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Monthly Report - July 2015


Antarctic Blasts…


Well this is how we reference winter now according to my three days in Melbourne at the start of the month.  It began with a road trip whereby I dropped in on Sydney for the day and saw some retailers in regards to the release of the 2011 Allouran – really well received and lots of orders on the books as soon as the Mailing List got their opportunity to snaffle a few bottles for themselves.  Had dinner with the prodigious Gary Walsh and the rather dapper Adair in North Sydney prior to heading down to Melbourne.


Melbourne was its usual bitterly cold self, grey skidding skies, and the feeling of impending doooom when walking the streets.  But once you can slip behind the door of a café or bar almost everything is forgotten and you quickly feel the mood lighten with the removal of your compulsory black jacket and scarf (regardless of gender here – it is a uniform for the well-heeled Victorian).  Had a great little tasting with a few comrades in the Brunswick East Wine Store (472 Lygon St, Brunswick – really really good selection of wines and the most Brunswickian bloke I know in Tim C shining glasses behind the bar).  Spent time with Tim M and his family before heading back for another round of pruning and the first rush of orders, really good little hit and run in both cities, but I was looking forward to my vines by the Saturday.

201507_wine cartons.jpg

The first batch of Allouran 2011 about to be sent to the Mailing List


Pruning is nearly finished for the year – Merlot and Cabernet Franc are done and dusted, and half of the Shiraz has had a haircut.  I do need to do some more seeding in my mid rows and shove some organic fertilizer out as the vines do need a pick me up – on the list.  Winter has been a little bit cooler, but a little bit drier this July so we can only but hope that the rains continue through August and the first half of September.  Our dam has just started overflowing today the 31 July, which highlights that though we have had solid rains for the first half of the season, the groundwater levels are still below what we actually need to keep the vines healthy and off the irrigation up to December.


My hope is to avoid using the irrigation at all, but it is a really tough decision as when you break it down our French and Italian variety vines need to have some water during the month as this is how they perform best in their most appropriate settings – WA is so dry in January / February to totally turn off the water means the vines will suffer and your fruit will not be healthy and balanced (which is more of the issue here).  Looking at the water usage I can break it down by variety over the whole vintage (16 weeks of irrigation) on a per vine basis (see table below).


The first stand out fact is that Shiraz is a sook and it requires a lot more water than the rest – with age I assume this will reduce as we see in South Australia with their Shiraz vines but to date ours still needs the love.  The second is that the water usage per vine is very low in the Merlot and Cabernet Franc (considering normal “low” irrigation rates is 1 million litres per hectare, or 600 litres per vine!).  The Viognier is on care and maintenance until we define what we will do next, and the Teroldego is on the same rate as the Merlot which seems to suit it.


Don’t ask…. Just don’t ask

A really busy and pleasing month with the sales and reception of the newly released Allouran, as well as the pruning of the vineyard nearing completion.  All in all a great month for us at Blue Poles.


Wine Etiquette…


Having spent a bit of time imbibing with a fair number of folk this month I think it is time I discuss wine etiquette, as self-help programs seem to be a bit of a “thing”.  It may come as a surprise for many, I too once was clearly unaware on how to handle, drink and discuss wine – shocking but true – and if it wasn’t for a few wine makers at cellar doors in the late 1980’s, and fellow wine lovers I would still be making the same rookie errors that I now look down upon.  I wil go through some QandA’s to get you in the right frame of mind.  Let’s do this.


Q: If handed a straight sided plastic cup with a thimble full of wine, is it alright to frown?


A: Absolutely, in fact when handed the “glass” look straight into the eye of the perpetrator and raise an eyebrow.  If you get a look of embarrassment, “try” to taste the wine.  If you get a quizzical look wondering what the problem is – tip it out and move on.  Totally justifiable on the grounds they just do not care about you and even less about their wine.


Q: Can you ask for a bigger pour when given 5 drops in the bottom of a glass?


A: Short answer yes.  Long answer, bloody hell yes.  Not even wine gods like Gary Walsh (self-proclaimed I will have you know), could attempt to evaluate a wine with 5 ml evaporating on the bottom of the glass.  If you get a quizzical look, refer to response above and follow to the letter (fortunately there is next to nothing to tip out).


Q: At what point does excessive swirling and sniffing turn you into a wine tosser?


A: When everyone comments on it after they have drunk the bottle and you have yet to sip the wine in the glass.  We all get it, you are extracting every descriptor that your little mind can throw up from this excessive olfactory overload – but really?  Really?  It’s a drink so let’s get down to business.  Rule of thumb – 1 minute.  It can be repeated after a good solid gulp, and then only in an absent minded manner, as if one is remembering to pick up the dry cleaning the next day.


Q: “I spot cherries and granny’s camphor chest on the nose, should I tell everyone?”


