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Monthly Report - January 2019


Late to the party…


What a busy month January has been, so busy that I have only really had a chance to sit down and type out this report in mid-February – apologies with regards to my tardiness.  And the reason for this delay in transmission?  Weddings, family, work and vines – and not necessarily in that order.


On 2 February my youngest daughter was married in Metricup to Riley Ace – the third wedding of our 4 girls in 2 years and the third occasion we have had all the family drop across from their various world locations to mark the event.  It was a wonderful day after a cool and windy start, and as the couple were a bit younger than my two elder daughters, the crowd had a different feel to it all.  In a way I am saying I am getting older, but I do find it interesting how my girls have accrued such different circles of friends to be within, but the one consistency with them all was that their bridesmaids have all been school mates that they did not lose touch with.


All four Gifford daughters together for Abi’s Wedding – 2 February 2019


So, with a wedding comes all the family.  My mother rolled in mid-month and immediately went to work pottering around the house, enforcing strict scrabble rules, failing to count her points properly in crib, and reading and sleeping in the end room.  My brother and sister turned up from NZ and Singapore and went about buying loaves and loaves of bread, topping up on olive oil and spreads, reminiscing to the nieces and nephews (in-law), and doing nothing about the work emails that would have been piling up in their inboxes.  My brother in-law made it from snowy England, and unfortunately, he did reply to his work emails, but he managed to get some sunshine, eat some delicious Dardanup Bakery pies, and message his family to “stay strong” while they were locked into their street due to icy roads.


Work for me arrived in the form of a company in Africa seeking some geological support – which is great news financially.  But.  The work involves sorting out 100’s of jumbled files and sorting them out into some sort of order and sense – thus many late nights post much drinking and merriment has meant some blurry eyes and head scratching.  Luckily, this work is now in a manageable form and I can do some real work rather than sifting and sorting.


Which leaves the vines.  And how this vintage is testing us – it is very frustrating as the weather is on a bit of a start and stop routing of heat coming on for a day or so and then evaporating back to cooler weather.  It is so unusual as normal weather patterns of hot weather with a heat trough offshore on the west coast for 3-5 days, slowly moving through with a day or two’s relief before starting again has simply NOT happened.  No hot nights to speak of at all.  We are cooler than Tasmania this year, and I am not sure if this is a good thing or not.  Plenty of sunshine hours though, just little heat to go with it.


Only one vintage has been cooler than this one to date, and that was 2006, and that was so late that we picked off the Cabernet Franc on Anzac Day the 25 April – and considering for the last 6 vintages no variety has been picked off post March, this could be a bit of a shock to the system.  Normally in January I would be posting you pictures of red grapes and picking out the time of harvest – this year they are still not through veraison (change of colour), and my picking dates would be wild guesses.

201901_2006 Vintage.jpg

A picture from the 2006 vintage in Feb – leaf plucking (note green Merlot bunches still)

Though we are having a hold up with the vintage, the growing grafts of Chardonnay at the top of the block are going great guns.  I need to spend 2 days a week out there keeping up with the growth and ensuring that the grafts are not affected by wind or insects.  We have about 90% now above the cordon wire and a large percentage now filling up the wire so as to be able to get some grapes next year.  This is a new learning curve for me, and fortunately we have the Chardonnay Master in Clive Otto making our wines so his advice will be valuable next vintage as I fret over the fruit and barrel selections etc etc.


A big dump of rain (36mm) came through on the 22-24 January, and unusually it originated south of Margaret River which meant cool weather and winds with the rains.  It also meant that we had little disease pressure after all this moisture as it only slowly warmed up, keeping the mildews subdued.  As I have mentioned many times in the past 4-5 reports, tres odd weather down here in Margs.




I like that word, nonsense.  Like finally recognizing breakfast means to break your fast, the more literal nonsense should not but does surprise you as simply no sense, no sense at all.  And that is how wine is often reported about in the world today.  Now, I know you are already thinking he is about to do the “this wine is Better than Grange” or “4 nobodies who do not drink wine much think this $8 wine is better than this $XXX wine” articles – but no, I am going to discuss this released statistical graph.

