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Monthly Report - January 2021

Our Turn…


We were due as you could say – as of 31 January 2021, Western Australia has gone into a 5 day lock down due to the UK COVID-19 Variant being located within the community.  This was caused by a staff member at one of the quarantine hotels contracting the virus from one of the arriving travelers, and then being out and about in the community for possibly 2-4 days while being infectious.  No one is sure how he got it, no one is actually blaming anyone, but due to this one case the southern corner of the state is in a lock down, and heaven’s above we are required to wear masks for the first time – the mandatory drama!


Reading through the news sites and twitter etc, you become absolutely gob smacked by the confected outrage the media tries to spin on this lock down.  Everyone, and I mean everyone I have spoken to, is totally fine with it.  If they stop the opportunity for the virus to spread in the next 5 days, we will be back to our old blasé selves in a matter of hours.  And this is the thinking of the state and has been since May of last year – we are all invested on having no community transmission and are prepared to do whatever it takes.


So, here is a photo of my chillies at the back door – as this is about as far as I will be travelling for the next 4 days around town.  I will drop out to the vineyard to check on the vines and their tolerance to this warm weather for a couple of hours – but it is all set and just waiting on the season to tick by, so all is good there.


Keep safe comrades.


The Big Easy…


A very brief monthly summary of vineyard and wine activities for this month.


Once I had completed the cutting back some of the growth in the vineyard in the first half of January, and with all the wires up I could sit back and have a window of rest.  As we are not responsible for running out the nets anymore, a quick phone call to “my man” Craig and like magic we have covered all of the Chardonnay and Marsanne – with the reds still shuffling on through veraison.


Redgums set against a clear blue sky – Margaret River, January 2021


The vineyard is looking really really good considering this has been the second warmest January since we have been keeping vintage records (2005).  The lower temperatures during spring have meant that the heat has not pushed the vine progress too heavily and as such all are looking in excellent shape, even accounting for the added heat.  Currently we have kept the vineyard as dry grown, but I will keep a wary eye on the Shiraz and the Merlot as both varieties do tend to hit a wall and need a pick me up – though the value may not be there as much as in the past as the upper roots are not as active with the vine age coming into play.  We will be playing it by ear as we have cooler weather predicted in the first half of February and even some potential rain – excitement abounds.


On an Australia Day…


It is Australia Day today while I first has a go at typing this – good old Australia Day – where you say a few ockerisms, have a boozy get together (or last night as my neighbours did till the small hours in epic Filipino style – karaoke ahoy), and eat some lamb or prawns or whatever.  And this year – well it has turned into a political football simply because we have a conservative/ populist federal government, and we have the “left” providing clickbait for our inconsequential media who are predominantly propping up this conservative/ populist federal government.


The “argument” is pathetic.  Low and useless.


Now before I start – this is not going to be researched in the sense of me going through 100’s of articles to find quotes and nuances, or even bothering to read the news sites – I know how it is spun (you dear comrade, know how it is spun), it has been the same for decades, except this year it is even more confected outrage due to an honors list that ranks up there with Abbot’s Prince Philip knighthood (…still makes me get irrationally angry, I know why, but it still surprises me).  There are two sides to this story and from my memories of what I read and my decades of looking in at, and being part of, Australian culture I have the following takes on “both” sides.




To celebrate a bunch of basically prison ships turning up to “settle” Australia is nonsensical.  The only reason that they were sent here was because every other option was closed to the British government and that “geopolitically” it made sense.  Captain Cook was actually meant to form some sort of treaty with the locals when he landed in Australia – but unlike the very “frisky” Tahitians and the aggressive Polynesians that he met around the Pacific, the local aborigines really were not up for the round-table discussion.


