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Monthly Report - November 2018


Hard Graft…


The process of grafting is considered by many outside of the guys who actually grow the vines a very simple process – lop the heads off the existing vines, chuck in some buds and voila the following year or two you have a new crop of whatever it was you grafted across.  In reality, this could not be further from the truth.  The skill and timing of grafting is well recognized by the viticulturists out there, and when there is a guy or girl who can quickly, neatly, efficiently, and effectively graft onto an existing vine with minimal fuss they are worth their weight in gold.  


John the viticulturist checking the health of the graft of Chardonnay to the Shiraz vine


Well we were very lucky to have Mark McCarthy and his team come through and do our grafting – the top 16 rows of Shiraz have made the transfer to Gin Gin clone Chardonnay.  The buds are very fragile in the early days of the graft and we will be needing to protect them from snails and weevils, as well as placing a string alongside so as to support them against the elements (strong southerlies is an afternoon constant in Western Australia).  Fingers and toes crossed we should have our first commercial crop of Chardonnay in 2020, and with the magic touch of Clive and Erin at the winery we can only but hope it turns out to be a ripper.

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Support act – strings set beside the grafted buds to help them to the cordon wire


The vineyard in late spring goes through most of the flowering for all of the varieties, and with it being a little cooler over the month, flowering has been a bit protracted.  As it stands, Merlot and Marsanne has pretty much finished flowering, Shiraz is nearly there, and Cabernet Franc is a little bit variable for some strange reason.  The advantage with Cabernet Franc is that it can pull itself together in a hurry, so this is not a big concern.


We have had another slash down of all the mid-rows and apart from the obvious advantage of getting that broken-down grass into the topsoil, it makes the vineyard look very tidy indeed.  We have been late with the undervine spraying, issues with the bike having a hidden wasp’s nest in the exhaust – drove the mechanic nuts until he realized, and now it is running like a dream.  I have also only completed a small section of the basal growth clearing, and this means I will be out this coming month catching up – this is not a drama but for those that like to be very particular, it is good to get it out of the road before the summer heat hits and this growth takes away some of the water uptake.


Our ambition will be to be dry grown again this year, but this cannot be the case for the Shiraz as it did not respond well to the water stress.  I did write a topic years ago about the unusual needs of Shiraz in regards to climate, based on the weather in the Rhone Valley – and the important factor to note was the weather got wet as you approached vintage, and I think to preserve the tannin and flavor the vine cannot be water stressed too heavily in the last two months heading to vintage – so maybe a program of watering from January might be the go this vintage.


Our first honey pull was completed recently, and we hope to fill our boots over the coming months as there are lots of people waiting for a jar or two.  Beth and Aaron are now bottling some honey unfiltered and raw – so bits of comb will be floating in the liquid gold.  It tastes delicious on toast and is a winner with their son Vance.

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A honey pot of Blue Poles unfiltered honey – deliciousness x a lot!


First and Last Call…


That’s right, our Marsanne was bottled and sent through to us a couple of weeks back and the demand has been awesome.  But that does leave a problem – if you have the desire to drink this delicious natural wine, made from one of the rarest varieties in Margaret River you had better act now.  Attached is an order form, and there are a few other wines we can throw in with your order just to keep you stocked with other delicious wines while watching the cricket and talking with your in-laws when the BBQ has not been fired up.  Free postage for a six pack or more such that no one has an excuse, and we save you fuel from driving to the liquor store, hurrah!


So simply put, act now to drink a delicious fresh white wine that matches prawn and crayfish like chips and dip.  We will be making more of this wine in 2019 and it is an exciting addition to the Blue Poles wine list.

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Synthesizing beauty…


Just a short topic this month as I seem to be running short on ideas and long on work to be done in the vineyard upon my return to Margaret River.  I recently ran across a YouTube video where two “scientists” sat down with a pair of wines – one made from grapes, and the other a concoction of chemicals that taste and smell similar to wine, and it was inferred in a New Scientist article that one day this is how wine could be made.  During the wine tasting it became quite apparent that the chemical concoction was dire, and as such it was a bit of a joke – BUT – some folk out there believe that this is a realistic pathway forward at, unusually, both ends of the wine spectrum, cheap or extremely expensive.


