Monthly Report - August 2016
Another cold month, and I mean really cold, with this weather surprising us all yet again with both the amount of damaging weather still and the continuing cool air rising up from the Antarctic. It meant the end of pruning was more of a struggle than I thought it would be, but having a friend or two coming out and helping as well as just working through the Shiraz, as the other vines have already been safely cleaned up for another year, meant it came together pretty well in the end.
The pruning of the Shiraz use to be a pain in the bottom, but not so much anymore as finally (after 12 years!!), they have reached some resemblance to balance and the cane selections and spur requirements just literally sit there and look at you now. As mentioned I did have a mate roll on in on a Sunday and we spent the day pruning, and it was wet, windy, and cold – totally excellent. Mark was the guy that taught me to prune back in 2001 when I went and worked on a local vineyard for a couple of months with him being the viticulturist. He’s 6’6”, has hands the size of dinner plates, can dismember a vine in 30 seconds, and is an all-round top bloke. As usual the 6 hours or so of pruning was spent talking about every topic under the sun – great way to spend the day.
Mark Evans about to tame another vine, Shiraz block, Aug 2016
Special mention this year must also be made to my Aunty Kaye and my Mum as they spent a few days back in early January cleaning up a lot of the extra growth in the Shiraz block. That work has proved to be a real boon not just for making the vines grow more evenly, but the impact on the fruit quality has also shown up in barrel tastings this month. It appears that our Shiraz is now “all grown up” and making what could be described as fine wine, leading to the problem now of determining whether we should get serious with it and start treating it with a bit more new oak and further work in the vines. It is a good dilemma to have, and Tim’s faith in the variety may prove to be an inspired decision. We will most probably bottle it off a little earlier than the Merlot and Cabernet Franc such that we can all see the resultant wine released a little bit earlier.
Speaking of the Merlot and the Cabernet Franc, barrel selections for the 2015 vintage were completed early in the month and good news all round. The first bit of good news is that the Cabernet Franc was up to scratch for a reserve wine once more, only 3 barrels made the style of wine I was after, but they are crackers and they really go to form an excellent follow up on the wonderful 2014 version of the wine. The second bit of good news is that I think this will be a mighty year for the Merlot reserve, what an unbelievable selection of barrels we had and the resultant wine is truly epic, best yet I think (this is such a trite statement as each year I have made a reserve I have thought it was as good as or better than in other years – but in this case I will lay it out there, this wine will be a cracker). And to cap it all the Allouran blended back into its normal complete delicious self and it keeps the lineage in good shape.
Clive and Kate at the barrel selections, and yes that is my book!
Talking to Clive during the barrel selections is always fun, as he has such a complete knowledge about the wines of Margaret River (and the world), and their potential. The selection and blending of individual barrels is not commonly applied, and together Clive and I each year note the subtle differences from apparently identical barrels – these differences tweak the eventual wines and always makes for lots of conversation. The potential to make an exceptional bottling if careful blending is applied is in the back of both of our minds now, and we both agree that like wine, there is never a great wine but a great bottle and the same theory can apply to wine barrels in the cellar. So keep an eye out for some of Clive’s selections in the future, he has some amazing barrels to work with and he could come up with a wine that could rival some of the best in the world.
Magnum Stock Take…
After a crazy busy month wrapping and posting out most of the magnum bottles, we have a total of 6 Reserve Merlot magnums remaining for sale (Cabernet Franc is all gone I am afraid…). A really lovely wine that will improve with good cellaring and even more so when aged in magnum. Drop us a line if you would like to have one or two of these put into the cupboard for that rainy day in a few years’ time and you wish to impress with the best.
The 2014 Allouran magnums are all spoken for and we will be contacting the people that have reserved one of these when this wine is released.
Have we reached “peak” wine?….
It is Halliday month, in which the release of the Wine Companion annual comes out in early August. The usual suspects did very well of course and a few new names popped up and the circle of life goes on. It has been noted for a while that the scores appear to be getting more and more inflated year on year, and though that may be simply a reflection of the quality of Australian wines now, it does appear to be perhaps a bit too gratuitous and not really to the public’s advantage in using the book in a discerning way.
