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Monthly Report - June 2016


Merci, Salamat, Thank You…


The three languages I try to understand and butcher on a daily basis – however the sentiment is there, thanks very much comrades.  The dust has nearly settled on an amazing fortnight here in Blue Poles land post the release of the two 2014 Reserve wines and their near selling out two days later.  In fact both wines, the Cabernet Franc and the Merlot, are not even likely to make it to the website such is the demand and this is a fantastic vote of support from our mailing list and retail partners.


With only ~60 dozen of each available we knew that there would be a good response considering the wait since 2011 for a new Reserve from us.  Doing the wine tastings in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane I noted how much the Cabernet Franc was enjoyed immediately, but for those who pondered the Merlot for a while in their glass, they too started to sense the weight and density that sits just behind that lovely fresh plum and spice/fresh herb aroma.  Both the 2011 and 2007 Reserve Merlots were in fine form as well, and it was great to see Max Allen from The Australian drop in and check the Merlots (noting the overall quality, but mentioning the 2011 was terrific – good man!), for an upcoming story he’s writing.  Also managed to squeeze in lunch with the erudite Gary Walsh, but missed the mercurial Mike Bennie by “that much”.


Jackson the Wonder Dog – now in his 10th Year


With all of my gallivanting around, the vineyard has been left on the hill to lose the balance of its leaves and to harden up to the rolling cold weather fronts that are now becoming regular visitors to the region.  Started my pruning, always a good feeling, and it was exciting for Jackson the wonder dog as well as a regular supply of sticks were being thrown on the ground for him to chew – who needs a mulcher in the vineyard when you have a Hungarian Vizsla?


A rose by any other name….


Is still a rose.  But is it?  Our connection to language is deeper than you or I could possibly know or understand as it brings out the “human” in us. It is recognized that to every human, their own name is the most positive sound that they can hear – and to hear their own language being spoken the mind actually gets a rush of endorphins if it had been deprived of comprehension for any length of time.  Thus I am always intrigued by the naming and labelling of wine, as here is a purchase that demands all the positive vibes it could get to separate it from the shelf packed with equivalents in their shiny apparel.


I have discussed previously the quandary most have when naming a vineyard; Gifford Estate – Markwell Wines – Chateau Osmington to name but three of the many options we faced.  And at the end of the day it becomes how you develop the back story into your label and history that adds the genuine weight behind the name of any vineyard.  But what I have not discussed is that special world of naming your wines and the various machinations that come from this process.


Australian wine nomenclature is an interesting topic as it is so complicated and open to trickery by many wineries.  We love the use of grape variety names as the major pointer on the label after the name of the winery – followed by region, and then the compulsory year of vintage (if applicable) as long as the magical 85% of each has been achieved.  Not many wines are named without reference to the grape varieties as this is a staple, but what has piqued my interest is what is added as verbal support to make your synapses flare with desire when you read under the wineries moniker.



Grand Reserve

Bin No. / Private Bin / Special Bin / Special Private Bin No. (unicorn wine)


Basket Pressed

Unfined / Unfiltered

Organic / Biodynamic

X Block

Field Blend



Are to name but a few.  Some have a purpose, some have a historical link, some are to provide more clarity, and others are just a gimmick to make you move your hand towards the bottle on the shelf.  I like to classify these verbal additions into two categories, recognizing that these little words on the label provide the opportunity to jump the price a few dollars based on the magical influence which has come into play.


  1. Selection based: A way of describing to the buyer that you have put extra special effort into defining this wine.  All the Bins and Reserves slot in here as well as the Superiors and sort of Estates (i.e. made uniquely)


  1. Ideology based: A way of describing the way you have made the wines or grown the grapes.  So all the organic and natural wine stuff sits in here as well as the process stuff (foot stomped, basket pressed, etc)


So we have these extra terms to try to convince you to pay the bonus amount due to the extra effort.  We also use one of these terms, the ubiquitous “Reserve” which could be contrived that we are making a bit extra where there is no real value to the buyer, and I noted with interest that when Campbell Mattinson reviewed the 2014 Reserve Merlot he made an unusual comment that made me stop and think quite seriously for a minute;


“This is the first reserve merlot from the estate in a few years.  It’s not particularly profound or deep or intense; you’d almost say it’s curious as to why it warranted the ‘reserve’ tag.”  


