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Monthly Report - October 2017


Blustery blasts…


October is the month which feels weather wise like you are in a bar talking politics with a drunk, and you are stone cold sober.  It starts off with the drunk berating, posing, yelling, blustering their way through a set of premises which are as stable as a house of cards – you apply a bit of cold logic, and the bluster becomes confusion, and when you finally blow away the scaffolding of the BS being spouted it all goes quiet and you can go back to a form of serenity.  Hence the last of the weather fronts come across as big and tough, but the weather that follows is often benign and warm and invigorating – pretty much how this month went meteorologically.


While October gets our wall of green up and running, it is a month of snails – garden variety that is – that join in on the growth feast.  They never used to be a problem as much as they are now, and it is getting a little out of hand.  Hand thinning shoots and cleaning the base of the vines in early November gives you an opportunity to crush a few thousand as you work along the vines – but at this stage the “evil” weevils also make an appearance.  This weevil appearance may lead to putting out a systemic insecticide (i.e. the vine takes up the insecticide and only those critters eating the vine suffer the consequences), this usually occurs once every three years.  To find a balance is always difficult in a mono-culture such as a vineyard, and if I did this again I would have a think about spacing varieties apart and consider planting crops of plants that provide greater ecological balance.


Here's the little blighter – stunts vine growth and is rapacious




Our Shiraz plot sits on the top of the block, overviewing the surrounds and historically providing the only mobile coverage that could be gleaned from the skies.  The Shiraz soils are a mix of alluvial clays and sands derived from granites and granitic gneisses that edge the Margaret River region.  The lateritic iron rich gravels which are on our property form the lower slopes and there we find the Bordeaux varieties growing over this brown laterite remnant, with the boundary being distinctive and clear when walking amongst the vines.


We have had over the years a hard time getting to grips with our Shiraz, with only a few vintages made.  But in 2016 everything went to plan perfectly and the resulting wine to me is amazing.  It really does “feel” like something that is both a bit Syrah (i.e. cool climate, hints of its true home in the Rhone Valley) and a bit Shiraz (i.e. the Aussie reincarnation of this variety) – and with there being no overt new oak to take away from the aroma of fresh fruits and spice, it creates its own space.


A perfect picnic wine, one for the table if having some charcuterie or cold meats and cheese, it becomes the best of accompaniments when grabbing for an interesting, mouth-watering wine with your meal.  We have not priced this out of the park as we love the concept of a super value wine which we all want in the cupboard (us included!).  Only a couple of hundred cases made and many will be snapped up by restaurants and retailers who have been waiting for its release – so my advice is to grab some and jump into Spring with a wine for all occasions that will not break the bank.


We have had Gary Walsh (WineFront) and Philip White (Drinkster) pass their noses across the top of their Riedels and have passed on their comments through their respective websites / publications and they are presented below:


Gary Walsh (WineFront) – October 2017

Perfume and grace here.  It’s a wine that feels very at ease with itself, red fruits, spice, hazelnut, a subtle and pleasant stalkiness.  Medium bodied, ripe yet sappy tannin gives it a bit of chewiness, length is good too, clean and with that tug of tannin leaving a happy ending.  Very good!


Rated : 93 Points

Drink : 2017 - 2026+



Philip White (Drinkster – InDaily) – October 2017

If the rebel kids have pushed the Old Man aside to make that Lost Ram, somebody's sage elder had a bit of dogged input here: similarly perfumed and heady, but showing a bit more good old-fashioned torque, this lovely brash baby reminds me more of something from upstream of Gigondas: it's a dash more like a young Cornas from alluvial gravels. One that's been listening to a lot of the Rocky Burnette Trio.


And of course a lot of it has to do with this Blue Pole growing on the edge of a different ocean (Indian) to the K (Great Southern) and the Big C (Mediterranean) with different everything in a place hardly known for its Shiraz.


Stretching the geographical pallet, Whitey? Trust Unca Philip. And trust Mark Gifford and Tim Markwell, the thirsty and eternally patient and determined geologists who chose their Margaret River site for Blue Poles for - wait for it - its ... geology! Alluvial gravels under the Shiraz!

Other than a fleeting sense of anise and long pepper, one of the wafts that catches me here is a sinister dark green thing, which is tricky for a self-censoring colourblind synæsthete to project. I recall a similar character in an early Marius Shiraz: it's a mood more than a flavour. Something to do with a hot British Racing Green 3.8 litre E-type Jaguar drophead ticking itself cool beneath the pines after a fang around the Old Willy Hill and Kuitpo. Walnut dash; black leather; the patina of years of unearthly speed and risk oozing with expensive oil from a piece of exquisitely sculptured engineering ... that earlier record from the highly earthly gravels of the Kurrajong geology beneath Marius ... rock dreaming, see?


Whew. Take the rock stuff as you will. I've barely mentioned music. This is a rockin Shiraz, but it's not stony. Apart from the granular, sandy tannins, which simply stoke more hunger after that unblemished pure Shiraz fruit.  It's lovely springtime wine, and once again, cheaper than Grange. And a damn sight faster.