201901_Wine Consumption Graph 1.jpg

This graph comes from Twitter from a user called @AAWE, which I think represents the American Association of Wine Economists.  Now at this stage, I am thinking to myself, my gawd there is an association for wine “economists” – how utterly bizarre – but moving along I noticed that the graph was attempting to convince me that there is a relationship between drinking wine and being less obese in America, and then I realized this is totally disingenuous for so many reasons. I will go through them in a list:


  • Let’s start with the graph itself.  Note wine consumption on the bottom goes from 0-25 litres of consumption (I am assuming per drinking age person per year) BUT the obesity rate data goes from 22-38% giving you the false impression that those values at the bottom of the graph are “very” low.  This is a common trick to over emphasise the trend seen in any data, make the obesity rate start from 0% in the graph and you would immediately notice there are A LOT of very obese people in America.

  • Now, let’s have a think about that wine consumption rate just for a second.  I can only assume it is annualized, so a rate of 12 litres of wine per year is the equivalent of 1 litre per month – which is less than 1.5 bottles a month, the maximum rate consumed by Washington DC is ~25.5litres per year and this equates to <3 bottles per month!  And this is potentially the key to reducing the obesity rate?

  • Next are the outliers in the graph – Utah (UT) drinks next to no wine, but is not as fat as most other states, same with Colorado (CO) and Montana (MT).  And this is where it gets interesting, Utah is the home of the Mormon church, Colorado has had marijuana available since the start of the century, and Montana – err I have no idea – artisan brewers at every corner?  You see the trend may seem to be there, but in fact the trend may relate to so many other factors so as to make referencing wine as influencing obesity rates as simply laughable.


So, with a ruler and 20 minutes of my life, I quickly worked out the data points from the above graph and replotted it using a 0-0 axis and here it is:

201901_Wine Consumption Graph 2.jpg

Almost immediately you note that the trend is not as dramatic as in the first graph.  You appreciate just how much more wine is drunk in DC than in the rest of America (Trump’s election perhaps?), and that if you removed that data point it would look pretty much like no real trend at all.


To think that the over a quarter of all Americans is considered obese is amazing, but to then try and say that drinking wine might combat this issue is absolutely nuts.  Of all people in the world, you would expect a bunch of statistical gurus such as economists to know the law of cause and effect – and thus using this graph to provide evidence of an extremely tenuous connection is so wrong on so many levels.  I get annoyed by how these silly reports and connections is how the mainstream media tend to deal with the wine industry… which reminds me to start my first draft on my “Red Wine and Red Meat Diet – The Red Revolution”


Cool Continues...


An unusually cool vintage continues for Margaret River – which now I believe can claim the mantle of premier cool climate region in Australia as the rest of the country past the Western Australian / South Australian border swelters.  This has been nearly as cool a year as 2006 which was a big surprise to us when we first started out, and in that vintage our last pick was 25 April (Anzac Day) which is a month after our normal end of vintage.  Only 3 days over 30°C in what is normally one of the warmest two months of the year, and a series of very cool wet days between 22-24 January.


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


January 2019:        

Avg Maximum Temp          25.1°C

Daily Max recorded            33.0°C


Avg Minimum Temp           12.3°C

Daily Min recorded               7.9°C


Rainfall:                               38.0mm


The maximum and minimum temperature average for this month was similar to last year’s range, just a touch lower.  The rainfall total for was similar though higher than in 2018, with both months having what is considered unseasonal rainfall totals.


January 2018:        

Avg Maximum Temp           25.5°C

Daily Max recorded             33.8°C


Avg Minimum Temp            14.0°C

Daily Min recorded               9.4°C


Rainfall:                               24.4mm


Creeping up on vintage…


With this report being a bit late it reminds me that I need to get the nets organized for putting out soon as well as tap away at those Chardonnay grafts.  Always lots to do as we prepare for vintage coming up in March and/ or April – exciting months ahead of us all.  May the weather be warm and dry … onwards.


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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