And to be honest what would it have meant anyway?  It is like someone chatting to a guy in Brisbane and apparently, we here in Margaret River are now abiding by the rules they agreed to – seriously?  This sort of worked in many other colonies as the regions were smaller or much more connected – Australia is a gawd damn continent with, I don’t know, maybe 200-300 various distinct tribal groups and languages?  (must buy that SBS map) Thus, any form of “treaty” that could have been signed would have the highest end of the BS scale possible in regards to colonial paper waving.

2101_First Fleet.jpg

First Fleet Re-enactment – January 1988


So, what is the celebration of?  It was hardly nation building; the primary goal was to build prisons for a while or to have bureaucrats and their mates dole out land that they could manage by the use of the prison class.  If the local aboriginals had of been more compliant in those early years many many more would have been dragooned into cutting wood and clearing land.  Most scooted off as far as they could relatively (come on, that is where they lived and gained their food and shelter, so it was never going to be too far away), which did not help much as those that did interact with the colonialists brought disease back with them – indigenous populations in this period of time just always get hammered (just ask the American Indians).


The fact that Australia as a nation “grew” from this rather motley starting point is not really a point of “celebration” either.  You could argue that Federation was a more applicable date of so-called nation building, and if it was not for a bunch of Victorian miners in the goldfields of Western Australia, we would not even be Australia as we see today but two rather different countries.  So why all this mouth-breathing when it comes to Australia Day by the conservatives and populists?  Because it is there to remind us, we are built on “white” principles and that underpins all of their shouting and waving.  Now do not get me wrong – heck how many members of the commonwealth currently say the same?  Over 90% of them run their countries based on principles and laws defined by their historic British overlords – all to varying levels of corruption, autocracy, bureaucracy, democracy, and at times decency.  The question is – do they celebrate it?


The answer is generally N O.  National holidays are often associated with treaties, independence from the colonialist, national heroes, and the like – the step AWAY from the colonialist that took advantage of their “military privilege” for a word.  But here we are wondering why the “agitators” want to take away our “special” day – get a grip!




We now get the counterpoint which is “Invasion Day” which by itself is most probably correct as this was the commencement of a supported settlement and the colonial empire building that followed.  But I am going to be frank here – every place in the world is invaded, it is just the time frame that moves.  Now Australia is a bit of a special case as the primary “invaders” all those millennia ago turned up pretty damn early, and then as if the door shut behind them, became separated by those that normally would follow on as we have seen throughout much of Asia where Australia sits underneath of.  So, of all the peoples of the world apart from some central Africans, if anyone can claim this phrase the Australian Aborigines have dibs.


But let us think this through – when did interaction between the Aborigines and “outsiders” begin and how could they have controlled and altered a form of invasion that was inevitable?  Indonesian through to New Guinea, fisherman had dropped in up north for centuries as their boats became more seaworthy (less of an issue for the Tiwi people only a few kilometers apart, more so for the Indonesians a few hundred kilometers apart) – but their influence was light as the communities they touched were not driven by trade.  The Europeans started knocking into the continent as they went hunting spices and the Dutch used the Southern Ocean as an autobahn and then picked up the southerly heading up the west coast of Australia to get to the spice islands – knowing little of “spice” value grew in this large area of low scrub and desert on their starboard side, it was avoided.


Whalers did drop in and set up camp where the seasonal migration went past in the late 1700’s but apart from clubbing seals and spearing some poor humpback they did little to interact with anyone much.  So, by the time of that dreaded first fleet, it was an invasion but with minimal impact on the bulk of the country.  Where it became an invasion is when there was a usefulness in owning it, and the British eventually located the broad fertile plains and mineral resources and by there being only a relatively small, and in the eyes of the Europeans, non-militarized population, they basically stole the nation, and this is our heritage.


