top of page

Monthly Report - January 2017




Have you ever had that feeling that something is not quite right but you cannot put your finger on it?  There is some sort of alarm going off but all around “sort of” looks the same but you know this is flat out odd.  Well that was me as I wandered up into the vineyard as soon as I got home from my recent work abroad.  Vines looked healthy, bunches looked fine – but – and then I noticed it.  The under vine was as dry as a chip and yet I had set the irrigation program going when I left at the start of the month…


The pump had lost its prime and therefore shut down every time it was called into action in the early hours of every 2nd to 3rd day.  Thus, the vines had not been watered for about 2 weeks, possibly a little bit more.  But as I said, the vines looked in fine fettle and only in the Shiraz was there some stress noted on the growing tips.  I do not irrigate very heavily anyway, just a trickle of 20 minutes to keep the upper root system accessing some water just in case we have a big heat load come down on us, so in effect the mild January has meant little need for the irrigation.  Our water usage from our dam for 6 hectares of vines is approximately the same amount of water used in irrigating half a hectare in Jindong in northern Margaret River, and about an eighth of a hectare in the Riverland in South Eastern Australia – thus we are approaching dry grown status very quickly.


Blue Poles irrigation pump and spin filters – further work required!


A dry month has come to pass and this has ensured our spray program has worked well and we have maybe one more Sulphur spray to put out on the vines before that is finished for the year.  It has been a year in which the mildews could have caused real problems due to the cool and wet start to the season, but we have been lucky with the spray timing and gaps in the weather and, touch wood, it seems like we are through the worst of it.


The vines are still very much behind schedule when it comes to ripeness of the grapes.  At this time of year we usually are well into veraison (the changing of colour and softening of the grapes) for all varieties, but this year the vines look like they are 3 weeks behind what we normally would be and this puts picking the Merlot / Shiraz into end of March and Cabernet Franc into mid-April.  This makes it all a bit risky as we have had large breaks of season by the end of March and the capacity to ripen grapes is severely hampered by the cool and the rain of frontal systems breaking onto the capes of our region.


Therefore, it is now a matter of wait and see.  We have bought the barrels, organized the various contractors for picking, nets and deliveries – so now we are just looking at the sky and hoping it all goes to plan.  And for me to get down to the shed and get this damn pump to work again once more…




I have been busy.  Very busy with all sorts of things and some of it is what I am used to doing and some of it is new to me and difficult to get a bead on how well I am going.  So the only real time I can shut down is when I am flying – as I do not believe you can really work well when squished in an economy seat with no real internet access and ability to concentrate for long – call me old fashioned if you wish.


Travelling back on this recent flight into Perth gave me a window of time to ponder on what is on the agenda going forward and what I have forgotten to do, but it also gave me time to realise how lucky we have been with the vineyard and the wines we have made.  This is due to the variety of influences that are both positive and negative, and like defining terroir, you really do not know you have got there until you look back and notice that the view has changed.


The nature of the beast


The wine industry is seen as a mono group of wineries and product, where as in reality it is a multi-headed monster (There should be no “us” in “industry” but it does unfortunately, which totally ruins my point.).  I cannot think of an industry which is more diverse, more competitive, more anti-competitive, more interested in itself, more historic, more flexible and less flexible than this wonderful hodge podge we call the wine industry.  To be honest it is not an industry, it is a cross between art and mass production with everything in between.


One of the views of those that look in longingly, is that somehow everyone is “working together” as vineyards and wineries.  Nope, not even close and even though there are windows of this is some small regional settings, the general nature of the game is to look after yourself as best you can.  Regional Wine Associations support the concept of name branding of the area, and often they favour specific wineries over others on a continuous basis so as to show “consistency” where in fact they are showing their biases and historic friendships.  If you are not in this loop then you fend for yourself, regardless of the fees and dues you have paid.


It is very hard to break into many “cliques” that have formed within the wine community.  An example of this would be the natural wine area, where the original “pioneers” have moved it into mainstream but their attitude to those following in their footsteps seems more pick and choose rather than full inclusivity.  Not saying it is wrong or right, but it is the nature of the beast where the product is more perception than reality, thus we have a sorting occurring without rules and guidelines matching the product’s ephemeral nature.


We have always sat outside of the mainstream at Blue Poles.  We are possibly like that because of my nature to not unthinkingly “joining in” – happy clappy I am not – and we may be like this because the industry places us there through the unwritten rules and regulations that it has enforced, occasionally you could say stupidly.  But never ever think that there is such a thing as a wine “industry” and never believe anyone who says they represent it – nothing could be further from the truth.


In regards to financing and getting recognized for the wine you make by your “peers”, you are in the lap of the gods at times.  You ride the waves global and regional ups and downs as well as make your own luck as much as you can.  As with anything in life, it is best to live it with ambition and hope rather than to submit to fear and acceptance.


Mild Mannered Summer...


We are tracking along to have one of the coolest vintages since 2006, but unlike that vintage which was difficult, this year keeps on tracking along without drama and excesses – mild mannered is a descriptor.  No very hot days and no very cool days were the order of the month, and while there has been rain and drama to the north and inland Western Australia, the Margaret River region has tracked along without tempests and excitement.  This may all turn around in February of course, so let us keep our fingers crossed for a warm and uneventful month of weather going forward.


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


January 2017:        

Avg Maximum Temp          26.3°C

Daily Max recorded            35.7°C


Avg Minimum Temp           12.9°C

Daily Min recorded               7.0°C


Rainfall:                               5.8mm


The maximum temperature average this month was again a lower than last years, with the minimum average also being colder by quite a large margin.  This diurnal spread is more typical of Bordeaux than Margaret River at this point in the vintage.  The rainfall total was much lower due the large rain event occurring in 2016 which flooded out the region.

January 2016:        

Avg Maximum Temp           27.7°C

Daily Max recorded             37.7°C


Avg Minimum Temp            15.5°C

Daily Min recorded               10.1°C


Rainfall:                               114.6mm



New Year, New Rooster…


Well what will be on the go this Chinese year of the Rooster – lots of good stuff I hope.  February is the last of the vineyard sprays, putting out the nets, cane tucking, fruit thinning and pump fixing by the looks of it.  Closing in on vintage like Trump on a desk full of Executive Orders.  Always busy here, but if you are in Margaret River do feel free to give us a call and drop by.


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

bottom of page