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Monthly Report - November 2020

End in Sight…


It was very peculiar about how we heard about the new vaccines – it has come at a time in which the virus has never been as rampant and really in the nick of time.  I have not followed it closely enough to be able to say what the difference is between the 3 vaccines that have been promoted as the most efficacious apart from one or two need to be frozen, but what I do know is that without one of these vaccines getting to the most vulnerable in the coming 6 months then it could be catastrophic for many countries (and still may be – India, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, etc will have difficulty in obtaining and distributing the vaccines ensuring a lengthy period of recovery).


So, for us here in Australia, we are now looking at a glimmer of light.  Many of us wish to get back to unrestricted travel – like the good old days – but I have a feeling the good old days may now be a relic of history.  Our attitudes to work (do we need to travel to the office every day?), travel and frivolous expenses (those past costs are now noted in our higher bank balances if you had been lucky enough to continue your employment), has changed us dramatically.  We have altered (even here in little Western Australia), our economic norms have been re-routed and who knows what impact this will make on the financial “growth” of the country if we do not continue our rampant consumerism as before.


The year 2021 could a big reset for many companies and individuals.  No one can approach their workplace and lifestyle with the same feelings as before, so questioning of value and need has become part of our modern psyche.  And I am guessing, possibly for the better.


Keep safe comrades.


Full Fling Flowering…


The good part of writing these reports is that I get to keep a record of all the activities in the vineyard for myself as well, therefore having 15 years of these monthly reports gives me the ability to flick backwards and forwards through the vintages to see my running commentary (and my at times average use of the English language).  I say this as there has been a real drama drama over this vintage in the region to date as the weather has been so changeable and wind/ rain has been messing up the plans made of mice and men.  It is as if all have forgotten the events of any of the vintages’ past.  Looking back, the spring of the 2010 vintage we had 65mm of rain (fantastic vintage after we had a dry and even summer from that point on), and in the 2008, 2015 and 2019 vintages we had cooler Novembers preceding warmer Decembers (again all very good vintages for the region).


Thus, I believe we protest-eth too much.  Any Margaret River vintage, like a cake, is prepared in the spring and then cooked in the summer.  If the heat is even and the skies remain dry and clear moving forward, we will be in for another good vintage to add to the majority over the past 20 years.  But, we do have an issue as rain and wind that has occurred during flowering this year will reduce yield, and I believe we are up for a further low tonnage vintage in the region (which unusually, is becoming part of the new normal around here).  And the reason for the low tonnage?  Well it is all about fruit set, and when it is windy and wet, this reduces potential fruit set and gives the risk for mildews later in the year as spores get caught up in the tiny bunches.  But it is very random, as each vineyard, block, and vine is unique to one another and poor fruit set one day, could be perfectly fine fruit set the next – so from an overall perspective we are looking at lower yields, but this is tempered by so many factors that it is just the “vibe man”.


I am quite sure that our vineyard is in one of the coolest spots in Margaret River.  On the valley floor, exposed south and west which opens it to an early sea breeze, and lower night time temperatures during most months has meant that we pick later as the vines relate to the climate later than all the vineyards nearer the coast and further north.  Thus we are still going through flowering for the red varieties and our Shiraz has still to really crack on which makes me want to give it a bit of a kick – come on, we haven’t got all day!


During the month, all the first wires went up, we cleaned all the base of vines by hand, hand thinned most of the Merlot and Cabernet Franc, put out about 3-4 sprays and John the viticulturist rang up 4 times to complain about the weather (it is not my fault fella!).  As predicted, it was a month of walking and bending – and this is to continue unfortunately as the weather has been such that growth is bonkers and I am going to have to hand thin again just to keep the balance.

202011_Cab Franc.jpg

Flowering Cabernet Franc – 30 November 2020 (top); Blue Poles Chardonnay – 2021 Edition (bottom)


The big winner this month has been the Chardonnay – it appears to have set an impressive crop (touch wood) and the growth in the vines from these grafted vines is wonderful to behold.  Our wine maker and “Chardonnay Champion of the Worrrld”, Clive Otto, will have a bigger parcel of grapes to play with, two sparkling new Burgundy barrels and an extra year’s growth in the Chardonnay making this an exciting time for us.  The 2020 Chardonnay will be bottled next month, and tasting it with Clive we note that Blue Poles “feel” of strength of character – stone fruit (nectarines) and almond with a hint of spice is the primary notes on the nose, with a palate which has line and length within an orchard of flavours was my take away.


One other job that has been planned for a while was the trimming back of the trees that form our eastern boundary.  Tim and I once grabbed the chainsaw when the trees were smaller and spent a day trying to chop off limbs (of the trees, but that wasn’t assured), but with the trees now 15-20m high we have brought in the experts.  The trimming has been completed with all the cuttings chipped providing us with 80m3 of mulch for under vine use when we start planting out more vines in the coming years.  It also means a new boundary fence which will make the neighbours happy as the current one I think was put in in the 1960’s!


