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Monthly Report - July 2016

Wintery winter…


Well it cannot be said that we did not have a cold winter this year, it has been freezing for us Western Australians in Margaret River, with daily maximums being pretty cold and then the wind chill taking it down even further.  Little chance of an early budburst it seems, but you never know in this tipsy topsy crazy weather world we now live in.  The dam has been overflowing since mid-July (night of the 15th), and with the groundwater table seeping up through the patches of sand we are finding out that the frogs are becoming extremely amorous throughout the areas around the dam and surrounding paddocks – oh the noise!


Pruning has been completed throughout the Merlot and Cabernet Franc blocks, and also our Shiraz has been started (but not likely to be finished until the end of this month).  Quite a good vigorous growing year last year amongst both varieties, so we have quite a bit of extra “trash” from the canes in the mid row.  The past 12 years of mulching this material and our grasses back into the ground has built up our soil profile quite dramatically, from the old thin topsoil when we arrived which was ~100mm thick, we now have got a topsoil over 300mm throughout the vineyard and lots of worm activity which still amazes me.  Early on we spread a big truckload of worm castings, and ever since then I have always wondered if we dosed our vineyard with compost worm eggs – as many of the worms you find are very active and red, located near the surface typical of compost worms.  As you get a bit deeper you find the larger more sedentary earth worms, and over time they have become more dominant.


View across the top of the Merlot Block – Winter 2016


With so much rain we have had a problem with our driveway flooding near the road.  It is always a highlight dealing with the council – so many different people to call prior to getting hold of the one guy who can sort of sort it out.  I have been told they are raising work orders and finalizing some SOE’s and then possibly they may come and dig out all the road gravel from our drain.  I am going to be stunned when I see the shire workers turn up and do it – it could end the 20 phone call saga which has consumed me for the past 3 days!


Magnum Style…


Yes comrades, it is finally here, the release of our first ever magnums bottled.  It has been a plan of mine for many years to have magnums bottled with our normal bottling run as our wines are built for aging, and by all accounts magnums (and bigger bottles) have the capacity to allow the aging process to be slowed and more refined over time.  Thinking this would be a straight forward process I mentioned it in passing to the team at the bottling plant, and hello it all of a sudden got a bit difficult.

201607_Blue Poles magnums.jpeg

Here they are comrades – the Blue Poles “Infinity” series of wines


One road block was put up after another.  The biggest one was the bottle – plenty of magnum bottles for cork sealed wines, not so the case for screw capped sealed bottles.  After a frantic set of googling and calls the bottles were found in Melbourne – delivery organized, and then the next issue popped up with the fixed bottling plant unable to take bottles this size.  Once more we solved it by taking up a spot on the mobile line, but then we had the issue of sealing the wine correctly with the mobile screw capper, then the labeling, then the boxes, and on and on.  As you can imagine I thought the too hard basket was making an appearance, but with everyone finally aligned we got the job done and I am rapt.


I have nicknamed our magnums the “Infinity” series as with a much slower aging regime and the way we have made the wines there is a good chance these wines have an opportunity to outlive us all.  There are only 24 of each of the three 2014 wines bottled – the Reserve Cabernet Franc, Reserve Merlot, and the Allouran.  We will be selling them for $100 each plus $20 for postage, and though that seems a bit more expensive we have got them in a nice box and I have spent “hours” wrapping them (I so wish Yuko was here to help, there was never a job more suited to her Japanese eye and sensibility), and we are really pleased with the finished product.


Get in touch with Tim and me if you would like to purchase one or two, he is running the book and we have already pre-sold more than half of them.  Not many Allouran magnums left either despite the release date likely to be in 2017…


Reality Check….


After 14,197 tweets on Twitter and 100’s if not 1000’s of conversations on the platform, I was blocked by a user; the first time this has ever happened to me.  A bit of a shock, but not unexpected as in this day and age outrage is a unit of currency that everyone wishes to use no matter what the reason.  Just so odd to feel this lash of bile and vitriol, and even odder to see someone lose perspective so quickly.


