Monthly Report - March 2014
What a wild ride along this month, the release of our 2010 Allouran and the start of vintage coalesced like two waves coming together off the storm break wall – bit of a splash. It has been a special month for support and activity as we appear to have got some really strong recognition from all around the wine critical circle, which is perhaps the most pleasing (though the bank could say otherwise).
I am not going to bore you with page after page of comments about our wines that have gone to print, but I will give you a quick taste and score of each of the reviews we have received in the past two months:
2010 Reserve Merlot
“…It's sublimely refined and elegant, gentle and beautiful, but hardly mellow” 94+ Philip White 04/14
“…More elegant and vibrant than previous releases; although it’s never been a clumsy, plodding wine” 95 Jeremy Pringle 02/14
“…Indeed, texture becomes the primary pleasure as the wine moves through its extended finish” Julian Coldrey 03/14
“…It actually popped out of a blind line-up for its succulence and general drinkability” 94 Mike Bennie 03/14
“…I’d agree it’s the best yet. 94 points from MB seems more than fair” Gary Walsh 03/14
“…It is a delicious, rare, slender drink. But is not mellow. Stack some away. This very generous price can't possibly hold. If you insist on buying 2010s, the Allouran is AU$4,300:00 cheaper than Petrus” 94+++ Philip White 04/14
“…It’s a steal at the price. It has the fruit, it has the spice, it has the poise. The length follows suit.” 94 Campbell Mattinson 03/14
On top of all of these fantastic reviews (yet to get a slap, touch wood), the highly regarded Philip White completed a large article on Australian Merlot and we featured very prominently – please have a read if you have not already done so as it does provide you with the background and the level of support we are now getting for our wines, at that is just sensational after 13 years of hard work:
Drinkster - Merlot Vinous Boy Named Sue
Gourmet Traveler Wine magazine also dropped us a line and will be featuring the 2011 Teroldego this month within the magazine as a “Best Buys”, so as you can imagine we are swooning under all this good press – April may end up being as my mother always says “…after the Lord Mayor’s Show” [Which is funny really as I’ve never been to a Lord Mayor’s Show, and my mother’s boss for many years at her Primary School was Principal Cliff Wisely, the Mayor of Morrinsville, for decades I think!]
Though this is just another steppingstone along this long path we travel, it does provide me personally with a bit of pride as I have always worried that what we were doing was simply tilting at windmills to a degree. It does go to show that the wines that you and I share, grown from this little patch of dirt east of Margaret River, are actually quite spectacular in their own way. And though we will never be Petrus (and rightly so, Petrus and the great wines of Pomerol are a world of their own), we are makers of fine wine that can rightly sit at the table of anyone that enjoys good wine and good company. And to that I say huzzah!!!
Well yes we have had lots of good news coming out, but that does not stop the simple reality it is the middle of vintage and we are half way through. The 2014 vintage has proved to be very exciting as the fruit is coming in very clean and extremely flavorsome. The Merlot was picked on 24 March and it was very rich, with the sugar levels sitting in the mid 13%’s and the tannins in the skins only moving into that fine filigree which enhances the wine in the last few days prior to picking. Again very low tonnage rates from the vineyard, as is our way, but just sensational flavours.
Cabernet Franc will be picked next week – it is usually a couple of weeks post the Merlot, and this year has been very special for this vine with great fruit set and lovely tasting fruit for the past week or so. The tannins are starting to resolve, and I am out there every day checking, checking, checking with my purple tongue – and it is very close and the best fruit I can remember from these vines. We have a few people that would love to try the Cabernet Franc as a Reserve wine – so let us wait and see if that is the go. I am excited to be making our own little “Cheval Bleu” so fingers crossed it can happen.
We are still tossing up about the Teroldego, but I think it is likely we will make a vintage this year. Shiraz did not get a pass mark – fruit was unbalanced and did not quite hit the spot – a bit more heat in February may have been required for this grape. Maybe next year.
