Monthly Report - September 2015
On the burst…
It is always a mystery where I end up writing these reports, this month I am in a hotel room in Zamboanga City with intermittent power and a low profile. However for most of the month I was amongst the vines completing the last of the pruning which is now safely put to bed as the buds are a bursting. Even had the pleasure of Tim gnawing my ear for a couple of days as we tied down the Shiraz canes and drank more than a few bottles of wine (mightily impressed by a couple of kiwi wines in the mix – love the Hawkes Bay booze).
During the month I tried a few Merlots from around the traps as well and as is usually the case quality is such a variable with this grape in Australia still – like listening to Bread on the radio as it appears many wineries just cannot “move on” from this soft boring swill that gets pushed into bottles in the name of “easy drinking”. We all know in the industry that we get a bit of a cellar palate and instinctively support our own, but this is an issue of substance and style and Australia still battles with Merlot, even at the higher price points.
Merlot spurs (top) and Shiraz canes (bottom)
Funnily enough the photos above are up on the top of the vineyard against our eastern boundary as they always burst forth first. The reason can be seen behind the Merlot, a line of gum trees that were planted prior to our ownership of the block and planting of the vines. I would like to pull them out and try and even the burst out across the whole block, but the neighbor who runs beef now (used to be a dairy herd), likes the security these trees give him in regards to any potential spray drift. So they stay and as this does not seem to impact on our wines quality all is well in the vale.
I’m sorry, but really?…
Another issue during the month which makes me cringe with the silliness of it all is the tax debate going around in circles associated with the WET rebate. Anyone who has read these reports knows I am a firm believer in the tax being applied on a volume basis rather than a cost basis, as it eliminates the issues associated with cheap alcohol being peddled at every level and protects the integrity of the industry. But does this get a mention in the hearings into the tax itself? Nope, not a dicky bird as the industry is going to bat for the mass production regions of Australia in the assumption that this is the heartland of Australian wine. God forbid. Let’s see the logic here:
The major bulk wine growing regions of Australia fall in the Murray-Darling river basin and they are predominantly irrigated heavily to produce huge crops to meet a bulk wine demand. The issue is that over 90% of the growers in the region are going bankrupt as:
They get next to nothing per tonne of grapes
Less Australian bulk wine is being purchased, and what is being bought is being bought for knock down prices (we’re a global economy remember).
Very few producers have the capacity to make and market their own wine from the region.
The impact of all of this is a large use of a reducing resource in the water of the region, for a product that is becoming priced as low as the water it took to produce it. And the solution proposed? Marketing. Good gawd and little fishes. Seriously. Marketing.
Apparently the logic applied to this bankrupt system of goon production is that if the world became aware ONCE MORE of the wonder of this cheap swill (aka “Sunshine in a bottle”), then prices will jump, demand will sky rocket and all will be well. What makes me most incredulous is the assumption we have not been here before, which we have, and that the outcome won’t be the exact same position we now find ourselves in.
Marketing will not make an impact even if the found an “Old Spice, Man on a Horse Ad” tomorrow – it takes years to roll through the system. Thus in two years the whole of the region will be bankrupt in the process of waiting. And the best part, once they get there, they cannot afford to rise prices to the growers anyway as it is a price dependent market. So what was the point again?
I will not even mention the impact of producing cheap booze and how the health authorities twitter in glee at sticking the boot into all alcohol products, how we destroy the work of every high value wine growing region in Australia, or even how this outcome only benefits the major corporations of the industry (NO ONE ELSE) – but that would apparently be elitist. As even poor people need a glass of this over cropped, tasteless goon which must be made available like the social service.
Look. The Titanic is sinking – transfer to a lifeboat and paddle like hell. Growers of crops are amazing people and they need to sit down and look at what they can produce and make a dollar from. Food production catering for demand is where you need to go – I would be looking at Australian native fruits and berries on a larger scale. You have the soil, you still have access to water and if you are using Australian natives there is an element of drought resistance to the plants already, thus saving water and costs. This is just me dawdling, imagine what a concerted group of growers could achieve – stop this madness of propping up a wine product that has not a single redeeming value.
