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Monthly Report - December 2014


Walls of Green…


Walking around the vineyard on a hot summer’s day is actually really pleasant as the vines are trained upwards and the heat only tends to impact upon you at mid-day.  And I guess if we were sensible that would be a siesta time anyway so as to avoid the summer heat that has now arrived and in bright blue skies, bears down upon us.  I always walk with my secateurs when wandering the rows looking for irrigation leaks, signs of mildew or insect damage, or even walking up to feed the chickens – it means I can snip here, snip there as vines grow in the wrong direction or I have missed something from the green thinning.


One of the many tricks vineyards do to make it look super neat and tidy is to hedge the vines by cutting all of the vines growing too tall or too wide.  This makes it look picture perfect and it promotes “lateral” growth near where the grapes are growing.  This is a sure fire way to provide some shade and to keep the grapes a little cooler.  But I am not a fan of this, as I prefer to have the area around the grapes that little bit more open for the sea breeze to get through and to keep mildews at bay as I do not like to spray too much if I do not need to.  Also by keeping the height on the long canes, it gives a nice dappled light running through the vines and that I feel evens out the growing even on very hot days.  Another advantage I have found by keeping the canes un-trimmed is that you can spot water stress very easily as the tips of the growing canes tend to curl up like a fern when water stress sets in – an easy marker to define how well the irrigation program is going.  There is no right or wrong with this side of grape growing, but I always like to determine why I do or do not do things as many just follow the pack and it may in fact be to their detriment.


Dappled light falling on the Merlot bunches – row M8


December for most vineyards is usually pretty quiet, the fruit is set and the vines are photosynthesizing away, with not much we the vignerons can do.  I am still super pleased with the season to date, with the vines pretty relaxed and with the lack of any really out of the box heat spikes we are easing towards another pretty solid vintage in the Margaret River region.  And this is becoming the constant around here – we tend to be a bit fussier as we are in a slightly cooler spot and a little more susceptible to wind at flowering and some mildews – but since 2006 the region has not had a real reason to not be able to make excellent wine in the top vineyards and wineries.  The term vintage of the decade, century, whatever, is all a bit of silliness really as the capacity to make excellent wines has continued year on year so I guess buying Margaret River wine has never really been less risky.

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Merlot growing cane tips reaching for the sky, and each other – row M8

Having a look around the district at the vines, I do not think I have seen as much growth in the vineyards as this year since 2006.  Some vineyards are literally “filled” with vines as the huge amount of growth has also nearly filled in between the rows and driving the tractor through for spraying must be an adventure.  Back in the olden days (1990’s!!), many vineyards were fertilized with extra nitrogen through the irrigation system and I wonder if anyone still does this today – but judging by the growth in some vineyards maybe they do and they have never bothered to change the order of things.  We in Australia always get a hard time about using irrigation systems, and in some cases where they use millions of litres per hectare per season I can totally understand it.  But where it is used sparingly and modified to account for the variety it is drip irrigating I believe it provides the best opportunity to achieve the most ripe, flavorsome, rich, balanced, and complete grapes from which to make wine.  And this ensures you do represent your terroir more accurately and provides the necessary balance to the heat and the dry which is not historically replicated in the home counties of our foreign varieties.  As other regions of the world such as southern France continue to dry out, there will be a time in which drip irrigation may be needed to save a vinous history, or you will simply have to let it die.


What do you drink?…


During the Christmas and New Year period we often get some calls from folk who would like to drop into the vineyard and taste some wines.  This is always welcomed (when someone is home!), and I and Gail always enjoy the chance to eat cheese, drink some reds and chat away about whatever is the topic of the day.  Well this year is no exception and we have had a few visitors and when a couple of guys came through they asked me that question “What do you drink?”


