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Monthly Report - December 2019


Hot topic…


This month of December has proved to be an extremely hot month for the whole of Australia – and with the heat has come fires and destruction that has never been encountered to such a degree this early in the summer months.  No one can say that the hot weather has not been predicted, and no one can say that there was not clear evidence that the damage to our forests and regions was likely – but we all are a little stunned by the ferocity of this fire season, especially in the eastern states of Australia.


Caught up in all of this are some wine regions, especially those in the Adelaide Hills and northern / eastern Victoria, and I would imagine the Hunter Valley would be badly affected by smoke as they approach their first harvest (Semillon in the Hunter Valley tends to be picked in January – some of the earliest ripening grapes in Australia).  Vignerons have lost vines, sheds, equipment and wine through fires and it is hard to look at images of rolling hills of burnt and blackened vines knowing of all the effort and heart that was put into making them flourish.


Though we have evaded damaging fires in the Margaret River region, we have been caught up in the higher than average heat load with temperatures exceeding 35oC for 5 days this month (and in the first two weeks of December) and an average maximum temperature in excess of 28oC where the long term recent average (2005-2018) has been 24.6oC.  This makes it difficult to control growth in the vineyard and the rush through the development phases of the grapes themselves as the heat load speeds up the growing process.


Blue Poles Chardonnay – with the famous “Hen and Chicken” fruit set


We have managed to avoid turning on the irrigation for the Merlot and Cabernet Franc – these vines are now well and truly settled, but the Shiraz, Chardonnay and Marsanne have received some support due to their thirsty habits, and in the Chardonnay’s case due to the age of the grafts and the desire to keep them fit and healthy.  Also we have just completed cleaning up the basal growth on the vines and thinning out the growth.  By leaving it a bit later in the year it has stopped a crazy amount of growth in the canopy itself, a little trick I have worked out after 20 years!

201912_Basal Merlot 1.jpg
201912_Basal Merlot 2.jpg

December 2019 basal cleaning and fruit thinning the Merlot - before (top) and after (bottom)


So, overall the vineyard is looking great.  Have finished the most pressing jobs and have a January to look at getting all the small finicky jobs put to bed before the rush of vintage takes over.


Disrupting disruptors…


We have all done it.  Downloaded the Uber app, or looked up a topic on Wikipedia, or even used Word to type a document and by doing so have hooked into this new world of disrupted traditional industries.  The rethinking of traditional ways of doing things is part of human evolution, but it seems that this form of “disruptive” thinking is considered cutting edge and forms a break in our previous perception of business development.


I personally think this form of definition of progress is utter rubbish.


This application of the term “disrupters” has become so mainstream that everyone actually has forgotten to think what it actually represents.  Nodding sagely when we are informed that share riding is “disrupting” the taxi industry, when all we have done is applied a “modernized taxi” service into play.  It is not breaking the industry, it is taking a percentage of the profits of that industry, just like Coles setting up in a town with a Woolworths – disrupting?  No!  Just competition, and possibly through a differing platform but it is still the very same thing being done in either case.


Why have we become so gullible to this rewrapped world?  It never used to be a big deal – we never used to get so hung up about our phone providers or shopping for kitchen ware.  We have simply succumbed to that massive world of damn “choice” – it is not the genius of the new age of businessmen making a disruptive world our reality, it is the wealth of choice that has invaded everything we do and destroying the perceived “peace of mind” we once had.  Previously we would never have had to consider the 15-20 options we have to buy a shirt, or get some cheese, fly to Sydney, or whatever you do from one living moment to the next.  But now it is imperative. And it is slowly killing us.


And that seems pretty melodramatic – and it is – but it is something which brings up why we are all so distracted.  We do not actually rest much anymore.  We are very rarely disconnected – and when we are, we take pride thinking about how brave we are in being disconnected, if only for an hour or two.  We are frittering our time away defining and harnessing our “choice” on almost every element of our lives path – but rarely taking time to accept the status quo.  Is life easier now than before?


