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Monthly Report - June 2014


Quiet shiver…


The vineyard feels like the deck of an abandoned ship when wandering around it in June.  So very very quiet except for the rustle of the remaining leaves slowing making their litter fall, and the occasional rub of canes in the breeze.  The ground is so soft with the rainfall and all the new grass growth; as 13 years of mulching and slashing the grasses and canes back into the topsoil have produced an extremely deep brown loam, a good 20cm deeper than when we first bought this empty 50ha paddock 13 years ago.  Looking at the cane lengths I am up for a bit of fertilizer to be spread amongst the merlot this year, and I will add in some activated carbon that I am making at the moment in the compost pile in the vegetable patch at the back of the house.  I have always wanted to have a go at it, making activated carbon that is, as a dinner I attended with Randall Grahm gave me the blueprints of the process and the affects, but my crazy lifestyle has meant it was an idea only until last month.


But no walk amongst the vines can stop the twitch of the fingers as all I can generally see is where the cuts will be when I get to prune.  I am holding off a little this year and starting the pruning in July due to the desire to let the grapes keep their acidity a little longer by kicking off the growing season a little later by pruning a little later.  I have some friends who are in a warmer section of Margaret River and they finish their pruning in October to facilitate this and they do a fantastic job with their grapes, so I will borrow from their collective wisdom and follow suit.


It is always a fine line of checks and balances each season, with the big issues being that I have no idea on how hot, cold and / or windy and wet it will be during each period of the growing season ahead.  An element of “Russian Roulette” comes into play, but I am backing a continuation on the warmer weather of the past 8 vintages and if that is the case the better acid balance matching in with the flavor and tannin resolution should make for another exciting vintage.  [And also by chance the “odd” vintages of 2007, 09, 11, and 13 have been the warmest years, ahead of 2008, 10, 12, and 14 which have been slightly cooler.]


We indicated in the last report that we will release the 2011 Reserve Merlot in June – apologies – we got close as the wine will be released today as you read this report to the mailing list, and to all and sundry a week or two later.  A wine that represents a more “masculine” version of Blue Poles Reserve wines, but one that will have the capacity to age “forever” and that is an aspect that excites me.  But please be aware, much of this wine has been pre-ordered and the mailing list will be the best place to secure some bottles – so jump on if you are not already and get first dibs on all of our wines (of which many are tiny makes), all of the time.


We still drink the 2005 Merlot / Cabernet Franc which weighs in at an impressive 12.8% Alcohol, our first “real” wine made and with me so very very green in the vineyard – and it is drinking just wonderfully.  The tannins were not fully resolved when we harvested, as they are in many of the later wines, but they are still there keeping the structure and adding to the length and complexity of the wine – and as it approaches its 10th birthday it provides the confirmation that our wines can stand the test of time and continue to grow in the bottle.  I look back now at the time the first Allouran vintages were made and sort of shake my head, talk about flying by the seat of your pants – I almost shunned advice from other viticulturists (apart from the spraying regime to keep the mildews at bay), as they worked within a commercial space that did not comprehend such low tonnages and a hands-on approach to leaf plucking and fruit thinning.  I received more blank stares than anything else, but I knew what I had tasted and I knew that if we could pack in the flavor and structure all will be good in the winery.


This intentional obstinacy could have been our downfall, but we have always known that our site was suited to what we had planted and the early vintages of the wines provided proof positive.  So when Max Allen sat down and went through our wines with me in Melbourne early on in June, and then gave us an excellent review in the “Australian” later in the month (link to the article), I had a quiet moment thinking “crikey” as we have now had nearly every major wine writer and critic give us a glowing review along the way without anything more than posting out a bottle or two.

201406_Australian Article-Max Allen.jpg

We are fortunate in Australia to have some excellent wine palates putting their critical reviews up for simply the cost of bottles and postage – it is an unusual symbiotic relationship that is often harder on the critic than it is on the winery.  Why do I say that?  Well you cannot live off just bottles in the post, food and accommodation are still bound by cash transactions and many wine writers now have an ever shrinking list of opportunities to obtain cash for articles and stories – the fact that so many of them are so upright and straight is a real testament to them and their principals.





I am again tapping away in the warmth and humidity of Manila as my other life is moving ahead full steam and I am tied to the rush and bustle of Manila town, and the quiet and cool of Margaret River – any further apart and I would be on two differing planets.  But I do have constant contact with the world in both spots and the month of July is now associated with #DryJuly, where you forego alcohol for a month to raise funds for “Cancer Research”.  Now to speak out against this worthy cause is tantamount to committing heinous crimes as every one of us have family and friends that have been affected by cancer in one form or another.  But let me say this.


Don’t do it.


Why link alcohol abuse with cancer?  Why link drinking a glass of wine with your dinner to getting smashed in a nightclub drinking spirits and sugar?  Why provide guilt where there should be none if you drink moderately and for pleasure?  Why, why, why?


I am going no further.  A short topic for your blessed relief, but as a final statement I will say this:




“This month I will only drink wines that are interesting and exciting.  I will only drink these wines when I have the opportunity to truly enjoy them and hopefully in company to share them with.  I will take my time and savor these wines and I will take a moment to appreciate my life, my family, my opportunities, and my luck to be where I am today.  I will donate to a cause which is worthy and I will take time to support a community activity.  I will communicate with friends and relatives I have not had time to be with for a long period and I will share my hopes and plans with them as I hope they will share with me. I will relax.”


There you go – feel free to change wines for beers, or spirits, or liqueurs, I am not the alcohol police here!  And if you did that every month and I think you could be better for it.  Now I just need to take my own advice ;-)


Frontal path...


I love the shape of the frontal weather as it “hits” the capes region in the south west corner of Western Australia, a great big curved scimitar of rain and wind bears down on us from the Indian Ocean and you think about tying down every loose item in the property to avoid some damage.  Trees get bowled over, power is cut at least once or twice, and some sheets of tin get rattled on the shed and require bolting back in.  Early winter is a consistency that we have got so used to over 26 years that it almost is a release to have it turn up knowing that a whole region of WA requires the rain for their crops.


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


June 2014:      

Avg Maximum Temp          17.3°C

Daily Max recorded            21.6°C


Avg Minimum Temp             9.4°C               

Daily Min recorded               4.3°C


Rainfall:                               159.9mm

The maximum temperature average slightly lower to last years, but the minimum was quite a bit higher with the consistent cloud cover from the start of the month.  Rainfall is similar to last year, but in 2013 we had a very heavy period of rain in May which was not replicated in 2014.  We will need a wet July and August to bring the rainfall totals up to the average once more.

June 2013:      

Avg Maximum Temp          17.9°C

Daily Max recorded            19.7°C

Avg Minimum Temp           7.9°C

Daily Min recorded               2.4°C


Rainfall:                              158.7mm


Pruning commences …


First up – Happy Birthday to Mum and Tim who are by chance born on the same day (but not the same year), and to me this month, huzzah!!  Pruning will kick in with a vengeance and I will enjoy some fresh air and sore hands for a few weeks.  And that will be about it – not much else to say as July will be the sound of cut, cut, cut, snip, snip, snip.

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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