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Monthly Report - April 2017


Going to the Chapel…


What a busy month for the family here in Blue Poles land – and not because of the vintage this year but rather because of our daughter Beth’s wedding to Aaron on 8 April in the small town of Brunswick Junction.  Family and friends came from far and wide and it was a beautiful autumn day when I drove my daughter to the small Anglican church in the center of town.  Beth and the bridesmaids looked beautiful and the guys got their suit on the right way around, so it was a very proud moment for Gail and I, and her sisters.

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Beth and Aaron Angus and the well-fed Tres, April 2017


I actually have not been to a wedding for a while. I think the last one was Tim and Yuko’s a few millennia back, so it was great to attend one and recognize that over 50 years not much has really changed.  Too much free beer and wine, and speeches made with sweat raised on foreheads and two families that sit far apart – there should be another physics constant applied here.  Country halls are also a great resource, and dressing them up is a special skill when it comes to not making it look like a barn – kudos to Beth and Aaron for the planning, and a special thanks to Hannah and Tom (my eldest daughter and partner) for all their hard work setting out the hall, and to all my girls cleaning up the next day.


One other aspect which impressed me was fact that by using a country hall, all the food could be catered for easily and not hooked into a restaurant’s menu and wine list.  So, on the menu the fish was caught by Aaron, we had honey comb from the vineyard beehives, and most importantly some Blue Poles wines graced the tables and this made the event feel that much more homely and personalized.  My mother managed to make it across from New Zealand, as well as my brother and sister – and combined with Aunty Kaye, nephew William and the Tanners from Sydney we had a very full house in the Blue Poles hacienda.

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Having my sister Joanne across for the wedding was extra special as she will be treated for a cancer this month, and all the family is very keen to see her on the road to recovery as quickly as possible.  The 3 children (Rob, Jo and I) did take a trip in the vineyard ute to help set up the hall on the Friday afternoon, but on the way home there was an accident blocking the main highway with traffic spread for miles.  Having worked in the area over 20 years back I took an off-road option and lucky for us managed to get around the accident site and get home before it became too late – memory is a dangerous thing as I assumed the track was a bit wider than it actually was, and I have no idea if the Audi and Mercedes cars that foolishly followed me actually managed to get through.


All of this activity has meant little in the way of vineyard news.  The nets we put out in hope have now been put away, the vines have turned into recess with the yellowing of the vineyard finally starting at the end of April (I have never known such a long “growing” season – the Cabernet Franc has finally lost its growing tips, but the grapes never managed to lose their “green” flavours).  We will start a planning program for next year with some lime to be spread under vine and I’m trying to locate some biochar to spread with it just to give the vines a bit more nutrient support.


Where too now?…


Wine topics are becoming hard to come by at the current – the industry is in a sort of malaise without any stories breaking into the mainstream media.  All of the wine discussion points are becoming a bit like shuffling through Community Chest and seeing you’ve won the beauty contest for $10 once more – every wine discussion point seems to be on remix and comes back again and again with a yawn and rolled eyes.


It is getting so dire, even that old chestnut of corks vs screwcaps was brought into the spotlight a few weeks ago – I mean really.  The angst over natural wines has basically left the room with more amphorae and wild ferments posted onto Instagram and Twitter that it is now positively mainstream.  Some woeful attempt at an argument over the scores of various critics will be in the wings – be it scoring method or the continuing rise and rise of the scores.  So what is there to do?


Well I am going to put my hand into the sack and pull out one of these topics and see if there is a new spin that can be applied from the last time I looked at it.  Here goes. … … And the winner is “Bordeaux en primeur”, come on dowwwnnn!


I last discussed Bordeaux in October 2014, referencing their warming weather trends and global warming impacts that the bordelaise are dutifully ignoring, and before that in March 2012 where I briefly discussed en primeur and how that could work in Margaret River (no takers there, we are too busy throwing money at celebrity chefs to bother with a real wine promotion here in Margaret River).  And lest we forget the Bordeaux vintage of 2010 (Sept / Oct) where I reported back like a star struck groupie.