And here endeth the rant.
Both Tim and I have been in the process of determining where our next plantings will be as we will be reducing the viognier plantings and moving in some other varieties which we think will suit our vineyard site. So with an attitude of research I have gone out and purchased a few bottles of various Malbecs and had them over the past month or two and I have come up with the following list of positives:
The structure of the better wines from both Cahors (France) and Mendoza (Argentina) is sensational – very much in a cabernet style but with a lovely savoriness which accentuates dried herbs and oaky tannins.
They do not appear to use up too much new oak to generate this delicious structure and flavor profile which means they are easier to produce cost wise.
Aussie Malbecs are generally solid wines, I did not find too many I did not finish, and the best of them were eminently drinkable. Still a lack of serious structure in all to be honest, but that may be due to fruit weight and a lack of heart to really push it.
The best wine I had was an absolutely sensational Merlot / Malbec from a New Zealand, Hawkes Bay winery called Elephant Hill. This is the most complete Bordeaux styled wine I have tasted since I have been in France in 2010 – blindingly good. (NB I had 3 other kiwi Merlot/Malbecs and they were all good drinks but none reached the heights of the Elephant Hill bottling). This provides me with great heart as we could have further options for the Allouran and possibly make it even better.
It is an old Bordeaux variety and it was pulled out mostly because of its thin skin and susceptibility to powdery mildews – Cahors was planted AFTER the Bordeaux plantings and being inland and drier the mildew issues were reduced there. Thus it has a Bordeaux pedigree.
As for the negatives, I am not really sure. There may be an issue with the clones of the variety in the West and there may still be an issue with mildew susceptibility. I know the guys at Greedy Sheep in Margaret River have a few rows of the variety and it made a sensational wine in 2010 thus I know it has potential and that cuttings are available.
Once we have grappled with the bottling of the 2014 wines and got vintage underway amongst the vines I will start the process of planning this planting. As is everything in this game, it will take time with 2020 being a likely vintage date for any Malbec that we do plant, but I must admit I am a touch excited to see how it goes in the Blue Poles locale.
A month of halves – the first being very cold and wet and the latter being very dry and warm, so you could mark in your diary on 18 September as the start of vintage 2016 if one seeks such trivia. Up until the 18th it was very cool at night, with minimums averaging 5-6°C and daytime maximums only ~16°C, which is as cold as it has been all year. But the switch turned on the weather and since that date the sun has warmed and the nights have mellowed, with glorious spring weather abounding.
The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:
Avg Maximum Temp 18.4°C
Daily Max recorded 24.6°C
Avg Minimum Temp 7.5°C
Daily Min recorded 2.7°C
The maximum temperature average was very similar though in 2014 the maximums were more evenly spread and 2015 having a bi-polar set of maximums. Minimums were significantly cooler in 2015 and again this is due to the cool start to the month. Rainfall frustratingly is very low once more – enough to top things up but not enough to buffer the draw down by the local groundwater systems once the heat moves up – lends itself to an early vintage as vines will press ahead with growth quite quickly.
Avg Maximum Temp 18.4°C
Daily Max recorded 26.5°C
Avg Minimum Temp 9.4°C
Daily Min recorded 3.5°C
A decade of reports…
October 2015 will be the 10th Anniversary of Tim and I compiling these monthly reports. I will be writing the 121st report which I must admit is quite a few. From very humble beginnings we have managed to get a really good readership and though I have courted controversy on a few occasions, most of the reports are an opportunity for me to keep track of our growth as much as sharing our story. October is simply the greening of the vineyard as shoots leap for the sky and the wires are stitched up to hold them into shape for both the sun and wind to do their work. It is also a birthday month for 3 of the girls, with our youngest Abigail turning 18 making the last of my daughters reaching adulthood.
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