Monthly Report - August 2017
Here we go!!
The release of the Blue Poles 2015 Reserve wines to all the mailing list is as of today with the loading of the monthly report. As you know we have discussed these wines a number of times and we are very excited with the quality and the consistency of the Reserves. So here is the run down:
2015 Reserve Merlot
Let me start by saying this, the Reserve Merlots that I have selected are my proudest single achievements over the 16 years of the vineyard. It can be argued that the Allouran is our “best” wine, but much of that wine’s beauty comes from the natural synergy between Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and in a way, I was following a French template that was well understood. But the making of a stand-alone Merlot was my choice and I backed the quality of the wine from the first “great” vintage we had back in 2007. All the components of the wine are from but a few barrels, there is no manipulation, no hedging bets – I select the barrels that make the most balanced and “pitch perfect” wine that I can with the variety.
Earlier winemakers played no role in the selections and often simply walked away – no interest at all – and selling these more expensive wines at the start was hard work. But I knew. I knew that they would age beautifully. I knew that their complexity would grow. And, I knew that they represented something of value. Thus, opening one of those earlier vintages grown on vines that were 6-7 years old at the time is a real buzz for me.
This 2015 Reserve Merlot is special – not because it is so much better than the previous vintages – but because the vintage allowed these grapes to be ripened perfectly and with the increasing age of the vines we are now seeing some real depth and gravitas. It tells me I have done the right thing, and it tells me it will age with a grace that we haven’t seen before.
We have had a series of reviews come in over the past month or so to provide some support for the wine – and they are all uniformly positive.
Gary Walsh, Wine Front– August 2017 (full review here - subscription required)
"Supple and sensual, with velour tannin, and a thickness and density that’s delivered with a light touch. Plum and red fruits, baking spices and ginger biscuits, dried mint and aniseed, and perhaps a little sweet tobacco too. Pushes through the finish with impressive length, earthy tannin, black olive, and a fresh strawberry vibrancy both in flavour and acidity. There’s not many better Merlots made in this country, I’ll warrant."
Rated: 94+ Points
Max Allen, AFR – August 2017 (find the review here)
"In Margaret River, Mark Gifford and Tim Markwell of Blue Poles vineyard produce outstanding merlot, both as a single varietal reserve wine, and blended with cabernet franc under the Allouran label.
Give this young wine a good splash into a big glass or a decanter to reveal all its charm. It starts out elegant and gently fragrant, with powdery, fine-grained tannins, but with air it opens beautifully to reveal richer flavours of black olive, bay leaf, blood plums and beef stock. The kind of merlot you want in your cellar."
Philip White, Drinkster – July 2017 (full review here)
“Creamy, slick and syrupy to sniff, the first thought here is about how this variety dances so well blended with Cabernet franc. This is the camembert cream to franc's dry chalk.
While its mouth form is silky-slick, it still has some grainy, dusty velvet in its tannin, but the similarity finishes there. This is a more fine, slim, tender wine. It's willowy and lithe. Solo, it's a different dance again.
The mystery of Merlot lies in its deep earthy mossiness, which seems an unlikely key to such supple elegance. It's something about the fungi of healthy soils, and how the shroomish protein structure is much closer to the animal world than to any plants. That flesh. Like that little hollow of soft scented neck ideally placed for nuzzling right below the human ear. Mmmmmm. Lick. Dribble. Whisper.
But there is always tannin to match the shimmer in the best of the Merlots. Nothing like the big franc's funkier, croaky blues holler, but more that Astrid Gilberto silk with the appropriate hesitance to hit the beat or the note precisely, which is what these brilliant dances revolve around. …
Another thing. Considering the decades of research, drilling holes, planning and effort that's gone into this duo, and then their sublime quality, $40 is piffle.”
2015 Reserve Cabernet Franc
A follow up to the absolutely delicious 2014, the 2015 vintage had sufficient barrels of quality Cabernet Franc to ensure a Reserve wine could be selected without harming the composition of the Merlot / Cabernet Franc blend, of which the Franc is a critical component. It is also important here to note that this wine should be known as “Yuko’s Request”, as this wine was only part of the Blue Poles inventory due to Tim’s wife Yuko insisting that we consider bottling off a unique straight Cabernet Franc. For many years I just wouldn’t do it, the straight Cabernet Franc in barrel was monotone and constrained and I didn’t believe it had the strength of character to be a unique wine. This all changed with the 2014 vintage, and the 2015 vintage has managed to meet this highest standard creating this wine we are releasing this month.
The 2015 Reserve Cabernet Franc is lacier, more complex, and more finely boned this vintage. This reflects the vintage itself more than the variety – and in many ways, it creates that link between the early Bordeaux wines of the 1980’s that I drank with a crazy level of obsession to try and corner “what” is the x-factor that the wines were to represent. This wine has an X-factor that becomes apparent over the length of drinking the bottle – a kaleidoscope of flavours that coalesce into the last drop as the bottle is upturned. Yes, it is delicious and yes, it will age. Here are the reviewer’s comments:
Gary Walsh, Wine Front – August 2017 (full review here - subscription required )
"It looks a little light and flighty at first, not in a bad way mind you, but it certainly builds richness and weight as it stands in the glass. Raspberry and boysenberry, biscuit and baking spice, a sniff of sweet herb and grass, perhaps some ground coffee and violet in there too. Medium bodied, vibrant and succulent, bright raspberry pip acidity, spicy earthy oak, gravelly tannin, and a well defined finish of fine length. Linear and refined, the tannin pleasingly assertive on exit. It’s a great thing to drink even now, though should be better again in a few more years."