A: In a large group, not until everyone has swirled, sniffed and swallowed and started talking about footy.  In a small group, just after everyone has swirled, sniffed and gulped.  By yourself, go crazy.


Q: You have bought the most expensive wine to the dinner party, when should you open it?


A: Ahhh, now this must take into account the wine “quality” of the guests.  What we have here are three groups.  First group is a bunch of wine fanatics – they already know the wine is exxy and thus it is coveted like the most gorgeous girl in the 1st Year Physics course – thus sit back and let the group decide.  Second group is where you are the top or near the top of the wine expert list at the dinner – step in and discuss it with who is putting on the dinner, thus you choose where and when.  Third group – bunch of lushes – then if it is an expensive wine you deserve to have it drunk with dessert, fool.


Q: How many cellar doors in a day?


A: Are you driving?  Yes – about 4-5 and you should spit most of the wines.  Practice this at home folks so as to look like you have some idea and you remember not to swallow at the critical moment.  No – about 6, 7 at a pinch.  You do tend to get to a point where you are just getting drunk and the 8th cellar door will almost certainly give you some mental scars from either the driver whose patience has run out (partner or not), or the server who will call you out as a wine tosser/lush.


Q: How many wines can be tasted at a large wine function?


A: Wine shows where 10’s of wineries are set up in small tents or tables can be both a wonderful and horrific experience.  If crowded – go for the best wine first from as many wineries as possible, hassle for a decent pour and then retreat.  You can do upwards of 12-18 if you are diligent.  If not crowded, then you are in luck – if you have public transport or a pick up, you can go nuts.  BUT be aware the chances of you remembering much past the 2nd hour is two fifths of naff all in regards to the wines and their quality – this skill is only attained by wine rain men, and that is born not bred.


Q: Can I pour my own wine at a winery or wine function?


A: Yes, if you have had “the” eye contact with the owner or winemaker.  No, otherwise.  And yes it has been noted, no matter how sneaky you thought you were – poor form old chap.


Q: How do I know I am getting a bit drunk – before I hit the carpet?


A: Such an important question as there is often just a glass or two in it.  The key component here is your mobile phone – get an app that measures decibels and at the start of the evening say a pre-set sentence (your “safety” words as everyone has these in this day and age), note the decibel score and write it down.  Half way through, say the sentence once more – if you have jumped >15 decibels then you are on your way, slow down, if less there’s a bit more room in the tank.  At any point you exceed 25 decibels over the start of the evening, glasses of water for you I am afraid.


Q: White wine with white meats and red wine with red meats always?


A: Who cares!!!!  This is one of those irrelevancies that super markets and their goon peddlers make posters about and Today Tonight runs an exclusive on.  Utter, utter, UTTER tosh.


And the final question…


Q: How many bottles of wine should I purchase of something I like?


A: Ah yes, the value sweet spot.  There is the price to volume ratio to consider here, as well as the ability to age (ATA), overlain with the oohlala factor (OF) and the caressability capacity (CC).  For a purchase for oneself, if the wine is sub $30 with a large ATA, solid OF and renowned CC go large – dozen up.  Greater than $30 then ATA/OF/CC must be extreme for the dozen – 6 is the safest bet.  In excess of $100 per bottle then CC must be dizzyingly high for the dozen as you may now be living alone.


This is all in jest of course – just be polite when drinking wine at cellar doors or at wine functions and you can’t go wrong.  Wine is not a hugely mysterious thing, it is a drink, a damn nice drink to be sure, but it is still a drink.  Enjoy it with food and friends and in moderate moderation and you can’t go wrong.


Rainfall the missing ingredient...


Last year we were awash, whereas this year we have been impatient with the weather as there has been few rain events to fill the major groundwater aquifers of the region.  A series of cold mornings have been followed by pleasant days and this makes pruning an enjoyable task.


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


July 2015:      

Avg Maximum Temp          17.1°C

Daily Max recorded            20.3°C


Avg Minimum Temp            8.2°C               

Daily Min recorded              2.1°C


Rainfall:                               149.0mm

The maximum temperature averages were quite similar, but the minimum is a lot lower in 2015 with the clear mornings bringing a touch of frost for a few days at the start of the month.  Rainfall is lower due to simply the lack of strong frontal weather that brings the rain this time of year – it has been frustrating watching these features slip to the south of the state when they are needed for all of the regions forests, crops and stock.

July 2014:      

Avg Maximum Temp          16.4°C

Daily Max recorded            21.0°C

Avg Minimum Temp             9.4°C

Daily Min recorded               1.2°C


Rainfall:                              248.6mm


Pruning will finish!


…which is always a good sign that the vineyard is up and running for another year of activity.  I am working away a bit this month and will be back later in August to get the spraying program organized and prune some roses as well.  Mulching of the mid rows is likely and a bit of fertilizer is to go out – lots of odd jobs which is almost always the case.


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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