Saltimbocca, please, pink and juicy, Capers; mash. Don't spare the lemon.

201710_InDaily Review SHIRAZ.jpg

Having the vineyard leap back to life in front of my eyes is a wonderful feeling and I am so looking forward to this vintage after the trials and tribulations of 2017.  To be able to enjoy a glass of this new Shiraz with friends and family during Spring and early Summer is also an absolute pleasure and I hope you too can grab a few bottles.



The wildfires of California this year have killed over 40 people, destroyed more than 6,500 structures, razed over 20 wineries, and burnt out over 3900km2 since the start of the fire season in April 2017.  Horrific numbers, just horrific and it is still ongoing.  But the question has to be asked, what has caused this catastrophe?  Why is California burning to such an extent, when this has never been the case before?  Well the reasons are apparent, and they have a huge implication for Australia and our wine growing regions which are similarly exposed.


  1. Climate change is a major player – be it man made or whatever – the record breaking heat load which has occurred in California has meant there is little to no soil moisture left and the forests and surrounds are tinder dry.  Add to this a break in the 6-year drought at the start of 2017 literally provided the fuel for the wildfires that we see now.

  2. Urban Encroachment has meant cities and towns are reaching out into the forested surrounds, rather than this being the farmed fringe.  Not only does this provide more structures to destroy, but it also provides more opportunity for the fires to start and to spread.

  3. Fire Fighting is Expensive – and with the pressure to protect lives and houses many wildfires can run for days while the firefighting concentrates on protecting houses and other structures.  The annual cost for firefighting in 2015 was $2.1billion and in 2017 this is expected to be double.  It will soon be policy to not commit resources to fires that will not damage property as it is too expensive to put them out – thus in forested areas fires may burn for weeks, if not months.

  4. It will be repeated. And it may be worse.  This is the way it is going to be from now on as Governor Jerry Brown says, "That's the way it is with a warming climate and dry weather and reducing moisture," he said at a press conference, "These kinds of catastrophes have happened, they'll continue to happen, and we have to be prepared and do everything we can to mitigate."


Location and extent of the Wildfires in central California 2017

201710_Napa Valley.jpg

Map of “just” the Napa Valley Vineyards – central California.


So, an estimated cost of damages from these wildfires alone in California is approx. $10 billion and this could be an annual event!!  So as to provide some scale to the enormity of these wildfires I have gone and calculated the areas of 3 major wine regions as well as the total of the Margaret River region which is more extensive due to its simple eastern longitudinal edge.


  • Barossa Valley                      912km2

  • McLaren Vale                        600km2

  • Mornington Peninsula          723km2

  • Margaret River                    4,205km2


  • California Fires Extent        3,905km2


These numbers are simply terrifying, and we have now the potential within Australia within our wine growing regions to suffer the same extent of loss as well.  Lower rainfall totals are now the norm throughout Australia, and when averages are exceeded it is due to major rain events rather than any sustained rainfall.  The past 3-4 years are the hottest on record for much of Australia and though Margaret River seems to be kicking against the trend, it is the odd one out generally.  Add in the factor of urban encroachment and the need to protect structures and lives over paddocks and vines we are looking at a similar scenario that the vignerons of California are currently living through.


The thought of our vineyard burning to the ground, or the loss of our finished wines due to fire damage at the winery or storage shed would be totally gutting.  The amount of effort and time spent over the decades would hurt, but the knowledge that it cannot be replaced would hurt even more.  All wineries in Margaret River, Barossa, Eden Valley, Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Hunter Valley, etc etc etc are looking at the same fate in this warming and more dangerous world.  It scares the bejeesus out of me, but it means we are more aware and prepared and do our best to mitigate the risk.


Heaven help us all.  This is going to be another Russian roulette of a summer.


Summer nears...


Another good month of weather with some rainfall and a few cooler days, but overall the latent heat is coming down and the vines are taking up the change of season with vigor.  A few days of quite windy weather during the month, but this meant little significant rainfall as the fronts bringing the rain tended to skiff through.


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


October 2017:           

Avg Maximum Temp          19.4°C

Daily Max recorded            28.1°C 

Avg Minimum Temp             9.8°C

Daily Min recorded               4.5°C


Rainfall:                               45.3mm


The maximum temperature average this month was again much warmer than last year, with the minimum average this year also being higher with only a few cold nights to round off the season. The rainfall total is very similar to last years and is close to the expected average for October.


October 2016:           

Avg Maximum Temp           18.2°C

Daily Max recorded             27.3°C

Avg Minimum Temp              8.9°C

Daily Min recorded                3.8°C


Rainfall:                                52.9mm



A large “to do” list…


Wow, if never fails to surprise me on how many little jobs and large jobs are always on the go during the start of the growing season.  With the canes moving at is basically an inch a day, there is a lot of work setting the amount of growth in the vineyard by taking off the excess buds and spurs.  On top of this is the first wire lifting, a further mulch between the rows, setting up the irrigation pump for if it is required, the replacement of further steels, and fixing broken wires.  Lots of walking and lots of running around – but it’s a good time to enjoy the serenity and the warmth out amongst the vines.


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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