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Monthly Report - August 2020

Half an annum…


It is becoming a bit repetitive, but we do hope you are all safe and well wherever you may be reading this little dialogue on the month’s activities at Blue Poles.  We here in Western Australia are all living in a bit of a fantasy world – little to no control at all “covid-wise” in regards to anything we do excepting potentially travelling out of the state.


I went to the local shire building where they were running a few movies from the Cinefest Film Festival last Friday night – a movie called “Rams” with winery owner Sam Neill as the lead actor (very enjoyable little show).  As we all ambled in like lost sheep (…see what I did there), some of the attendants were trying to keep us all socially distant but all to no avail.  Everyone just sat where they wanted to – we were all crowded together outside waiting for the doors to open anyway, so in a way there was no real reason for the regulations being enforced.


No face masks.  No real closures or restrictions.  We are in our pretend bubble.  Until you think you can leave, and it all becomes a bit “Hotel California”.  The state is an island within an island.  All very odd and it seems like we are sleep walking through this pandemic.


Keep safe comrades.


Distant glow…


There are some things I very rarely, if ever see – and one of them is sunrises.  If I am out looking at one it means we are either picking grapes or that I am at an airport, and on both occasions I would not be whistling and clapping my hands – I am just not a morning person. But when you do witness a sunrise, it is the “glow” that you notice first prior to rays flicking up and across the horizon – and that is the state of play with the vineyard.  It is “glow” time as we just have one hectare of Shiraz to prune to finish this task for the year with the Chardonnay, Merlot, Marsanne, Teroldego, and Cabernet Franc all safely cut and massaged into shape.  With budburst itching to go like a pressure valve starting to shiver – it will soon be 2021 vintage on its way.


Latest budburst for Chardonnay in Margaret River?  Blue Poles 30 August 2020


Pruning has been my step away from the computer job all month – 3 days a week standing out in the vineyard and cutting back the growth and resetting vines that I have not pruned personally for a few years.  Knowing I am not rushing off abroad for weeks at a time has meant I can enjoy the process a bit more – and it has been good for me to be in the weather and seeing each vine anew, determine bud counts and growth setting and just being able to “converse” with the vineyard.  I have not done it all though – John my viticulturist has dropped in once a week on average, and to save my hands I got some help to complete the Cabernet Franc (such a harrrd vine – like steel cord at times).


All pruning should be finished by early September and then the process of vintage comes around and all the other areas of the vineyard’s life comes into play – and maintenance being one of them.  After 20 years we are slowly replacing the “steels” that hold up the wires between the wooden posts – a job I never expected to be doing.


Also, this month we sold the balance of our Deux Écus “Reserve Allouran” release – lasted all of a few hours on the website.  To all those who took up the opportunity we thank you very much, and to those who missed out we are very sorry but it was in huge demand and we hope that you can snare one if not all of the Reserves in the future.  Keep an eye out for the Marsanne “Lost on Mars” release that will be at the end of the month – again very limited due to a small crop – it is a lovely little wine and it is a collaboration with brad from Amato Vino and it’s nice to have a “natural” wine in the fold, if only to show that our grapes are healthy and characterful regardless of the process (which actually is very close to being the same…).


Baudin Cockatoos giving me the hurry up – Merlot block

Clean vs Green vs Commonsense…


There are some events in the wine world cycle which just comes around like a clockwork toy train – all aboard for the stelvin vs cork debate, or the 100 point score rampage, or even better the “alcoholic” reds ruining wine stoush.  But the most renown of them all was the ““Natural Wines vs Industrial Wines” Mega-fight to the Death”” – oh the lives lost in this 100 Year war - the tantrums, the self-serving virtue signaling, the sheer horror…


But we now teeter on the edge of a third player into this cage fight of ego, and from my perspective it is like watching a horrible American teen movie and the warring parties (let’s say straights vs hippies) are completely sideswiped by the “cool” kids (let’s say cheerleaders) and it becomes a free for all.  So, what has happened here?  It is the emergence of a winery that is taking to task ALL wine producers as being “simply horrible and adding all these horrible things, and you’re all going to be poisoned by these horrible wines” – such a beautiful sentiment.