For those who are not up to speed with the en primeur process, it is held in Bordeaux during April each year, and it could simply be described as “a chance for the wine critics and wine trade to taste 6-month old unfinished wines and rate them such that buyers may purchase in advance said wines when the prices are released in a few weeks’ time”.  And it is dying.  Ever so slowly, but it is fading away like old curtains.


The problem is simply no one really gives a brass razzoo about it anymore.  During 2005-2010 the dominant buyers moved from the US, Western Europe and UK to China and sort-of Russia (give or take the GFC) – and from 2011-2014 the vintage quality that was sold at still astronomical prices was poor to rubbish.  They killed the goose as there are only so many Russian Oligarchs to go around, and the Chinese started to buy the second wines in preference as well as becoming enamored with fruit bombs from Australia and America at much lower prices.  So, by this 2017 version many of the French Chateaus did not even present their wines, and those that did will only sell a very small portion into the en primeur market as it is not worth the discount any more.


This however does not stop many of the wine critics going into a lather about it – the first to call the quality and get their names in lights is becoming all just a bit “try hard”.  Also, the days of bated breath waiting for the scores from Bob Parker and Jancis Robinson is but a memory – the wine trade do their best to keep the charade going and to get a bit more wine bought “in bond” – but really what is the point?  Shark Jumped.


So here we have a slowly fading institution with no level of cool or spark going on, and how do you think the French have approached this?  In an almost Monty Pythonesque fashion they have gone out and built a massive “Wine Museum” in a semi-industrial area down by the Garonne 3km from Bordeaux’s center.  It must have cost a fortune, but to be honest who are they trying to impress?  Wine beginners?  Wine experts?  General Tourists?  Reading through the TripAdvisor comments it is a hotchpotch of wow and huh?  I am sure it is wonderful, but when you think of wine and the tasting and buying of it in France does an image of a small café with a chalk board out front, or a small chateau with a gravel drive and an underground cellar filled with barrels be the preferred way to “experience” wine?  Or attending a massive museum with hours of audio-visual technical displays push your buttons?  I don’t know about you, but my guess is the only thing that will keep the doors open will be massive euro funding packages.


La Cité du Vin “Oenophile Museum”


Will the spark be reignited in Bordeaux once more?  Can we see an en primeur revival sweep the world, making the bordelaise the talk of the wine world yet again?




I cannot see it I am afraid and trust me there is no greater fan of their wines than I (well that is not quite true, but you get the gist).  And the funny thing about all of this?  I would actually quite like to attend an en primeur campaign, visiting various Chateaus and writing 100’s of tasting notes and acting like a star struck groupie as I did in 2010 – here is hoping that it can survive long enough for me to get my act together and get over there.


Fair weather...


Well, the season finished with a dry spell and a long drawn out end of season.  With the heavy rainfall in March not followed up in April, the break of season is now on hold until the first major rain event in May.  I did get to see and taste a number of grapes from vineyards that were picked late in April and the fruit quality was compromised to a degree, but it did come off relatively clean much to the relief of many winemakers out there.


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


April 2017:        

Avg Maximum Temp          22.3°C

Daily Max recorded            28.4°C


Avg Minimum Temp           10.2°C

Daily Min recorded               5.7°C


Rainfall:                             5.0mm


The maximum temperature average this month was a little higher than last years, with the minimum average being lower with the clear skies.  The rainfall total was much lower than last year, with the true break of season now delayed for another few weeks.

April 2016:        

Avg Maximum Temp          22.1°C

Daily Max recorded            29.8°C


Avg Minimum Temp           12.9°C

Daily Min recorded               7.3°C


Rainfall:                               66.7mm


Step back and see the view…


It has been a touch chaotic in the past few months, and in the next few weeks or so I will have a sit down and review where I am at and where the vineyard and winery will be heading in a holistic way. I have not really done this since 2010 and it is well overdue.  May will also see the bottling of the 2016 Shiraz, and we need to get the 2015 Reserve wines out soon to the wine critics for a bit of a heads up.


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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