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Monthly Report - February 2018


A feeling of being bordelaise…


Back in the early Cambrian of September 2010 I spent a vintage in Bordeaux making wine and touring the region – 4 weeks of great fun and fantastic insights.  One of my memories was heading down to the winery for breakfast as the first grapes were rolling in at about 7-7.30am and feeling the slight chill in the air prior to the day warming up to a typical 23-25oC.  Yesterday morning as I wandered out of the house early, the dew on the ground, the slight draft of cool, and the glistening spider webs brought me straight back to those days.


This vintage is going along super well.  This February has been dramatically different to all of the years I have lived in Western Australia – only one day in the whole month in which the temperature breached 30oC.  This is extraordinary for what is the hottest month of the year and it has meant that we will be completely dry grown in the vineyard this year.  Funnily enough, having the temperature lower does not mean that the grapes will be harvested later – when you do get temperatures in excess of 35oC in the vineyard the vines shut down and you lose photosynthesizing time.  At no time in February did the vines exceed this temperature in 2018 and this means the grapes are well coloured, well advanced and looking superb.


Also, much to my amazement – very little bird pressure.  This in the past has been associated with a heavy flowering from the Marri trees which dominate the forests that surround us – but no, flowering is occurring, but it is not over all the trees.  So, I was flummoxed until Beth and Aaron came back with what is going on with the bee hives – they are absolutely chockers, so the trees that are flowering are dripping with pollen ensuring the birds are well fed and not bothering us with “breaking and entering” into the nets.

201802_Three Bunches.jpg

Cabernet Franc (L), Merlot (C), Shiraz (R)


As mentioned the nets are out, and they are essential for us due to our location next to the Margaret River which is an alley way for many birds in the region.  The main problem bird is the white eye (we use to call them wax eyes back in NZ) and the “28” parrot (a local version of the Ringneck Parrot found around Australia).  The rest seem not to bother much – the occasional honey eater and magpie breaks in, and we do get some Carnaby’s Cockatoos settle in at the top of the vineyard (flocked up and screeching that rain is coming).  So, with the nets secured against the invasive white eyes we are usually pretty safe from major grape damage.


Another aspect of fauna causing problems in the vineyards is the presence of kangaroos – they tend to wander about quite a lot during the summer months and often settle around vineyards due to water and snacks.  With me not watering in the vines the kangaroos have not made their way up the hill from the bush block below us apart from the occasional foray for a bite to eat.  Some vineyards in the region have however come under a fair bit of pressure and this has meant some shooting of them – which has caused a bit of a furor in some countries around the world.


I will quickly explain to all those that are not from this country of ours – kangaroos look great until they bounce out in front of your car, barrel through your fences, eat your crop and drink all your stock’s water.  With no natural predators the populations are usually tempered by drought, but with water around in normally dry spots, kangaroos can become a bit of a plague.  Professional shooters are employed by the government and some farmers to keep numbers down, often at the end of summer.  This is part of the cycle of life here (pretty much like hearing that reindeer are farmed in Lapland – who’d kill Rudolph?), and one has to recognize how it all holds together for the good of all of the fauna in the forests of the region – we have respect for the Department of Conservation in this regard and I am not one to doubt their expertise.


Picture perfect Shiraz vine – due for harvest in a couple of weeks


Merlot Madness…


I am always curious to the depths of passion and single focus zealotry that many wine makers / lovers go to in regard to specific wine varieties or regions.  It is fascinating because it is slightly nuts when you break it right down, but without it there would be a mountain (lake?) of rubbish wine that no one actually gives a toss about apart from the affect of drinking it provides.  Merlot is one of those varieties in which there are very few devotees – a sort of backwater for passion.  You do get Bordeaux nuts – and that does incorporate a good chunk of the high-end Bordeaux wines – but it is more of the total Bordeaux and the associated history and Chateaux that does the tweaking of their buttons.


But over the last couple of nights while “testing” the to-be-released 2015 Allouran and knocking back a bottle of 2015 Reserve Merlot and a bottle of Chateau Clinet – I think I have finally got to grips with why I am enamored with this grape variety.


When we planted the vineyard back in 2001, there was an element of science-y stuff that went on with regards to the right soils and sub-soils as well as location inland with the slightly lower temps and early sea breeze.  But…there was also the desire to make a great Merlot / Merlot blend which had been tucked away for a while due to the many rubbish Aussie versions I had drunk over the many superb French versions I had tried.  Now dear reader, remembering that I am no Howard Hughes wanting to make my own version of the “Spruce Goose”, this concept had every chance of being a dud, and in fact it should have been all things being equal, but it has become a positive reality and fully justified after the quality of the Merlot wines that have been produced from this small plot.


In years like 2015, the Merlot that we picked came off so evenly ripened and so flavorsome I had no doubt we had a good wine in the drawer.  The 2015 Reserve Merlot is such a delicious wine, it is very hard to not drink it all right now – but the Allouran from 2015 has taken a while to come through to its own version of balance, and now it has and…What. A. Wine.  This is why you make wine if you respect those that drink it – you do it to share the passion and to share what is possible.


In April we will be releasing the 2015 Allouran – it is always the most important wine we release as many consider it to be our best.  I do not ascribe to that version of our wines, but I will agree it is our most “complete” wine and one that represents the passion of the winery.  I always end up doing a small road trip catching up with buyers and retailers with the release of our wines and this year is no exception – with this in mind we would invite you to show an expression of interest in attending a dinner in these cities in early April:


Perth               5 April 2018

Melbourne     7 April 2018


Seats are limited (especially Melbourne) – you will pay for the meal and corkage costs only, with the wine provided for the evening.  We have had many excellent dinners over the years, but the 2015 Allouran wine dinners may be the best yet due to the capacity to drag out old vintages and enjoy all that this Merlot Madness that we here at Blue Poles have taken on board without a second thought.



Records tumbling...


As I indicated at the start of this report, we have an amazing “feel” to the vineyard this year with the weather being just so temperate that memories of 2010 Bordeaux have flooded back in.  It is the coolest February that we have had in the vineyard, and this matches with one of the coolest January’s on record this year.  But it all seems to have been balanced by a warmer than average Nov/Dec and this means the vines are in sensational health.  A huge downpour of rain hit Perth and surrounds this month, but as if we have a force shield little to none of this weather made its way to Margaret River.


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

February 2018:        

Avg Maximum Temp          25.6°C

Daily Max recorded            31.5°C


Avg Minimum Temp           13.7°C

Daily Min recorded               7.3°C


Rainfall:                               2.3mm


The maximum temperature average this month was lower than last year, though the minimum average this year was higher with some cloud cover lifting temperatures.  Only one day in February 2018 was in excess of 30oC – an astonishing occurrence. The rainfall total for both months is extremely low.


February 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



Closing it out…


Here we go, the finishing straight – with 3-4 weeks left for this excellent vintage.  We do have a helping hand coming through this year in the form of Aidan from Sydney and he will be helping out in the vineyard and getting up early for the picks.  Buckets have been dragged out, snips need an oil, nets need a few small holes repaired, and tasting-testing-tasting-testing will continue so as to get the best pick date we can for the most sensational wine we can.  All good to go here.


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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