Cameron Diaz and the entrepreneur Katherine Power have launched a wine label and have promoted it solely on its “clean” credentials (regurgitated press release here).  This is not unusual to have someone famous knock out an alcoholic beverage (my favorite being The Pogues Irish Whiskey), but it is unusual for them to bang on about why they are better than everyone else, and doing it in an extremely amateurish and naive way.  The way of the world seems to be simply say whatever you want, watch the ensuing drama unfold and ignore it and carry on infuriating everyone by not giving a stuff or screaming you are right “gawd damn it!”.


How Tim and I would drink wine if we were stereotypical American elite white ladies


“Clean” wine is named as such due to the simple fact that they have not added many additives – like about 95% of all fine wine in the world.  The “infuriating” aspect is that they are saying they ARE the only winery that has not added anything and yet implied everyone has added all sorts because they do not say that they haven’t!  It is wonderful in its sheer audacity, and quite breathtakingly ignorant of what goes on in the wine world.  But Ms Diaz and Entrepreneur Power would be blissfully unaware of these trivial issues … you cannot criticize those that are dumb as rocks, because it sort of is not, but sort of is.


Let me un-confuse myself.


The reason why they have stung a nerve between the “straights and the hippies” is that they are correct in the sense that not all additives and processing aids have to be written down on the label.  So, by default they could have added tartaric acid for example and not had to mention it, and the reason why they do not have to mention it is simply because it is a naturally occurring acid in wine already (I have done a bit of a discussion on additives and processing aids and you can find it here).  But, by simply implying the UN-clean wines “maaay” be adding all these nasty chemicals (and yes this includes you, natural wines – you dirty dirty bunch of boozehounds) you set doubt into the consumer’s mind.  The genius of the wine is the use of the word clean here – as both the big end of town with its large commercial vineyards and factories are on an equivalence with those unkempt mysterious filthy natural wines that are not telling you their dark little secrets.


But at the end of the day, the cheerleaders will always get beaten as they have no way of resolving the obvious problem – they are actually just the same as everyone else.  In fact, possibly worse as there is no mention of where their grapes come from apart from France and Spain in essence.  As the huge splash of technicolor outrage subsides to the stored web-pages only found on page 8 of a google search, no one will remember Avaline Wine as it will just be another brand that has a lovely pastel label but “oh my, it’s a bit pricey”.


Will this become a topic on the “Why are they discussing this again?” list of wine topics?




This is but a shooting star of silliness and ignorance – bless them and their perfect skin and lovely summer wear.  But also bless the spittled rage that emanated from our industry like a torrent, it should be noted that to stop populism it is best to simply ignore it – makes it less popular one could say…


Winter Waning...


Another typical winter’s month – just enough rain and cool.  The rain has slowed over the month to now showers being the breath rather than the blow as was the case back in July.  Working in the vineyard has not been shorts weather that is for sure, but it has been pleasant enough and roads were not covered by trees and debris post rainfall as the weather has moderated as the days have lengthened.


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


August 2020:        

Avg Maximum Temp          16.3°C

Daily Max recorded            19.3°C


Avg Minimum Temp             8.3°C

Daily Min recorded               2.9°C


Rainfall:                               109.5mm

The maximum was definitely cooler than last year which was warm from August to November as warmth came early in 2019 causing an early vintage in 2020.  The minimums are similar and maybe that little extra stored heat in 2019 had edged up this value from a typical August cool.  The rainfall totals are similar with showers occurring over half the days of the month.

August 2019:        

Avg Maximum Temp           17.4°C

Daily Max recorded             21.7°C


Avg Minimum Temp              7.6°C

Daily Min recorded                2.7°C


Rainfall:                               120.9mm

Buds bursting…


Big month for me in the winery as well as finishing off the pruning.  Barrel tasting and blending will be completed for the 2019 vintage with bottling at the end of the year.  The 2019 vintage was a cooler and distinctly different vintage to many of the previous years in Margaret River – so the capacity to develop Reserve styled wines will be carefully checked and it will be an interesting day.  Maintenance in the vineyard will be a go, and some old vines may be pulled out and areas prepared for replanting in 2021 – Arneis and Roussanne will be planted over areas previously planted to Viognier.  I am looking forward to developing a “white” portion of the vineyard to match in with my “Beaune” Chardonnay.


Our “Lost on Mars” Marsanne will be released and the vineyard will burst into life.  Another planetary cycle around the sun begins once more.  Keep safe everyone and look after one another.  Until next month then…


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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