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Monthly Report - November 2016


Big easy…


There are two to three quiet months in the vineyard cycle – April/May with the end of vintage, and November with the steady growth and flowering.  Thus, the jobs tend to be a bit of wire lifting and a bit of ensuring the irrigation lines are all hooked up and ready to go – maybe another slash of the midrow grasses – but that is sort of it.  The desire to snip and dabble with removing excess growth and fruit sets is always there and part of the wandering up and down the vineyard rows – that cannot be helped and is a great head clearer when you feel a bit overwhelmed [The trick is to realize you cannot finish the job in the time you have left of that day, or week, or even month – so the initial rush of activity becomes a simple desire to correct a vine, a row, a block in its own time.  Which is often the stress you walk into the vineyard with, seeking to have all of your problems evaporated immediately and not recognizing the unlikelihood of this actually occurring.].


I am typing this out in Manila, Tim I think is in Europe somewhere working for his company, and our families are scattered across Australia and the globe – so pretty much as usual.  We are about to bottle the 2015 Merlot and Cabernet Franc wines – and a big thanks to Kate and Clive at Fraser Gallop Estate for getting the wines ready to go, and to Portavin for working with me while I am out of the country.  And wow I am excited for the 2015 Merlot, I feel that this one is out of the box, a one off.  The 2015 Allouran and Cabernet Franc are excellent have no doubt, but the Merlot has the X Factor which the 2014 Cabernet Franc had as well – you just sort of “know” is the only way to describe it.


More bees have turned up down by the dam.  By last count it appears that we now have 8 bee hives under the gum trees by the shed.  This is great news but I am unsure of the timeline on honey generation – this will be a discussion I will have to have with Beth and Aaron when I get back from the Philippines.  A very important discussion indeed!


Thus, a quiet month, thus a quiet summary of activities.




My Grannie Barlow used to live in a little house on Anzac Ave in Morrinsville, New Zealand.  She was tiny, smoked like a train (both her and Grandad Skip smoked so heavily their lounge was always with a “cloud layer”), drank like a fish (though I never really knew it), worked hard and made preserves.  And I mean she MADE preserves, as the laundry was filled with Agee jars to the ceiling – pears, plum sauce, pickled cucumber, peaches – and all of it unbelievably good.  My sister is the holder of the plum sauce recipe and I have made some as well, it is blooming excellent.


We generally do not do homemade anymore.  There is no “value” in it as Coles and Woolies home brands have made it essentially a worthless exercise.  And when anyone does make preserves or jams nowadays, it is treated as something exotic and requiring $10 jam jars and ribbon wraps.  Completely missing the point that this was the ONLY way most folk could preserve their harvest – hence the name one could guess – and gentrifying it lessons its true worth.


So maybe it is genetic, or simply a child’s awe at so many bottles of peaches and pears, but I really do enjoy making jams and sauces as part of living on the vineyard with our own fruit and our neighbor’s excess.  My favorite is marmalade – simply because I like toast and butter for breakfast, not much of a cereals guy – and after years making it I think I have got it pretty close to as good as I can get.  So, this month I will provide the recipe for you to try once you have located a neighborhood citrus tree loaded with fruit sometime next August.  Here goes:


Oranges                  2kg

Sugar                      1.2kg

Decent Whisky       100ml


Finely shred the peel – you are aiming to get 200 grams which is about half the oranges – put it aside. Place the oranges in a steamer.  Steam for about 1 hour, which will make the oranges soft.  Remove the oranges and reduce the steaming liquid down a bit and then set aside 80 ml (1/3 cup).  When the oranges have cooled, cut them in half and strain the flesh through a fine sieve making a purée and add it to the cooking liquid.


In a pot, add the cooking liquid and purée, peel, along with the sugar.  Bring to the boil.  Simmer until it achieves a syrupy consistency, never stop stirring so as to avoid boiling over the jam.  Add the Whiskey after about 30 minutes (careful), and generally it will be nearly set after 40-45 minutes.


Test for setting point by putting a half teaspoon of marmalade onto a chilled plate.  Tip the plate; if the marmalade runs, cook for a further 5 minutes, then try again.  You know you are close when the bubbles coming up through get slightly bigger and are finding it tougher to rise.  Pour into sterilised jars while still hot and enjoy as soon as it is cool.  Can last ages.

