendo…


Vintage is rushing on down the slope to meet us here at Blue Poles.  Nets are on and grapes are finishing veraison in a controlled fashion – this vintage has the feel of 2010 with a coolish February with regards to maximums and a very dry pair of months in January and February (which is not rare, but usually one gets a tropical downpour causing a bit of mildew pressure).  The reason why I knew the maximums were not too hot this month was because my father was very keen to try out the new smoker he has made for my family, and by 9am already the breeze was in limiting the smoking process as the wind blew out the fluttering gas flame under the wood chips … a very annoying habit!


This is a month of watch and wait – March is much more the month of panic and rush as you attempt to pick on the days that provide not only the most flavor but also the balancing acid and pH levels that make for a complete wine from vineyard to bottle.  I am also very keen to see how the Cabernet Franc comes out this year – it has looked supreme all season and I know how keen Tim and Gail are to see a Reserve made from these vines one day (our own little Cheval Blanc :) ).


Bottles of the 2010 Allouran have made their way out to the wine writers and critics and we will report in next month on what they have had to say.  Responses to date have been very positive so we have our fingers crossed that we can get a unanimous decision across the various palates out there.


Beth with her Gifford Grandparents Butch and Anne – February 2014


My Mum and Dad had a few weeks with us during February and apart from a few hiccups on the arrival side of things, all went well and I hope they enjoyed their break.  It also coincided with the graduation of our daughter Beth who is now a Registered nurse (in the footsteps of her great Auntie Kaye), and I and the family were very very proud to see her completing her degree.


My topic this month is an entry I put in to try and win Schofield Watches “last DLC” watch.  Knowing I have none to no chance of winning, but with the ambition to at least have a go, I put in an entry which discussed time, geological time.  So rather than let it languish on the hard drive forever forgotten, I will present it here:


Standing on the shoulders of Giants.


Time is a many faceted face, with each face clear, concise, and strict.  But there is one face which lurks like a shadow, it humbles, it swamps, it overawes, it is as broad as the earth is old and it is deep.


Conceived by Hutton overlooking Lion’s Head in Edinburgh, defined by the strides of Smith along the freshly dug canals of the Midlands, and enlightened by the works of the Oxford don Lyell – deep time forms the cornerstone of our world.  The landscape we travel upon, love upon, work upon, and consume upon is formed by the processes which are inextricably linked with time unimaginable, but for those with imagination.


“What more can we require? Nothing but time.” – James Hutton, Theory of the Earth 1795


The United Nations of Picking Teams – 9 countries from 17 helpers!



A profound understanding may come from the smallest detail, or the faintest of glimpses.  William Smith born of common blood in Churchill, Oxfordshire in 1769, could see the detail, the whorls, the patterns within the shells of his county’s soils.  He sensed the sea, he sensed the warmth, he sensed the slow accumulation of time under his footsteps, and he sensed the fact that his world was a universe of mappable events.  His geological swathes of pale colours (intricate but broad), swept across borders and counties of mother England, providing the map from which to design a new world.


Though the erudite James Hutton pressed an argument for ancient time, his leather chair bound treatise made not an impact until the visual perfection of John Clerk engravings and the prose of John Playfair gave the metaphor life.  To have the scales lifted from your eyes, to see again in the light of a new beginning, a new yardstick from which to measure yourself was “Theory of the Earth” 1795, and it formed the golem clay which moulded modern man.

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William Smith’s Geological Map of England and Wales



The discovery of deep time required a working foundation from which to build a new perspective.  Charles Lyell was the architect and constructor of this plinth.  With a legal mind and a relentless argument, “Principles of Geology I – III” 1830-33 prosecuted the case.  Time was a hammer.  It built mountains and it eroded valleys, it was lineal, and time, most importantly, gave the earth meaning.  An old earth, one of a time so ancient that human presence was but a finger nail filing on the arm of history, yet this truth had detractors.  Thus Lyell was moved to say…


“We see the ancient spirit of speculation revived, and a desire manifested to cut, rather than patiently to untie, the Gordian knot” Charles Lyell, Principles of geology III, 1833

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Charles Lyell’s diagrammatic geology of the Canary Island – confirming Hutton’s interpretative diagram

The clothes on the golem of modern man were cut and measured by the understanding of deep lineal time, and the tailor Lyell ensured a fit.  Principles let the world, and in time the universe, be open for interpretation by all who cared to look.  Geology as a science was born, providing the score to the richness of history and of life on earth – all with little effect on a time that rumbled in the background like surrounding thunder.




Time’s arrow has been released straight and true since our planet cooled and ever so gradually moulded its surface to the form upon which we live and breathe today.  Our world is a palette of memories of time, from the eroded volcanoes to the spreading floors of our oceans, plates of continents roll around our planet creating our environment.  Yet we feel a sense of a world in stasis, solidity within our communal eyes, hearts and feet.


We recognise the importance of time in our lives, we wish for success within our time, we look back over the history of our time, we venture forth with hope for our loved ones in the times permitted ahead of us – but it is all but dust.  We now count the seconds and minutes with accurateness never previously recorded, and we break particles to see the light and energy that forms our very existence, and we do this within a straight line of supporting years, decades, centuries, millenniums, …epochs.  Time immemorial.


“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discussed the value of life” Charles Darwin


However.  No matter of the inconsequential nature of our weight upon the wheel of time, this is our time.  It is and always will be our opportunity to recognise our existence and our impact on the world around us.  The recognition of passing seconds and hours are testament to our place in the world, on its vast plain, on its lineage, so ne’er a second be wasted so as to make time… complete.


Addendum: One of the great men of geology I should have included above was Alfred Wegener, a German who literally pieced together the theory of plate tectonics – in my eyes the single most important advancement in the science.  When I started studying geology in 1983, the theory of plate tectonics had only just been totally accepted, which to this day still amazes me, but like the theory of evolution, without it nothing would make sense.  Wegener defined the framework for plate tectonics in the early 1900’s and died on the ice of Greenland never knowing just what a seminal piece of work he had written and submitted.  Fantastic guy in every way apparently, and to top it all off he smoked a pipe just like my thesis supervisor Prof Roger Briggs – another excellent bloke.




And on it goes with glorious blue blue days filling the sky day after day.  It has actually been a cooler February than many of the past few years and that has been due to the early sea breeze which has knocked the heat out of the day before it got too warm.  Even the top recorded maximum is not anywhere near the normal 38-40°C maximum we get this time of year.  Minimums have been around the average for the month, and rainfall continues to be a scarce commodity.


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


February 2014:        

Avg Maximum Temp          27.8°C

Daily Max recorded            33.8°C


Avg Minimum Temp           14.2°C

Daily Min recorded             8.3°C


Rainfall:                               0.5mm


The maximum temperature average is much lower than last years, with the minimum’s average very similar to the previous years.  Rainfall is again negligible, and this has meant the vineyard is as dry as a crisp relying on a small irrigation input to keep the vines healthy.

February 2013:        

Avg Maximum Temp           30.0°C

Daily Max recorded             39.4°C


Avg Minimum Temp            14.7°C

Daily Min recorded               9.2°C


Rainfall:                               1.0mm



Vintage nears …


March will be busy.  It is always busy with vintage being that time when a season’s work is pressed into wine.  We have high hopes for this vintage, so with a bit of luck from the weather gods and a bit of work we should be able to make a wine which reflects our site and our vines.


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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