Rated: 94+ Points
Philip White, Drinkster – July 2017 (full review here)
“Aha! At last! Cabernet franc! Man it smells good! To this colourblind synæsthete it smells blue. Blue as juniper; blue as in blues joint; blue as the sinister gunmetal in a John Lee Hooker slide; blue as an Em7 on rusty Black Diamond strings; blue as serge de Nîmes; blue as the Indigofera tinctoria they use to colour those tough trousers from Gênes; blue as Jimmy's Indigo Children; blue nearing the violet edging of a lightning strike; Blue as Joni singing 'songs are like tattoos;' blue as that last shred of Earthly atmosphere you whiff as you leave for Alpha Centauri ... the acrid reek of black space in the transfer pod ... okay, okay: blueberries if you need a food thing.
And I'm singing only of the top note.
Below that there's the meat most can't see in blueberry, like that charred blue steak.
Blueberries are not like blackcurrants.
There are tweaks of aniseed balls, Choo Choo Bars and salty Dutch licorice and the smell of fresh-ploughed mushroomy Strezlecki potato dirt at Childers or Thorpdale. And their muddy burlap sacks. That pretty much deals with the bouquet.
Tip a bit on the singing glands. Velvet and dust. Hints of Carmenere. The shiny topness seems to dissolve in matte ground: the texture is as happy, healthy and satisfying as your first mouthful of lovely mud. …
This is one considerable glorious elegant bastard of a wine. Get its ink under your skin. Back to Blue.”
Winter is coming to a close and though the rainfall over winter is about average, it all sort of happened in the last two months with June very dry. My big hope now is that we can return to a warming September which brings budburst back into line with 2014-16 and does not repeat the cool September of 2016 which effectively cost us the 2017 vintage. Many issues like the weather cannot be avoided, but other issues such as vine health and cropping can be avoided if you are on top of the issues in the vineyard, so I will have a solid month in September getting everything in shape for what we hope (as always), will be a great vintage in 2018.
The dam has been overflowing since the end of July and the Margaret River has even managed to break its banks a couple of times this month, so this flushes the system and gives all of the flora and fauna a perk before the rainfall dries up and river levels drop down to the pools and gullies. Also, the groundwater has filled up the top aquifer giving us a few springs in the property – the sands and clays are so unpredictable that you get springs at higher levels than expected, and no amount of drainage can sort this out. A long time ago I did have a go at this, and after a couple of winters recognized the futility – thus some spots in the vineyard are a bit wetter than others and I have learnt to live with it.
Pruning, like winter, is coming to an end – just the last of the Shiraz to tidy up. All looks good and I am pleased with the spacings seen between the spurs and buds, so the cropping should be spot on if the season progresses smoothly. With the heavy rain over the month mulching is now waylaid until the end of September, which is not such a bad thing as it reduces the damage by compaction in the mid rows.
Also, it must be mentioned that we did a bit of a road trip through Melbourne and Sydney showing off the 2015 Reserves which are released this month. A lot of fun was had when we spent a day with David Lloyd at Eldridge Estate taking over the cellar door doing our pop-up version – lots of happy folk and a great location (and great wines) is assured when you visit Eldridge. Dinner with David and Carol involved numerous bottles, with some of them being old Bordeaux which is perhaps the most un-Mornington thing that could be done – not a pinot was to be found.
Tim takes over Eldridge Estate at the Blue Poles Pop-up Tasting
The big wet...
August has been rainfall central with good falls occurring throughout the month, with only the last few days of the month having some respite. Over 20 days of the month recorded some rain in the gauge and it was a rare sight to see blue skies overhead.
The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:
Avg Maximum Temp 16.6°C
Daily Max recorded 21.3°C
Avg Minimum Temp 8.8°C
Daily Min recorded 3.0°C
The maximum temperature average this month was warmer than last year due to the extra cloud cover, with the minimum average this year being a little higher with no very cold nights. The rainfall total is higher than last years, and combined with July we have had an average amount of winter rainfall after such a dry June to commence the season.
Avg Maximum Temp 15.6°C
Daily Max recorded 19.3°C
Avg Minimum Temp 7.5°C
Daily Min recorded 1.4°C
Let’s get started…
September is a busy busy month – so much to do as the vineyard starts coming back to life. It is a month of repair and replace as well with the vineyard 16 years old and many of the posts and steels are starting to wobble and now need replacing, I have done about 300-400 but I reckon there is a further 200 to go which is a good work out over a couple of days. The activated biochar gets spread, as well as some other fertilisers and lime, and the first protective spray might be out by the end of the month as well. On top of this I will be sending out the wines ordered from the Reserve release, and there is nothing more satisfying than posting wines out to fellow friends. I do hope you all get to try the wines as they will be most probably sold out in the coming month or so, so if you would like a few bottles do not delay your order!
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