Trimmed boundary trees next to our Merlot Block

Christmas Treats…


You will find in the “Shop” a selection of six-pack specials that will be limited – so some may not last long, so please be quick.  We know Christmas wine is not just about what goes with turkey (and please do not say Sparkling Shiraz – you are simply not well), but what goes with a week of eating and drinking over the holiday period.  So, we have made up a selection of six packs that should cover all those bases:



              1 x 2018 Deux Écus

              3 x 2008 Allouran

              2 x 2016 Reserve Merlot

** extremely limited



              1 x 2008 Allouran

              2 x 2016 Allouran

              1 x 2016 Reserve Merlot

              2 x 2010 Viognier



              2 x 2012 Teroldego

              2 x 2018 Shiraz

              2 x 2020 “Lost on Mars” Marsanne


We recommend that you order as soon as practicable to beat the Christmas rush – the wines will be posted out ASAP and should provide some delicious Christmas cheer! Enjoy!


The Truth Hurts…


I am going to keep this month’s topic short.  The reason for this is that I would like you to take the opportunity to read the commentary below by a top bloke called Dudley Brown, owner of Inkwell Wines in the McLaren Vale.


The Wine Rules Blog - Wake Up Call


The blog is excellent as it is a treatise that starts to bring the threads together on our wine industry’s folly, highlighting what I and many others have been saying for years – we have to do something of bloody value, and not something that is bloody valueless.  Dudley has used this current spat with China** to highlight the massive underpinning problem with the wine industry in Australia.  And I am in vehement agreeance with him – possibly more so for these simple reasons:


  • Our industry is run by corporates that do not have any real interest in fine wine.  They are supporting the generation of wine “swill” almost without exception.

  • We are presented to the world by this corporate class as being the champions of wine “swill” with the occasional exception which is treated as an anomaly and extremely limited.

  • We have to recognize that this wine “swill” is unsustainable, unhealthy, undercutting the industry, and far too cheap.  It has to be priced accordingly and that should be via tax based on an alcohol content volumetric rate.

  • Our environment and future are damaged by the production of this wine “swill” and it has to be recognized as a foolhardy crop and phased out.


It does mean that large areas of vine plantings need to be removed.  This is not the reduction of old vines in famous wine growing regions that once happened in the past; it is the reduction of vines in grossly inappropriate locations in inland Australia that rely on huge water allocations to make wine that costs less than a bottle of water – go figure.


Enough with the hand wringing – working a hectare of vines in Margaret River employs a myriad of workers over a vintage, puts money into the local community, and makes the place thrive.  A hectare of vines in the Riverland employs next to no one, has next to no value and gives next to nothing back to the community as the grapes are shipped off to processing factories to feed the wine “swill” market.  Do you think anyone of those corporates would not simply bankrupt the Riverland growers if the wine “swill” pipeline starts backing up?  They have done it before, and they would do it again in a heartbeat.


Also.  Enough with the hand wringing – provision of cheap alcohol to the masses is not a right, bollocks to that, no wine made in Australia should be sold for under $8 /liter ever, and no wine should be imported to meet this ridiculous price.  Do you think there isn’t a group of anti-alcohol folks that would love to destroy the wine industry as a whole because of the damage they perceive the wine “swill” does to the community?  They are there, and they are lobbying the whole time, treating it as a holy crusade, similar to the war on tobacco – and our industry corporates just carry on oblivious to this ominous drumbeat.

202011_Lucky Strike.jpg

Wine Australia’s equivalent position in regards to wine “swill”


Dudley Brown is a treasure because he has the capacity to link together the chain of inadequacies and (inadequate) characters, as well as provide some clarity on an opaque topic.  I sincerely hope that his article is picked up by the mainstream media and used as a form of “click bait” to at least get the conversation started.  I have my own views on tax and our corporate overlords, but they can wait for what will be a time in which our industry seeks a massive reset and opinions are sought.  If there is a better time from which to face these home truths, I doubt it would be better than right now…


**  China and Australia will make up and be neutral again, they want our coal, iron ore etc, and we want their products – it is simply Chinese bluster to impart their will on the world and avoid any real critique of themselves and their behaviour.  It is becoming a global constant.


Settle Gretel...


What a crazy month for weather – we had almost all the seasons represented with blustery winter like cold fronts coming through, early spring like showers, autumnal mild windy days, and even a few hot summer days to round it out.  What we need going forward is some settled warm dry weather to bring the vintage back into shape.


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


November 2020:        

Avg Maximum Temp          21.4°C

Daily Max recorded            30.2°C


Avg Minimum Temp           10.5°C

Daily Min recorded               6.9°C


Rainfall:                               70.0mm

The maximum was much lower than in 2019, and it is shown in the later dates for flowering and initial fruit set in the vineyard.  The minimum was also lower than last year, providing quite a significant reduction in heat load between the two years.  The rainfall values were much lower in 2019, with 2020 being almost double the average (34.7mm).

November 2019:        

Avg Maximum Temp           23.3°C

Daily Max recorded             35.3°C


Avg Minimum Temp            11.4°C

Daily Min recorded                6.6°C


Rainfall:                                28.2mm

Ending 2020…


It still does require the vineyard to have more wires lifted and vines thinned and cleaned as the priority for the month – as well as keeping the sprays up to date – before we can finally call it quits.  It is also a few more 10,000’s of steps which will allow me a few extra servings of prawns and sliced ham – fingers crossed.  From all of us here at Blue Poles as we enter the holiday season we wish a safe and Merry Christmas for you and your family and friends, and we look forward to the end of this crazy year and breaking out into an exciting and new 2021!


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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