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Monthly Report - November 2015

Back to it…


After last month’s epic of a monthly report I will try to be more concise and focused.  No promises though.


The vineyard has had an awkward month with flowering encountering significant wind and a few showers.  Looking through the vines it appears that we will have a reduced crop, especially in the Merlot, but all the vines are looking healthy and have good colour and the growing tips are supple and long.  It was a long walk, but all of the wires are up now, and as usual I will leave one top wire down for now as I want a bit of afternoon shade on the bunches just in case of a scorcher in mid-late December and this could damage the developing fruit.


The use of wires to lift the canes up and get the sunlight and air into the canopy is an essential component of vineyards set up on vertical trellising systems.  It seems a bit odd, but the needs for this wire lifting is becoming less critical due to many of the wine growing regions encountering hotter vintages; but without some direct sunlight on the grapes then you get a buildup of a chemical called pyrazine.  By being present, pyrazine gives you those green grass / tomato leaf flavors which tend to overwhelm many cabernet based wines and is a real diluter of flavor and depth.  So it is a careful systematic approach needed to get that dappled light and air flow, which means a few days amongst the vines, snipping and tucking, to get the balance in the canopy as you would seek balance in the wine.


Another job done has been the ordering of the new barrels for the upcoming vintage – one of the most expensive items of purchase throughout the whole vintage.  I have a strong appreciation of the value of quality oak for the making of our wines – as we do not use more than 25-40% new barrels in any one year.  The reason for this is simply for the wine itself – too much new oak is simply “biggus dickus” wine making and in general it makes pretty average wine.  The theory that has been promoted for decades is that rich fruit “soaks” up the oak and adds to the behemoth which is the wine.  Utter cockwobble.  Oak is the frame in which the wine is held on the palate and when you smell the wine – if it dominates it makes the wine clumsy, and by ramping up the ripeness levels of the fruit to counter-act this wood paneling is like throwing bricks at the wall.  For the sake of humanity, the next time you see a 100% new oak expensive cab sav or shiraz just drop it on the floor from a height – it is just simply the most sensible thing to do.


Drinking Dilemmas…


This month’s topic actually comes from me going to my remnant cellar (I once collected and stored wines with zeal, owning a winery and the resultant destruction of any spare cash quickly put an end to that!), and actually thinking about what I would “like” to drink.  You may think this strange, as wine is wine and it should get in “your belly” quick smart, but there are so many options available to the drinker in this connected world that the simply choosing of a wine is a trip down the light fandango.


Remember the days when it was simple?  A few varietal names and a couple of regional names would cover 95% of all wines on a shelf.  Put on top of that a smaller list of wineries to choose from or know, and it was a simple equation.  Attempt that today and you would fail, not because of good intent but rather the “sneakiness” and complexity of the choices now in front of you.


The sneakiness comes from trying to determine whether the wine is actually from a winery with vines and people or simply a marketing campaign developed in design focus groups in the bowels of Woolworths or Coles.  This is actually much harder than you think, as wine labels on a shelf are often the first point of contact with the consumer and by defining the “look” of an “artisan” label then you’re 90% on the way to tricking the consumer into believing that some sustainable practice has been part of the process.  Also, if you limit the choices in the supermarket wine outlets to other bulk wine makers and you can “pin” your wines as the better choice.  Home brands are insidious and overwhelming and are the cancer of the agricultural industries of Australia – but they are not going anywhere and we now have to each individually choose how much of this purchasing control will affect you and your family.


The complexity is perhaps the easier concept to understand, but hellishly difficult to define.  Each and every small winery in Australia fights for recognition and/or a distinctiveness within the market place.  So by sticking with 3-4 grape varieties which are known to produce solid wines in a particular region only works if you are recognized as being one of the best producers of those said varieties.  That is fine for 5-6 wineries of possibly 100’s within Margaret River for example, but then how do the rest get noticed?  First option is a new variety as part of the list, then you look at vineyard options such as bio-dynamic and/or organic, and then you move into winemaking artifice to complete the set.  Apply this to every wine growing region in Australia and you begin to see how it could become amazingly confusing to chase down something you have had before but cannot quite remember exactly what it was.


But with all of the complexity, it actually has become an exciting time for the consumer and in a way released the wine industry from being some corporate dinosaur the head honchos have always wanted to be.  By having 1000’s of labels (noting that many are fakity fake), the consumer can now actually choose wines of a number of styles and varieties without being cornered by a ‘big company perception” of what you should like.  The portal is the internet of course, and by using this in conjunction with independent wine stores and travelling to various wine regions / wine functions as time allows getting a feel of what YOU enjoy, then choice becomes your friend.


So back to the cellar, and my question on what I would be drinking that night.  If not a Blue Poles wine then I am spoilt for choice with the various friends in the industry having swapped bottles or shared them – thus it could be a serious Mornington Chardonnay, quirky McLaren Vale Grenache blend, or even a Riverland Montepulciano.  


Reading Dostoyevsky...


Like reading, just Dostoyevsky may be very admirable but there is nothing wrong with lightening the cerebral load and enjoying other books.  Modern classics (with wines as with books), are everywhere to be found and enjoyed so get out and take a look at what is going on out there, it may be just the thing you were looking for.



Early heat...


It has been a warm month with a number of very hot days early in the month (matching in with the cricket test match in Perth), but it has moderated over the last two weeks which is a relief.  The previous two months in which the November average was as high was prior to the 2011 and 2014 vintages, but in both of those vintages there was a cooler than average month to bring the ripening timeline back from a far to advanced state – so we will see how the weather pans out.  Rainfall was on 7 days and really just as disrupting showers to the spray program we had set, no effect on the vines growth or groundwater levels.


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


November 2015:        

Avg Maximum Temp          24.3°C

Daily Max recorded            35.4°C


Avg Minimum Temp           11.7°C

Daily Min recorded               7.4°C


Rainfall:                               5.4mm


The maximum temperature average was much higher than the 2014 maximum, with minimums quite similar between the two years. Rainfall was average for November, but much less than last year which had a weekly series of rain events.

November 2014:        

Avg Maximum Temp           21.1°C

Daily Max recorded             26.1°C


Avg Minimum Temp            11.0°C

Daily Min recorded                4.9°C


Rainfall:                               51.1mm



Christmas and a New Year beckons…


This Christmas and New Year will be spent in Britain with Gail’s family and friends – my first northern hemisphere Christmas and for the first time it could be recommended to have a nice hot meal of turkey with all of the lashings.  Jackson the dog will be well looked after by my mother who is having an extended break in the west of Australia and the vineyard is in steady steady mode so all is well there.  Tim and Yuko have a young family so there will be lots of excitement for Sophie and William for sure.  From all of us here at Blue Poles we wish you all the very best for the coming festive season.


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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