Monthly Report - March 2018
Aidan and abetting…
The great crush which is vintage has come and gone over a fortnight at the end of March. This report will be a bit of a bumper one as 4 varieties were taken off during vintage and each had its own story to tell. As indicated in the title, I had a bit of help this year as Aidan from Sydney – newly appointed barrister seeking a different experience and some bacon and eggs each morning – turned up to help over the 2-weeks of vintage and he was much appreciated over the course.
The weather after such an unusually mid-temp February really warmed up and we had a series of five 30oC+ days in the first two weeks and this window of warmth was eventually broken by some rain on 15 March (11mm). This calmed it all down nicely and gave the vines some breathing space to finish off ripening their grapes.
Vintage began for us with the picking of the Marsanne – some of the few vines of this variety in the region. We have in the past sold this on, but this year with the cool summer the fruit looked fantastic and as everything was dry grown, the flavours were even more intense than normal. So up early on 12 March and approximately 1.2 tonnes were picked and delivered to Amato Vino to make the wine through completely natural processes. The grapes were loaded stalks and all into the press, foot stomped, pressed into barrels and left alone to start their own wild ferment – the cake of stalks and berries were pressed again two days later and further 150 litres was pressed off and put into an amphora for its own wild ferment.
Marsanne receiving an unusual start in life – foot stomped, whole bunch press
12 March Marsanne ~1.2t 13.0Bé, a natural mystery
Looking at the resultant wines in their 3 barrels and amphora it is quite exciting. There is a bit of guava about the wine, and that matched in to a lemon meringue and stone fruit richness. We are throwing ideas around about how we eventually release this wine – but get on the mailing list if you would like to have a really cracking wine when posted out in the coming 2018/19 summer.
With the Marsanne done and dusted a bit of vineyard maintenance came into play and we prepared 14 rows of Shiraz for grafting to Chardonnay this coming Spring. A lot harder than it sounds, but after a good four days labour we have this portion of the vineyard all ready to go.
The Merlot grape samples that we had run from early-March through to mid-March indicated good sugar levels but high-ish acidity – a trend that the region was noting in all the red grapes. With such an even growing season, the tannin ripeness was approaching quickly but the acid total was stuck a little high to everyone’s liking. Rain came through on 15 March, and it was decided that 19 March would be about spot on to get the Total Acidity into the 6-6.5 range which aids in the final balance of the wine post ferment. This date also happens to be my sister’s birthday, so after a crap year for her a few bottles of this wine will be stored away for her pleasure in 2020.
19 March Merlot 7.202t 13.4Bé, 3.23pH, 6.4TA
The grapes came off with exceptional flavours – strong tasting and rich which always bodes well for the finished wine. As of 29 March after 10 days of ferment the Merlot was pressed off and it looks and tastes great – very dark with extract from the skins, nice fine dense tannic structure (even without that lovely oak to come), and good length.
Pigéage of the Merlot (L), Merlot from the Press (R)
Dry grown and Cabernet Franc was always going to be the perfect combination. Little bunches of little red berries had been sitting out in the canopy for 8 weeks and we were just waiting for the flavor and tannin to be in synch with the loss of “grassiness” which is often found in under ripe Cabernets (Sauvignon and Franc). As of 16 March the field sample numbers looked a little riper than the Merlot – but tasting the grapes it was seen to be a false flag. Checking, checking, checking then indicated that the 23rd should capture all that we seek in a top package. Nets off, and mostly Japanese pickers for this morning, off we went to take off 11 bins. All through the pick I was reminded of just how great the grapes were and as I looked up I realized we had another bin’s worth on the vines – they had to be picked (sacrilege to not) and we duly harvested them in.
22 March Cab Franc 5.576t 13.7Bé, 3.57pH, 5.9TA
What flavor and what aromatics this wine is producing at the current. Talking with Clive and Ellin, and both of them were ecstatic with this wine in tank and fully understood why my bin delivery was a little larger than promised.
The next day to ensure we did not get too comfortable, we picked the Shiraz. What a difficult grape to get perfect out here in Blue Poles land – lovely flavours and resolved tannins, but the sugar levels were not responding to the end of vintage heat. What to do? It was quickly noted that some vines, though looking perfectly in balance and formed, were in fact lower in sugar and higher in acid than the surrounding vines – a quirk of flowering perhaps or just the nature of the grapes when dry grown? We knew we had the potential for an awesome wine, and through a bit of review and deliberation we decided to use Aidan as a guide to the vines to be picked – selecting those with pitch perfect ripeness and leaving those slightly underdone on the vine.
23 March Shiraz 2.310t 12.4Bé, 3.21pH, 6.7TA
This has proved a master stroke as the resultant grapes, though still a little low in sugar, were spot on for acidity keeping that fruit freshness and not letting the grapes fall into a “stewed” and “confected” form which often happens with Shiraz. Though still going through ferment, the wines looks really tasty and it’s going to be fun seeing how it evolves in barrel.