What's in a name? Well quite a lot apparently and this part of the wine industry irks me quite considerably. Cape Mentelle, a winery owned by the large French company Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey (LVMH), have gone ahead and trade marked the name “Wallcliffe”, as they produce a range of wines within the Cape Mentelle range with that title. It is however a common name in the region, Wallcliffe Rd, Wallcliffe House, Wallcliffe Volunteer Fire Brigade etc etc – and perhaps more importantly to this tale, it is the name used by Gladstone when he defined the Margaret River sub-regions about 15 years ago.
So, when a winery from the region places on their label “Wallcliffe” in relation to the sub-region as defined by Gladstone, LVMH will send you a cease and desist letter so as to protect their “brand”. So why did Cape Mentelle think this was a cracking idea? Well they do produce their second tier wines with the name Wallcliffe printed large, and they are in actuality the only major vineyard on Wallcliffe Road (though it is not certain that only grapes from their Wallcliffe Vineyard actually goes into their Wallcliffe wines). But to register the name, a regional name, and then actively hold others to account for using it, knowing full well it is a recorded sub-region of Margaret River? That just comes across as selfish, disrespectful and short-sighted.
Now the reason I say it is disrespectful is that Gladstone, the one guy that aided this fledgling industry in the 1960’s get off the ground should be given some lee-way. I know full well you can argue that the sub-regions that he set out are not particularly relevant, but who is to say they will not be tightened up in the years to come? The names used by Gladstone for the sub-regions should be preserved so as to fall into more adequately defined regions at a later date – it did not happen overnight in France where appellations are still undergoing review and definition 200 years on from inception. The fact that our current Margaret River Wine Industry Association has not sought the use of sub-regions, does not mean that will always be the case – crikey, we are talking about wine here, a product that is made once a year and with vines that live to over 100 years old.
And the reason it is short-sighted? Well simply this – one day there will be a revision of these sub-regions and Cape Mentelle will be part of a block of high quality wineries in the “Wallcliffe” sub-region, and that region will be defined as simply the vineyards from Cape Mentelle through to Leeuwin Estate near the town site of Margaret River. A “super” sub-region (like Wilyabrup is currently), will be formed one day – Margaret River’s own version of Margaux and Pauillac, and they will be founding members of it. Every piece of promotion by Voyager, Leeuwin, Xanadu and possibly others of the “super” sub-region will reflect directly back on to them as well – and this means more visitors and higher prices. To not use the primary name as allocated by Gladstone will come across as false and possibly not be accepted within the new “sub-region” designations.
It appears I am the only one seeing it this way. Meetings have been held, and active nodding of heads has been seen, with the resulting situation being that LVMH have secured the title “Wallcliffe”. I do not think it is right. But we live in a strange and self-centered world and all you can do at times is look at it and shake your head.
Seasons are a changin’...
It has been a month that wandered along in all its summery glory until 25 March, and then the season changed. Fortunately for us we picked that thin-skinned Merlot on 24 March, but the Cabernet does not mind the cool of the night as its tannins slowly ripen in the skin. We have picked up an inch of rain since 25 March and there is a tinge of green spreading across the paddocks which makes it look a little less like barren acres.
The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:
Avg Maximum Temp 25.4°C
Daily Max recorded 35.8°C
Avg Minimum Temp 14.1°C
Daily Min recorded 6.7°C
The maximum temperature average is a little higher than last years, with the minimum’s average also a little higher to the previous years, as the warm conditions held to near the end of the month. Rainfall is similar in both months at about an inch in the old scale, and this initial rainfall often marks the change of season in the SW of WA.
Avg Maximum Temp 24.7°C
Daily Max recorded 32.9°C
Avg Minimum Temp 13.3°C
Daily Min recorded 7.6°C
Vintage finishes …
April will be as hectic as March, and for good reason as we finish our vintage and get all the nets in and shed stored and locked away for another approaching winter. We all look forward to May in this game, but next month has no relief from the busy schedule we have given ourselves.
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