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Monthly Report - September 2020

Survivor Series 2020…


Remember the days before bingeing became a thing, when you used to watch television and the never-ending wait for the next episode of your favourite show?  It seemed to take forever, and when it did arrive it left you feeling a bit hollow as no matter how good that “Young Ones” episode was, you mourned the fact it was over and 7 days was to roll past once again before the next.  Well this is us 2020, waiting on the potential release of our states under hostage conditions to find out that every time the potential for change has arrived it is dashed.  Very frustrating and very longwinded – but we must keep our hopes up for some form of global resolution in the coming months.


Thus, the world is having a pandemic and we are watching on all alone.  Poor old Victoria gets to take the brunt of our response and for what many countries would consider as having beaten the virus.  Western Australia still treats the world (and the rest of Australia), as treacherous, and no one may visit “the outside” for the fear of never being able to return to our haven.  It is tough for all, and I hope everyone reading this report is safe and well.


Keep safe comrades.


Gogh and it's off…


Vintage that is.  Most of the varieties have gone through budburst, with only the Cabernet Franc and the Shiraz being slow out of the blocks.  The start to vintage has been slower than last year (which was rapid due to the heat load all Spring), which is a blessing and puts the vineyard on more of an even keel in regards to picking dates in 2021 – and the rainfall continues keeping the groundwater up and retarding the exorbitant growth which can occur once the soil starts to dry and warm.


Snails are a blight and are in big numbers this vintage, and we have had some very cool days mixed in with the warming weather making the growth a bit stop start.  I was out dropping wires on the last Friday of September and I decided I had better just get home rather than freeze my hands of on a southerly buster running up through the vines – so the weather is changeable to say the least.  The vineyard has been mulched and the under-vine has had the weeds removed to help the vines get access to the minerals from the top soil as the vines begin their growth journey with roots initially working hard near the surface before they scavenge water and minerals from deeper in the profile as the soil dries in the long summer.


Slow beginnings – grafted Chardonnay, 23 September 2020


I did spend a day at the start of the month going through all the 2019 barrels and defining the different blends for the vintage.  It was a difficult blending task this year – the Merlot and the Cabernet Franc were not happy to be woken from their slumber and it all felt like a bit of a one-way conversation.  Tasting through the Merlot you get a sense of latent power – really tightly wound with very taut notes, and this went for the Shiraz as well – structure, structure, structure.  Cabernet Franc was the variety that gave me the double take – gosh it is splendid; I mean really REALLY good.


Slow ripening year in 2019 and this has suited the Cabernet Franc the most – the Merlot will arrive and be that delicious tempered wine but it will be slower to evolve as the dry grown grapes are starting to show more character and depth and this has also meant greater weight of tannins and colour.  The Allouran blend was for me the peak of the day, it had a greater richness than any of the straight varietals and a real spark to the blend.  With the wines all being that little bit more structured it was hard to find a way to create a Deux Écus and I thought the better of it – to make a wine that is a “total” wine, everything has to be perfect in the barrels selected and this combination was not to be found.  This is not an indictment on the vintage, it is simply a goal that I have set myself in regards to this blend – it has to be as near perfect as possible, nothing less.


Our joint venture “Lost on Mars” Marsanne was released in September and it is a lovely drink in its own right.  Unlike our reds, the whites we have tend to sell a little slower and this means we have a tiny amount left on the website – it is approaching summer and to drink it with seafood is a delight.  We do not expect stock to last much longer, and I must admit to not minding having an extra few bottles in the cupboard myself! 


What a combination – prawn and smoked salmon creamy pasta with our Marsanne

Visual White Noise…


Why is presenting and promoting wine on video so awful? It is not through a lack of effort or thought by the presenters, and some are genuinely really trying to pass on their enthusiasm with every excited adjective – but it just comes across as flat.  As a tack.


Now don’t you dare try and bring up the “infectious excitables” like Oz Clarke, Gary V or whomever you noted waved their arms or voices trilled a bit – I think you just liked the personality (or look) of the character, and the wine is just fluff [you can test this – name the wines that your “infectious excitable” was drinking in their past few videos?  Tres difficult if not impossible].  Thus, within the realm of tasting wine on camera, it is unfortunately all very forgettable.