Well it seems a straight forward question and I waffled on as best I could while trying to get Jackson the Wonder Dog out from under their elbows (of which he has a habit of making you throw your wine in the air – I am sure he blooming well knows this).  And after the guys left I actually had a look at the empty bottle wall which is usually about the last 8 weeks of drinking when I am at the house.  The empties were as follows:


  • 12 bottles of various Blue Poles wines

  • 3 bottles of Eldridge Estate Pinot and a Sauv Blanc he sneaked in

  • 2 bottles of Bordeaux Medoc red

  • 1 bottle of Fraser Gallop (MR) Chardonnay

  • 1 bottle each of Victory Point (MR) Cab Sauv and Chardonnay

  • 3 cleanskins from wine friends (local Petit Manseng, Fiano, Gewürztraminer)

  • 1 bottle of Amato Teroldego


A total of 24 bottles over 8 weeks, often drunk with friends, so 3 bottles a week which is not too much I personally think. Most of the wines were drunk over a couple or three nights, and I got lucky with the Bordeaux reds as they were not corked and were not over the top brett monsters.  The thing was I remember telling the two visitors that I liked odd red varieties and various southern Euro wines, but in reality I had not had a bottle of those wines in ages.


My wife is not a big drinker at all which makes the wines drunk basically my statistic, and when I look back over the year (excluding my Birthday bash which murdered the average for July) I think I am sort of in the same window of drinking quantity and styles.  I have gone off Sauvignon Blanc and Sem/Sauv blends – they do nothing for me, I still enjoy a Chardonnay but often I am spending half my time wondering why I opened it as most Chardonnay does not move much once opened, I do not drink Riesling unless someone is sharing, but I like some of the new white varieties coming on line – Fiano is my latest favorite.


With red wines I still love Bordeaux styled wines – no idea why I do not drink more oddities like I do with the whites, but I just seem to get picky when trying them and tend to find more reasons to not drink them than do.  I do like what Brad is doing with his weird reds in the Amato range – they are delicious drink now stuff – but as for serious Aussie attempts at Italian and Spanish varieties I often think of the cost as being exorbitant after touring through northern Spain.  And I never really get bored with my own wine – I am always excited to crack open an Allouran or whatever, as I eat so much beef it always seems the perfect fit – which appears a bit obvious I guess, but there you go.

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A “simple” little wine shop in Paris – this is where I’d like to drink wines every day ;-)

Before the vineyard I used to drink a lot more widely and would not really settle on any one varietal or region, but having the vineyard and with a more simple lifestyle I am becoming more closed I suppose.  I will take this as a wake-up call and start tasting around the “traps” once more, as the one great thing about wine is that it never ceases to surprise and provide enjoyment when you least expect it.


Normal service resumed...


Last month I rambled along about the weather as it had been unseasonably cool, with temperatures not far different from the 2006 vintage which proved a difficult one for the region.  Fortunately December 2014 has come back to a normal range of maxima and minima and a very dry month to get those vines stretching their roots downwards.  This is good news for the vintage and excellent news for the vines as they are now looking strong and well advanced – with picking dates looking to be late March – early April as usual for our site.


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


December 2014:      

Avg Maximum Temp          23.7°C

Daily Max recorded            30.0°C


Avg Minimum Temp           11.8°C               

Daily Min recorded               6.9°C


Rainfall:                               2.7mm

The maximum temperature average is still a bit lower than last years, but the minimum was only a little lower with the season moderating the minimums at least.  Rainfall this time of year is normally very low and this proved to be the case once more – the total rainfall for 2014 was 1006.4mm which is 174mm less than last year, and a little less than the 100 year average.

December 2013:      

Avg Maximum Temp          25.9°C

Daily Max recorded            35.1°C

Avg Minimum Temp             11.9°C

Daily Min recorded               7.6°C


Rainfall:                              3.0mm


New Year Resolutions…


Well New Year has come and gone and now we can look back at another year passing under the bridge.  The big Five Oh for me, which was a bit hard to get my head around but it is but a number and I am slightly too busy to worry about such inconsequential things.  The vintage from 2014 is one of our best yet, so I am super pleased that is in the shed and looking great.  Children have completed degrees so now we have a “sort of” lawyer, and a registered nurse having finished this year so that was great to see.  I will be making no resolutions this year as I am so busy I have a feeling that if I attempt something big during the year I may just be disappointed, so I am working on the now to make the future that much easier.


More trips to the Philippines and other spots, but that is getting under control as staff step up to do their role.  Parents and sister make a welcome appearance this February, so a few more wins at scrabble for me (touch wood, stroke the rabbit’s foot, cross the fingers and toes).  We at Blue Poles hope you are all enjoying a small break and looking forward to 2015, and as always take care and all the best everyone!!

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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