It is however bye the bye for us. We do not submit our wines to Halliday and his team as we concentrate on other wine writers and recognise their influence as possibly being more targeted to our wine “audience” for a word. But the preponderance of these high scores both in Wine Companion and numerous other critics has me wondering, have we finally reached “peak” wine in Australia?
What could I possibly mean by that? Well I am thinking that the vines we have planted in Australia within the classified and recognised fine wine regions are now producing wines that are unlikely to be surpassed for quality in the future. That is, all future wines from existing vines will have had an equivalent peak wine in the past decade and if they are better they will only surpass these existing wines by the slimmest of margins. Is this the case?
Well I really do not know, but the huge level of heavily scored wines tends to indicate that this scenario has been reached. And funnily enough I sort of believe it in a way, with the only thing that may throw a spanner in the works is the effect of climate change on many wine growing regions, with some becoming possibly more suited and others becoming less so to the making of fine wine. I was even mulling this over with regards to my own wine while doing the 2015 barrel selections with Clive, have I got as close as I am going to get? Or is there more runway in front of me?
To be completely honest, I do not drink and taste enough wine from other wineries to really know an answer to this question – it would be a good one to put to a few of the wine writers out there and to see how they would answer it. From my time in Bordeaux it was apparent that many of the Chateaux feel that they are always comparing themselves to past glories, but at the same time having spent millions and millions of euros upgrading their wineries and bringing in new gadgets such as grape sorters and enclosed bottling plants. Like many in France, the assumption you are the “peak” goes with the territory and yet you can start to see the decline as the warming climate takes away some of the “lace” and “grace” in many of their wines. I saw this in 2010, and it is becoming even more apparent with the later vintages.
Some new plantings will always throw up good eggs. Look at Ruckus Estate in the Coonawarra and the impact they have had with their new Merlot. They have gone all out with new clones and seeking a good spot from which to put the vines in and it is showing reward from all of the recognition it is getting out and about. New vines and wines have that capacity to create new space, but they will be shoehorned in with a few hundred wines that will rate 97 or higher in some critic’s eyes as the classification of separation has become paper thin.
We also have the impact of the wine makers and the momentum towards organic / biodynamic which may re-activate the quality in both the vineyard and the winery. I guess wine is an ever moving feast, almost impossible to pin down as having achieved this or that as it is an opinion based industry. For every comment that X wine is the top of the tree, it could be argued that Y had its measure years before.
For the consumer this is apparently good times indeed. For the wineries it is becoming more difficult to sell the old lines without a few sidelong looks from fellow insiders. We will continue to try and make that magical mythical wine to match what we consider to be “peak” wine from our varieties, to not do otherwise could spell the end of the dream…
And dear comrades I am not going down without a jolly good crack at it.
Once more this month we have been using the heater in the house and Jackson will not go outside until the sun is well over the Shiraz block. Coldest August I can record, and it is not often that you don’t get a few warm days in August which just wasn’t the case this year. Cold front after cold front hit the estate and this has meant lots of wind and rain to make the vines very quiet with only a few wooly buds seen.
The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:
Avg Maximum Temp 15.6°C
Daily Max recorded 19.3°C
Avg Minimum Temp 7.5°C
Daily Min recorded 1.4°C
The maximum temperature average this month was again a lot lower than last years, with the minimum average being colder but only by a small amount. The rainfall total was also higher making it quite a wet winter and ensuring the year will have an above average rainfall.
Avg Maximum Temp 17.1°C
Daily Max recorded 22.7°C
Avg Minimum Temp 7.6°C
Daily Min recorded 2.7°C
It IS like a tsunami of energy about to be let forth amongst the vines during September. Budburst roars into life and the first protective sprays go on at the end of the month. You would be amazed by the amount of growth that can occur in a few weeks, almost centimeters per day, and that patina of green and warming weather means it is a great time to be around Margaret River. Only odd jobs on the go next month, with the mulching up of the canes being the biggest task to complete, so it is nice to sit back and watch the new season unfold.
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