But standing back and having a look at it, isn’t this the way of the world now?  You arrive at the airport lounge and there is no tomato juice – don’t just accept it, go onto a social media platform and scream your outrage.  A national sports team changes coaches, and during the first 6 month’s loses a couple of games – don’t think that there is wiser heads at work, rant like no tomorrow of the foolishness of his selection, and then hide your head in shame when results turn around.  And on and on it goes, faux outrage over everything from lack of legroom to no wifi in the hotel room – ramped up like the opening credits of Sean McAuliffe’s Mad as Hell program, it knows no end.


Why do we take everything so personally, not seeing the subtlety or gifted meaning anymore?  Why take it always as a personal affront?  I would say that in every case the reason why your luggage is delayed is because there is an issue with the unloading of the plane, not because they have a personal vendetta against you.  The reason why there is no mobile coverage is because of overcapacity or weather conditions, not because of the carrier’s incompetence.  Simply put, the reason why so many things happen to us is because of things that are outside of our knowledge base – “believing” you know the reason is not the same as “knowing” the reason.  So everyone out there with their angst and drama, trust me when I say that sometimes it is not about you, me or anyone – it simply is what it is.


It also leads on into thinking what is actually going on?  Why this feeling that your comfort or desires outweighs reality and the comfort and desires of others around you?  I know we are all guilty of it to a degree – waiting is a curse apparently, but I am starting to think “absolutes” are as well. Let me explain.


We are all starting to be fed so much information in shallow spoonful’s that we “feel” expert in many areas that we have little real knowledge of, though we think we do.  Like journalist Andrew Bolt discussing Aboriginal issues, the belief structure takes over from the reality factor – thus Andrew does believe Aborigines live the life they do because they choose it, not because much was put upon them by life and circumstance.  It is not clear thinking, your belief that you “deserve” something, or that you have been “dis-serviced” because X or Y has happened indicates that you think the world actually revolves around you.  Quite simply, it doesn’t.


Thus when I read statements which appear as “absolute-isms” I shudder a bit inside.  Like listening to Donald Trump – the bombastic statements straight from the fascists play book appear to roll off many in the population’s backs as the audience he is talking to already “sort of” believes what he is saying.  Muslims are terrorists, Mexicans are rapists, Blacks are violent, and on it goes… dog whistling the worst of human nature to provide some sort of assurance that it will be dealt with and to gain a vote.  The use of the “absolute” is so common now that it actually cannot be discussed as a negotiable – it is the new religion and one that creates more anger and fear the more one’s “absolute” is shown to be incorrect.


Reality check.


Such a corny term, but one that should be applied more often.  Everyone in the wine industry seeks some reassurance that their wines are good and are of value to the customer.  In an industry such as ours where publicity is difficult to get, hyperbole can be used so as to attract attention.  I have no problem in understanding that – but just to be on the safe side I would just like to remind those shouting “absolutes” that everyone is watching and that it may one day come back to bite you.


Cold and wet...


It was another really chilly and wet month for the vineyard, and the surrounding Margaret River region.  This is great for the vines which are in recess, and great for the water table that needs a refill prior to the start of another long and dry summer.  It was a wet month with only 8 days not recording some rainfall, and with the wind chill factor to be included the maximums felt a lot cooler than noted by the Bureau.

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


July 2016:        

Avg Maximum Temp          15.7°C

Daily Max recorded            19.4°C


Avg Minimum Temp           7.8°C

Daily Min recorded             2.2°C


Rainfall:                               237.7mm


The maximum temperature average this month was a lot lower than last years, with the minimum average being colder but only by a small amount.  The rainfall total was much higher with the dam now overflowing and the Margaret River now flowing well just across the road.


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


Finishing tape…


Just the pruning and the dropping of the wires to complete in preparation for the new season arriving in September.  I have also the selections and blending of the 2015 Merlot and Cabernet Franc wines to complete with Clive as well as a chat with one of our barrel representatives to see if there is any further fine tuning to be done with our oak.  As always a million jobs to do which keeps me out of trouble.


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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