It’s unusual in the sense that we the vineyard have been called out to “justify” a wine that we have labeled as a “reserve”, and also subtly why we made it at all.  In a way this moves the area of wine critique – are we taking this as advice or comment?  Are we taking you dear reader for a ride?


I WILL come clean and try to explain all about our dastardly scam.


Our reserve wines (of which there have been 6), are barrel selections from a single vintage.  They are made not to be blockbusters, highly tannic, bigger is better wines – they are made to represent the best of the vintage and the vineyard from the varieties that are grown here.  And they also represent what “I” believe is a wine representing what I would want from such a selection – varietal characteristics, complexity, length, structure, and most importantly balance.  My time in Bordeaux led me to taste many 100’s of barrels of varietal wines and also take part in some of the blending process – and it confirmed to me that complexity, structure and balance are the keys to making a reserve wine.


During June I took with me 3 Reserve Merlots – the new 2014 and the 2011 & 2007 wines.  When I blended the 2007 (my first reserve wine), the weight of the wine was not great back then, but oh the flavor, complexity and structure, I knew it would be an excellent Merlot and a new expression of the grape in Australia – one that harks back to its best expression of Left Bank Bordeaux rather than our soupy hot flat and flabby / green thin herbal expressions of Australia’s terroir to date.  When you drink the wine now the first thing that strikes you is the even feel and weight of the wine, and then you get the hints of secondary flavours overlying its primary base.  It is aging beautifully and not because of an overdose of oak, a fat rotundity of fruit, a micro-oxed suppleness – it is aging so well because of the wines basic building blocks all being in balance.


For those that have been wise enough to cellar some of our wines, you should be in for a treat as the years roll on with the reserves.  My use of the term “Reserve” is therefore both Selection based as well as Ideologically based – and that will continue as long as I produce wines from this very special patch of soil in the heart of Margaret River.


So as to complete the circle, when you hear the word Merlot I want the lovers of fine wine to think of its glorious mid weight plummy intensity, its strikingly smooth strong structured tannins, and its impeccable length.  The fact that it is a Reserve is neither here nor there, it is simply the best single variety wine that I can make and it is sold to those who want to find out what the variety really can do in Australia.


It ain’t warm...


What a cold month it has been.  In fact it has been the coldest June since 2005 when we averaged only 16.4oC and for some unusual reason we in the South West corner of WA have not had the heat load that many regions of the world have had over the past few years.  More luck than good management by the looks.  Lots of rain this month with most days having a rainfall recorded, but no real large event with the maximum on a daily basis only being just over the old-fashioned inch.


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

June 2016:        

Avg Maximum Temp          16.7°C

Daily Max recorded            20.3°C


Avg Minimum Temp            9.0°C

Daily Min recorded              1.4°C


Rainfall:                             167.8mm


The maximum temperature and minimum average this month were a lot lower than last years, with the largest discrepancy in the maximum value.           The rainfall total was also a touch higher providing a good start to filling the dam – but unlike last year there has been little run off as much of the rains are soaking and not that heavy.


June 2015:        

Avg Maximum Temp          17.9°C

Daily Max recorded            21.7°C


Avg Minimum Temp             9.5°C

Daily Min recorded               2.1°C


Rainfall:                               122.5mm


Back to it…


After the excitement of the tour around most Australian capital cities and a few crash hot meals, it’s back to the grind for me.  I am working away a bit this coming month, so pruning will be delayed a week or two which is what I had planned for this year.  Pruning I find to be most therapeutic, time to stand in the cold and the silence and enjoy the serenity.  Tim and I age an extra year as well as my dear mother and brother-in-law – so it is an auspicious month for us at least.


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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