And now before you raise your hand and say “…the vineyard stories and scenery are lovely” – well yes, they are, but they do not promote a wine, they promote a place and if you are half lucky, a character.  Vineyards look pretty much the same anywhere you go in the world, rows of vines set across landscapes dominated by the regiment – you often use the background forests and topography to define where you are, and this is invariably the more attractive images before you move to some character standing amongst the vines which is generic (unless it is Tasmanian winemaker Peter Dredge cross dressed in a red dress in heels discussing his genius… but I digress).


There have been some attempts to have a “mockumentary” or “road trip” feel to wine videos and presentations.  I think there was a show called “Plonk” which attempted to inject humor into a series of Australian wine region / winery visits, and Oz Clarke did a couple of wine tours with James May of Top Gear fame and found a reason to drink wine continuously on the road with the aim of “educating” us.  Nothing else really comes to mind … it all seems a bit meh.


So why is this?  We have one trillion billion food shows (Am I exaggerating?  Am I really?) and it creates a lot of discussion and lots of personalities.  In fact, the Margaret River Gourmet Weekend, though sponsored by the wine industry down here, has become a foodie weekend with the wine being an attractive free bonus as you wander (and eventually stumble) about.  Now, this is where I have a theory, an interpretation that dawned on me recently.


Wine is words – Food is imagery.


I do enjoy “reading” about wine – be it through reviews online, reviews in books, wine stories in books, discussions about wine related matters, compendiums on regions – they are all generally pretty good.  Have I ever bothered to read anything much about food, apart from following a recipe?  Nup, hardly at all and when I do it is a sort of perverse pleasure of seeing a review smashing down the pretentiousness of a restaurant.


Why is it that we still have the Halliday guide come out and still sell tonnes and tonnes of its red stars in the physical form?  If EVER there was an example of what would suit a search engine this is it – but folk buy the paper and thumb through with glee.  It is the physical nature of being able to skim backwards and forwards, catch a glimpse of something of the new and drill down, to be able to ruffle the pages and sate the urge to hunt your quarry.  I have a regular skim through the brilliant “Pomerol” by Neal Martin just for the pleasure of reading crafted paragraphs about a wine that I adore.


The brilliant wordsmith Philip White convalescing at his cottage in McLaren Vale (photo Milton Wordley)


And the words.  Wine can let you move the language into another gear.  Not that there is not a lot of dross written about wine out there (possibly my ramblings included), but when truly talented tasters who have a pure connection with the “word”, then it is magical.  Philip White springs to mind with his Hunter Thompson-esque script, Campbell Mattinson through his books, and many many critics who are at times perfectly “on point” like Walsh, Bennie, Allen, Broadbent, Clarke etc etc.  Yet in front of a video camera, it all seems so … so … dull.


Wine is cerebral – Food is physical.


Wine needs your imagination to make it sing.  Its capacity to take you travelling is not done out loud, it is done behind your eyes – everything on the outside is just “visual white noise” to your enjoyment of this wonderful drink.



Wet, wet, wet...


With just 7 days through the whole of September not having some rainfall it was a cloudy, blustery, and wet month.  Only one day within the month was the rainfall total above the old “inch”, but it was super consistent with showers skiffing through like bows on a kite tail.  Though we appeared to have had an above average maximum (September average maximum is normally in the 16-17°C range), it does not account for the apparent temperature which was positively chilly with sou’ westers being the order of the month.


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


September 2020:        

Avg Maximum Temp          17.8°C

Daily Max recorded            23.2°C


Avg Minimum Temp             9.6°C

Daily Min recorded               5.2°C


Rainfall:                              118.9mm

The maximum was cooler than last year which was a very warm start to spring (the warmest in my 20 years of growing vines).  The minimums were surprisingly warmer this year than last due to the cloud cover with the near continuous showers – though I would have as a guess the actual minimums would be closer if the apparent temperature was accounted for.  The rainfall totals are similar with slightly more rainfall in 2020.

September 2019:        

Avg Maximum Temp           18.8°C

Daily Max recorded             25.5°C


Avg Minimum Temp              8.6°C

Daily Min recorded                1.7°C


Rainfall:                                99.7mm

Tractor time…


Poor old John our viticulturist had a very painful injury to his neck in September and has only recently been able to get back into his tractor and start the important series of sprays, mulches, fertilizer spreading and all number of other jobs that requires his steady hand on the PTO controller.  While John gets on top of the spray program and midrow mulching, I will be cracking on with dropping all the wires, cleaning up excess growth and fixing up bits and pieces that broke over the winter months – it never really ends.  Lots of fast walking this month which should break me out of my winter slumber having slowly pruned vines dressed up like an Inuit in a snowstorm.


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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