I bring this up as my perception of the popularity of “natural wines” for an example is a throw back to many trying to find a touchstone to the past.  Trying to have a connection with the natural world.  And conversely the popularity of the extremely prestigious wines of the world as well, with their ballooning price tags, is also a choice related to linking the consumer with the past – but not only from the angle of “from the earth”, but rather of sharing a link with the wealth and decadence of bygone years.  It is all sort of imaginary to be honest – neither existed in the past in a way that a “consumer” is experiencing it today.  “Natural wines” in its most basic form is simply home-made wines of a bygone era made for local consumption – it was not meant to be anything more than a beverage to be enjoyed within a small radius of its production.  The prestigious wines became so over centuries – with many decades of disrepair for many regions as wines went in and out of fashion prior to the past 50 years of incredible resurrection.


And this has what to do with disruptors? This.


You see – the concept of disruption is to break an industry down to its components and to find out the “holes” and “gaps” within the business.  So being “ripe” for disruption is basically saying, the element of choice has not been widened enough to allow in an alternative.  And this is almost delusional, if not frightening within an industry so incredibly overloaded with choice such as ours, the wine industry.


The wine world is simply FILLED with choice.  So much choice as to make it something to be “scared” of, something we need to “educate” people about, something that “confuses” the consumer, and on and on.  For one to disrupt this industry, one needs to ELIMINATE choice, and that comes down to developing “super brands” that salve the consumer – and this is anti-disrupter thinking.  This is the move from the farmer’s market stalls to Coles and apparently it is to be planned for and potentially celebrated.


In the past, we have struggled in the selling of our wines at times.  It is hard to get wines in front of people and to be able to share the story and the excellence that we have built up over the years of hard work.  Knowing the huge choice of wines that sit in a crowded marketplace, with the only hook being the absolute quality of the product, it is a tricky tightrope to walk.  Are we having to start thinking of our own “disrupting” process?  With new wines to be bottled in the coming month we will need to sit down and actively see where we can inject some “brandeur” and find a way which may end up disrupting these future disruptors.


Interesting times are afoot…


High Heat Load...


Back into the swing of things with only one month’s weather to report on.  This month was much warmer than last year with daytime temperatures heading over 30oC on several days.  Not warm enough to warrant giving some of the vines a drink from the irrigation, but warm enough to give them a bit of stress.  Low rainfall matched in with the blue skies and it started to feel like a real warm summer out there for the first time in a couple of years.


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


December 2019:

Avg Maximum Temp          28.3°C

Daily Max recorded            37.3°C


Avg Minimum Temp           13.1°C

Daily Min recorded               7.1°C


Rainfall:                                 7.2mm


The maximum and minimum temperatures this year were higher than last year, which meant the growth in the vineyard is well advanced.  The rainfall total was very low in 2019, with only 3 days with any rainfall recorded during the month.


December 2018:

Avg Maximum Temp          24.3°C

Daily Max recorded            35.5°C


Avg Minimum Temp           12.5°C

Daily Min recorded               6.7°C


Rainfall:                               29.9mm

Promises made, promises kept…


As always, we make our new year resolutions and promptly forget them when it becomes convenient.  I have not sat back and done a review of 2019 or listed a number of resolutions to meet this coming year – it is all going too quick to make lines in the sand.  As I have got older, the years have become shorter (perceptional-ly…) and this causes me to want to do things now rather than later – time is short and valuable.


We have a very busy month in front of us with bottling of the 2018 vintage, creating new labels and wines, work in the vineyard (which is a continuum), and a trip abroad for me at the end of the month for my consultancy work – if only for a week or so.  It never really slows down - it always seems a luxury to watch the cricket on TV and often I can only last a couple of hours before some other shiny task pops up.


I hope all of you had a relaxing and solid recharge during this holiday season and have set your targets for 2020.  I wish you all the very best in attaining them!


Sunset over Margaret River to end 2019


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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