Monthly Report - December 2016
Well here is hoping that everyone has had a safe and enjoyable Christmas and New Year’s break and have made outlandish resolutions that cannot be kept. The vineyard continues to grow and stretch out as the weather keeps providing just enough sustenance to let the vines keep on pushing – no irrigation yet and possibly it may only be used for a couple of months. To understand how unusual this is for us, you only need consider the start of irrigation for the past 10 years with almost every year commencing in October. It is January and the pump has been idle – a feature of this wet-cool late spring and the increasing age of the vines with their deep-seated roots.
It may well be that we are dry grown at some point in the future – but it discounts the likelihood of an ever-warming January à March which is highly probable with this warming climate. Plus, there is the ever-increasing likelihood of reduced rainfall with 2016 being just above the average with its rainfall total >1000mm. The norm may be below 750mm into the future. The complexity and myriad of effects a changing climate can bring to the world of fine wine is one of the great unknowns going forward and we may look back at these years as the last of the truly “typical” vintages with deep sentimentality in years to come.
In regards to the vineyard, I could not be happier considering the start to the season. The vines have caught up a little bit but they are still a fortnight behind in regards to fruit set and growing tips when compared to the vintages of 2015 and 2016. It also looks like a Cabernet Franc sort of year – good strong growth and a moderate fruit set making it look exceptionally healthy without the excessive vigor that you can get. Merlot and Shiraz are also looking good and to date (touch wood) we have had little to no disease pressure on the vines. All is in readiness for a possibly late harvest, and weather god’s willing, a great one with some mimics of 2014 being seen in the vine’s growing patterns this vintage.
Merlot (top), Cabernet Franc (middle) and Shiraz (bottom)
It is the aim of every good vineyard to have air and sunlight get into the vines to aid ripening and to avoid disease. Though we have had a lot of growth this year, our vines naturally find a balance and create a beautiful growing environment for our grapes. All the vines look healthy and we now await veraison with the colouring and softening of the grapes. Three more months till vintage and we are now just tucking and thinning to create the climate for great grapes which we hope makes great wine.
Wine and food…
I am going to come clean here – this topic annoys the bejeebers out of me.
Every Christmas we get the compulsory article in the newspapers / news websites about what to drink with your dinner / lunch / prawns / pudding. And dutifully we get the same old tired responses, with the wit of Australiana coming to the fore by everyone throwing in the compulsory left field recommendation of a sparkling red wine (gross) for the turkey– crazy I know. Don’t panic – I get it, I really do – this is a way of making wine part of the celebration and part of normalizing it to the population. But this is not 1975 anymore, (if anyone hasn’t noticed) and I do think this is really just another way of getting major booze chains to sponsor many of these “articles” in that timeless advertorial methodology that we all know and love.
Why do we bother with this charade? Why not just admit “here are a few wines I like and I think that you will enjoy them with your meal”. We drank our Allouran, a Crozes-Hermitage and a Chardonnay with our Christmas dinner – over an hour and a half and I enjoyed them all both with the food and by themselves. I am sure the Crozes-Hermitage should not be drunk with turkey but it was blooming delicious and it went supremely well with the roasted pumpkin and the Moroccan salad that was on the table (and the turkey, what the heck!). Some bottles went faster than others, and we cracked open a Muscat for the dessert because I like it. Some did not touch it and drank reds with the fruit pudding or piles of chocolates that always seem to appear at some point 2-3 hours in.
Why therefore are there rules for such things? Are we that terrified of wine, of the social importance of it, that we quake at the thought of pairing the wrong wine with the wrong food? Are we that emotionally immature and socially manipulated by these pretend laws of etiquette that we actually worry about them? Good golly, it is all a bit sad don’t you think?
Where we have the importance of wine spelt out to us with sky writing is when we eat out in fancy dining establishments. Pairing wines and foods is that restaurant art form that is somehow meant to place you in another realm of experience. But does it? Now unless you won the lottery of life (or have photos of wine guru Mike Bennie in a compromising position), you may have got into the Noma Restaurant when it moved to Sydney for a few weeks (months?) and tasted their food with hand selected wines for each course - THAT may have been something, as an exceptional level of effort was put into this by all accounts. But for most restaurants you get a wine list, you dutifully ask the sommelier for some advice and they will notice your wide-ranging selections of entrees and mains and then prompt for one or two of the wines he/she likes. Of which there is nothing wrong with that, just all rather contrived and hardly earth shattering or “art form”.
The entrance to the Sydney “pop-up” Noma Restaurant - 2016
But it does not stop there – one thing that I have always wondered about with regards to wine and food is when do you actually drink the wine? Before your mouthful? During your mastication? After your ingestion? This is something that intrigues me as I am a drinker during eating of delicious food stuffs, my wife finds that horrific and will only imbibe after finishing her mouthful, and my staff drink beforehand when I am in Manila and eating out with them. Have I missed the correct method on how to slurp wine while eating? Does anyone actually think about it and if they did do, do they assume that everyone does what they do?
Now I am not saying that there are not wine and food pairings made in heaven – but they are “of the moment” experiences, not chipped in “tablets of stone” rules. It is like wine itself, as you never have a great wine, you have a great “bottle” of wine – that is the moment when it all worked and you were not distracted by life for a while.
I pretentiously note which foods would go well with our wines on the website – but it is simple combinations that I personally think “would be blooming good”, not some Frankenstein of combinations that I have culled to a fine point. Grab a glass folk, crack a bottle and have a glass while preparing the meal, have another glass when your friends arrive and then have another with your meal – life should be as easy as that, let’s not complicate the issue.
So, let me say this to all who drink wine and eat food. It can be done without fear of worry or retribution. It is occasionally an awesome mix of flavours and textures, and sometimes it is just a simple refreshment to get you in the mood – who could know! And it is occasionally disappointing due to either the food or the wine, or both. But it is what it is, the lottery of life; and as long as you have a ticket you may still be the winner! Salut Comrades!
More spring than summer...
The weather continues to add heat into the system, but not with any ferocity apart from a single warm day on the 21st of the month. A couple of rain events came through, with both providing lots of nitrogen as they were derived from thunderstorms which ensures the vines are both fed and watered at the same time. By the end of the month the sea breeze in the afternoon was becoming a steady feature and this means we might finally start to warm up into our normal summer pattern.
The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:
Avg Maximum Temp 24.2°C
Daily Max recorded 36.7°C
Avg Minimum Temp 11.9°C
Daily Min recorded 6.3°C
The maximum temperature average this month was again a lower than last years, with the minimum average also being colder but unlike previous months, the variance was very small. The rainfall total was higher with a couple of early thunderstorm events passing across the capes. Total rainfall for the year was 1035mm which is slightly above the average.
Avg Maximum Temp 24.9°C
Daily Max recorded 35.0°C
Avg Minimum Temp 12.3°C
Daily Min recorded 4.9°C
And we bring in 2017, a cracking year Iam sure (touch wood, rub the rabbit’s foot). I am out and about this month so the irrigation program has been set and will be pushed to go once the vines start to slow down a bit. Thinning will be the order of the day when I get back later in the month, but I have had a good crack at it and the vines look in order for a few weeks. Steady heat and little rainfall and all should be well.
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