Marmalade 1.jpg
Marmalade 2.jpg
Marmalade 3.jpg

Finished product in the normal mish mash of jars


Two kilos of oranges will make about three or four 500ml jam jars full – so if you got the oranges for free it will cost you about $1.20 for the sugar and you use up some whiskey which you are not drinking, so that will be about it.  It is a couple of hours well spent, and once you start this you begin to preserve lemons, knock out some jam, and then do the occasional sauce – all for not much if you can get the fruit when plentiful.  This simple task of preserving stuff grounds me – makes me remember where I have come from and ensures my girls note these simple things are part of their lives too.  Have a go, you may find that it is a hidden talent tucked away behind your iPad and smart phone.


Relentless Stupidity (2)….


Well if the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” aren’t riding across the everglades on their way to Washington DC as we speak, we do have the chance to discuss another side to relentless stupidity – officiousness.  While the masses may lead us to our global extinction, some bureaucrats are leading us to the point of the asteroid impact to avoid their own version of relentless stupidity.


A winemaker / retailer named David Parker runs a website called “Glug” where he predominantly sells cheap and cheerful booze from labels he generally owns and that I have generally never heard of.  As usual on a retail site David describes the wines and their positive points, and as most of these wines are not part of the wine reviewing “circuit” he writes many of the tasting notes himself.  None of the reviews on the site appear to be over the top “Dan Murphy Panel” efforts, but rather simple descriptions with comparative phrases.  Things like:


“The winemaker Benjamin Parker has done a brilliant job with this Barossa Shiraz.  That we can drink such riches for such a modest sum shows how blessed we are as wine consumers.

For good reason Barossa Shiraz is the most important wine made in Australia.  Shiraz of course thrives in the Australian climate and is associated globally with the country.  Historically the first regions cultivated were in the warm climates though it was not till the 1950s that the real significance of warm climate Shiraz began to be recognised.”


All the notes are in the same vein, but out of the blue one day they received a letter from the “Label Integrity Auditor” of Wine Australia stating that they have been breaking the law by referencing other wine regions in their marketing material, and I quote:


“We have noticed that the Glug website ( refers to several registered geographical indications in the presentation and description of wines, including (but not limited to) Rioja, Champagne, Cote du Rhone (including Rhone), and Cote Rotie.


You may not be aware that the use of these terms (and any terms which resemble these terms) is controlled in Australia and can only be used in the marketing of specific products.  This control is irrespective of the context in which the terms are used.”


I have bolded the bit which is astounding, as what the “Label Integrity Auditor” is saying is that we cannot use ANY regional term to describe our wine in a comparative sense.  Also I should note the English in the letter is a shocker and he managed to misspell the regions themselves with impunity – what a numpty.  Thus, getting back on track, if our wine here at Blue Poles is referred to as “bordelaise” by us, in the strictest sense we are breaking the law – even though it is obvious our wine is NOT a bordelaise wine, we have by definition of the “law”, used a forbidden description.


Taking a step back from this ludicrous silliness and seeing where all of this started, we need to wander back to when Australia used to regularly use the name of wine regions in Europe on the label of Australian wines.  Champagne described a sparkling wine, Chablis was used to describe a dry white wine, Burgundy is a mid-weight red wine, Port is a fortified wine etc etc.  And rightly so, wine makers of all of regions in Europe thought that was pretty rubbish and complained.  The reason for the cribbing of the terms was simply because the wine from those regions had specific flavor profiles, and consumer awareness at the time was limited.  Pretty quickly every new world wine maker moved to naming their wines by the variety bottled and this became the labelling standard for most.


Now that’s life.  Everyone has moved on and it seemed like a period of peace had spread across the wine regions of the world (apart from a small armed conflict between Orange wines and wines from Orange – no casualties fortunately).  However, it appears that the legal team of Wine Australia are seeing conflicts where there are none and are threatening jail time and fines for non-compliance for something that goes on EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD including Europe itself.  In fact, directors of Wine Australia regularly in their own wines’ marketing material use comparative terms to describe their own wines, thus applying the law strictly could be folly in the extreme.