Now this is interesting that we have the potential to “make” a wine in the laboratory, and the reason for this I assume was either the potential to mimic extremely expensive wines so closely so as to be replicants, or to make wine that is cheap but significantly better than those in the same price point.  But, when you look back at the past 50 years, is there any food product that has been synthesized and overtaken the primary product?  I know of vegan meat, but that is very group specific and I do not understand that if you are vegan why would you want to eat a product that tastes and feels like meat?  I guess the reason as it stands for the lack of chemical alternatives is simply that growing and rearing primary produce continues to be very very cheap in comparison to laboratory concocted equivalents.


But wine can be very expensive, so surely you could slip in there?  I call out BS.  And the simple reason is that if you can afford to buy the real thing, why would you buy this chemical soup mock up?  Who is going to pour this out at dinner?  Who is going to explain how they made the 500-5000 compounds required and how a smell-o-machine somehow combined them to mimic this great estate in Burgundy or wherever.  The research required to move this forward is so vast and so pointless it ensures it could never be carried through.


On the other end of the spectrum, where a few 100 compounds could make a passable red or white in the cheap bin section, couldn’t this be a winner?  Again, I call out BS.  Simply because the cost of the grapes in this portion of the industry are so incredibly cheap – per tonne throughout the world you would not exceed $400 for grapes made into very cheap wine and this equates to about 40-60 cents per litre as a max!!  At what time could the chemical equivalent get to this price point?  I would say in 100 years…. maybe.


My last comment on the topic is a simple one.  You just know itwould taste like crap.  No matter what they did, and how they did it, it would taste awful.  Because simply blending beauty and science most often does not work – sure you can get lovely pictures of the outer galaxies and a bug’s eye, but imagine getting a scientist to draw it from scratch?  Just imagine it – total disaster in every way.  So, wine will continue to be wine for the foreseeable future, much past my time on this revolving planet, and the hover boards and the synthetic wines will just have to bide their time with Star Trek’s transporter and tasty gluten-free anything.



Cool runnings...


We seem to be bouncing backwards and forwards this growing season – cool September, warm October and now a return to cooler weather this November.  With one of the coolest nights recorded this year occurring in November, it has been tres odd.  The flip side to the cool weather has been the lack of any substantial rain and this has helped with the flowering and the general lower wind speeds during the month.


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


November 2018:       

Avg Maximum Temp          20.7°C

Daily Max recorded            25.5°C


Avg Minimum Temp            9.7°C

Daily Min recorded              3.8°C) 


Rainfall:                               20.3mm


Looking back in our records, only 2006 and 2008 have had a cooler November, and the average of the past three months this year mimics the 2008 vintage very closely.  The maximum temperature average for this month was significantly lower than last year and the minimums quite a bit cooler as well.  The rainfall total for both years was low and this is expected as the weather patterns are pushed lower than the capes.

November 2017:       

Avg Maximum Temp          24.5°C

Daily Max recorded            31.2°C

Avg Minimum Temp           11.8°C

Daily Min recorded               7.5°C


Rainfall:                                  7.3mm



Tidying up before Christmas…


We simply have 100 jobs to do as we approach the silly season.  Another wire lift, looking after the grafted Chardonnay, cleaning up plant bases, knocking back some under row growth, Tim might be cracking on to a new web page, and I want to get some Viognier trained up for the possibility of doing a wine in 2020.  There is not a day where you couldn’t spend 10 hours in the vines and not have work to do the next day – great way to clear your head of course and to prepare yourself for the excesses of Christmas dinner.  We wish all our readers and buyers all the very very best for the upcoming Christmas and New Year celebrations and we wish you good luck and fortune in the year ahead.


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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