Aidan with our “palate” selected Shiraz – awaiting delivery to the winery
Nets were put away, buckets stacked away for another year, and finally the lawns have been mown and the car washed. As always a crazy busy month, but after the disappointment of 2017 for us this is a great result with a number of possibly exceptional wines in the shed.
No topic this month – mainly due to my verboseness above and the fact I have been busy with vintage as well as busy with Tim teeing up the dinners and tastings for the upcoming release of the 2015 Allouran. This version of our Allouran is a lovely wine and one that has been keenly waited for by many of our buyers – our Allouran is now recognized not only as remarkable value but also a wine for the ages as it cellars exceptionally well. But do not take just my word for it, we have a series of dinners and tastings that will give you an opportunity to try the wines from 2005 to the current release to show just how special these wines are with a few years under their belt.
The dates and events for the pre-release dinners and tastings are as below:
5 April 2018 Mayfair Lane – Pub and Restaurant
Outram St, West Perth – PERTH
$90 – 4 sharing course meal, all wines included
Mayfair Lane kindly found some more space (10 spots available)
7 April 2018 Scopri Restaurant
Nicholson St, Carlton - MELBOURNE
$110 – multi degustation menu, all wines included
9 April 2018 The Chapel
100 George St, The Rocks – SYDNEY
$45 – tasting and nibbles, all wines for tasting
Limited numbers, book through Different Drop
The Rawson Bar – The Chapel, Sydney
As you can imagine I am going to need a cholesterol check at the end of the last event, but it will be worth it as there is nothing better than bringing out old vintages of the Allouran and sharing it with fellow wine lovers. Each bottle is a delight, and with age they gain complexity and weight and just general deliciousness. Very much hope I can meet as many of our mailing list and new friends as possible so as to share the release.
As with our past three releases, the wines have been sold out within a few days and I don’t think the 2015 will be much different. An exceptional Merlot year put in with a very good Cabernet Franc, the resultant wine is a delight and one for the ages. So keep an eye out in your in box if you are on the mailing list for when the wine is released. We look forward to passing on our wine to you as soon as we have determined the demand and how much we can allocate to all who have ordered.
Closing out summer...
And what an unusual summer it has been with the coolest February since we have been keeping records, ending with a dry and warm March – with this month, the first month of Autumn having the same maximum as the hottest month in summer. Tres odd. With this unusual correlation I did some analysis of past vintages to see how the overall heat load of 2018 stacked up against the hottest and coolest vintages since we have kept records. The break down was:
2018 Total Heat Load Nov-Mar 126.3 (avg max. 25.3oC / month)
Hot 2011 Total Heat Load Nov-Mar 135.2 (avg max. 27.0oC / month)
Cool 2006 Total Heat Load Nov-Mar 117.9 (avg max. 23.6oC / month)
So, putting this year’s vintage into perspective, it was pretty much perfect for the growing of grapes. A warm start in Nov/Dec with enough rainfall in December to keep the vines growing without stress, then a dry-ish Jan / Feb which had no major heat spikes at all implying the vines did not shut down over the period, finishing off with a warm and dry March. The closest vintage comparison is 2007, and that was a sensational year for us with a pair of great wines made.
Looking back at this month’s weather, we all had a fright when Cyclone Marcus started heading south along the west coast of Western Australia. Potential huge downpours and damaging winds was a possibility, but the cyclone was battered into submission by cooler sea temperatures and though the remaining low-pressure system passed near by us, it only left 4.7mm in the gauge and a few cloudy days. The balance of the month was without drama, a rainy day on the 15th just really provided the vines with some respite after a warm start to March.
The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:
Avg Maximum Temp 25.6°C
Daily Max recorded 33.9°C
Avg Minimum Temp 14.7°C
Daily Min recorded 7.3°C
The maximum temperature average this month was much higher than last year, with the minimum average this year also higher with some cloud cover lifting temperatures. The rainfall total for 2017 was extremely high in comparison to this years.
Avg Maximum Temp 23.9°C
Daily Max recorded 31.6°C
Avg Minimum Temp 13.4°C
Daily Min recorded 4.3°C
Now that the wines are in their tanks bubbling away or being transferred to barrels – I am allowed to rest, but only for Easter weekend by the looks. As indicated above I will be out and about in Perth / Melbourne / Sydney from 5-10 April and I look forward to talking about and sharing our wines with as many of you as possible. A bit more work in the vineyard in preparation for some grafting and re-planting before heading abroad to get into my other life for a few weeks. Like the end of exams for me, the end of vintage is a bit of an anti-climax – I keep on thinking I should be texting someone about bins, pickers, freight, tractor, nets etc etc but I do not need to worry about that anymore. I will attempt to enjoy the serenity, if only for a few days.
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