But why do we do this?  Why do we say our wine tastes like another region’s wine?  Why do we get all excited by having the “slate mineral” flavors reminiscent of Mosel Riesling, the “liquorice root’ aromas of Barolo, the “haunting perfume” of Romanée-Conti, etc etc etc?  Because they are the “type” locations for these specific flavors, aromas, tastes, structure, colour, and on and on it goes.  And everyone in the wine “game” knows this and recognizes the authenticity of the primary location – hence the homage to the source of the known “best” examples of certain wines and the reason why wine makers travel the world to try and understand more about these regions (me doing vintage in Bordeaux in 2010 for example).  And what makes this whole storm in a wine glass sooo silly – I am not convinced the European regions would mind.


And my reasoning?


Simple really, every time your region or wine is mentioned as the “type” or “ideal” it becomes promotional.  For example, if someone wrote “we made this Merlot / Cabernet Franc blend to emulate the wines from Blue Poles who were the instigators of the wine style in Australia with their Allouran blend” – how are we to react?  I would be pleased, IF anyone wishes to compare their wines to ours it provides an opportunity for Blue Poles to be bought in preference.  Why buy the imitation?


Very, very few wineries use the comparative text to state their wines are “better” than another wine or wine region, as they are basically ensuring that they will be shown to be wrong or completely out of touch.  The great example of this is the annual “better than Grange” comments, you have already provided more marketing to Penfolds before you finish the sentence – and Grange continues to sell big time despite the $800 price tag, and to be honest who cares?


I have a story I repeat ad nauseam to those who cannot get out of the room before I lock the door, and it goes like this.  During the vintage in Bordeaux in 2010 I attended a wine tasting in Pomerol and about 30 various 2009 Pomerol wines were put on the bench for a blind tasting.  By devious means I got our 2008 Reserve Merlot squeezed in and the tasting went ahead with me sweating bullets that I was going to be called out – and with a big sigh of relief no one noticed and it was scored as if it was a Pomerol.  The interesting bit was the big reveal and where the wine ranked, and it was put in the middle somewhere and some of the winemakers there were tres annoyed – but what was more interesting was how they described all the wines on the night.  The “fatter” versions were referenced as ‘Napa wines” or “Parkerised” and the “thinner” green versions were dismissed as either lower value local regions (tastes like Lalande) or global regions (Chilean swill).


It is the industry.  It is a comparative business that relies on connections and touchstones to represent your wine and your credentials.  To NOT do this is to undermine all that we do and how we do it.  Obviously, I am not asking for the right to call my wine “Pomerol” or “Saint Emilion” – but I demand the right to be able to compare our wines to them, as they compare their wines to ours (and everyone else’s).  The Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes we have planted are derived from Bordeaux, nowhere else, why can’t we state this obvious fact that our wines hark back to their source?


Wine Australia never fails to disappoint.  From the Orange saga, failed websites, to the WET debacle and now beating up on some small producer out of the Barossa over something which is irrelevant.  The cost of their own legal advice forwarded, and the time spent accusing and responding to Glug will go down as another example of their lack of respect to us the industry.  2016 may be remembered solely for the relentless stupidity of the masses, but never forget officiousness from those that fail to respect the role they are meant to play ranks a near equivalent.


It has been a funny old year, that’s for sure.


Steady weather...


The weather continues to warm and the rain has petered out to the odd shower and the single event on 11 November (10mm in the gauge).  As November is the flowering month we tend to be pretty sensitive about the wind, and overall it has been very good with the afternoon sea breeze now becoming a constant after still to light winds each morning.  Glorious time to be in Margaret River.


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

November 2016:        

Avg Maximum Temp          23.2°C

Daily Max recorded            34.4°C


Avg Minimum Temp           10.0°C

Daily Min recorded               5.4°C


Rainfall:                                 12.3mm


The maximum temperature average this month was again a lower than last years, with the minimum average being colder by quite a large amount keeping in trend with previous months.  The rainfall total was similar at very little.

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



Christmas Carols…


Yes folks hold your ears, it is that time of the year when Christmas carols ring out through retail land making life that little less bearable.  So Grinch here isn’t too hot on the season, but I am hot on having a few weeks off from all of my odd jobs and to be able to tidy up the vineyard and catch up with the girls as they come through with their partners.  Tim and I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and we will see you all again in the New Year.


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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