Could it have been different?  I do not know how – because those were the basic world rules of the time.  Tyranny of distance made some areas less accessible and there were still aboriginal groups living as they had for 1000’s of years in the central desert up until the late 19th Century – but it was never sustainable.  The ego of the European colonialists was quite mind blowing – if not Britain then definitely France, and if not them possibly the Dutch / Portuguese or even the Germans.  Everyone of these possible colonialists had the same aim – to use the country as a source of “goods”.  So “Invasion Day” becomes an “Inevitable Day”, which does not make it any better.  And no, do not make out “at least it was the British” – you really need to understand that the art of colonialism was to undermine, disrupt, and even eliminate the local population thus there is no such thing as “better” colonialists – all were pretty much crap.




I am of the opinion that “Australia Day” does need to be changed in its form of celebration, and we can start first up by changing the name.  America has their version of our form of our “Australia Day” and it is “Thanksgiving Day” where they celebrate their blessings in the form of harvest and family – the fact the day is the beginning of the destruction of the native Indians in America does not need to be touched on here – so we may need to follow suit and make the day a celebration of ALL who live here, our forefathers, our land, our abundance and a special thanks be placed upon the day for the first peoples.


If we were to have an Australia Day it lends itself to the date of Federation, or to some form of special occasion that provides recognition of the original owners.  But there is no treaty, there is no Independence Day, however we do have a form of national hero that does deserve recognition for what he did to ensure that fairness can be brought into our society, and he was Eddie Mabo.


Wikipedia basically states this broad statement to introduce the man.  “Edward Koiki Mabo was from the Torres Strait Islands, who vigorously campaigned for Indigenous land rights.  In a landmark decision of the High Court of Australia, the legal doctrine of “terra nullius” that characterized Australian law with regard to land and title was overturned.”  That summary is best referred to as “Dry as a Drover’s Dog”.


He was a national hero because what he fought for was inherently RIGHT and I remember when the law was passed, the Western Australian mining industry had kittens – and for what?  Because it was fair that we discuss brutalizing a landscape and reaping profit from it with ALL stakeholders, and it was especially important to bring back the traditional owners into the decision making circle.  It was essential and will remain perhaps our most critical first step in moving out of the colonial fog that still envelopes us.


Eddie Mabo outside the Supreme Court – Prosecuting the case against “terra nullius”



The date for this possible “Recognition Day / Mabo Day” could be the passing of the decision that overturned “terra nullius” that for the first time recognized in law the original inhabitants of this land on 3 June 1992.  As a relatively freshly minted Australian I would feel much more comfortable knowing that this was a day worth celebrating – both of a genuine life and a recognizable important outcome for Australia.  And even better we can get to listen to Paul Kelly sing his tribute “From Little Things Big Things Grow” and actually feel like we can be truly Australian…


…on an Australia Day.


A Dry Heat...


Our fallback position in SW Western Australia is when it is hot (>35°C) we tend to minimize it by saying “at least it’s a dry heat”.  And it has been that, with clear cloudless days and very dry winds from the east before late sea breezes calming the maximum temperatures.  No heat wave as such, just one beautiful blue day after the next, and with the extra growth from a cooler and wetter spring the vines have handled the heat well.  Warm nights as the heat was not taken out by our maritime evening winds, thus the summer has come into full swing.


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


January 2021:        

Avg Maximum Temp          28.9°C

Daily Max recorded            38.9°C


Avg Minimum Temp           14.6°C

Daily Min recorded               9.0°C


Rainfall:                               3.1mm

The maximum and minimums were much higher than in 2020, which indicates that though 2020 was a warm year, the warmth was through the initial months of vintage and stabilized in the months leading up to vintage.  Rainfall for both months was negligible and very typical for this time of year in Western Australia.

January 2020:        

Avg Maximum Temp           26.1°C

Daily Max recorded             34.9°C


Avg Minimum Temp            13.3°C

Daily Min recorded                5.9°C


Rainfall:                                4.2mm

Vintage arrives…


Unless the weather takes a bit of a U-turn, our first series of picks will be completed in late February with the picking of the Chardonnay and Marsanne.  No sign of blossom on the red gum forests surrounding the region so nets are an essential component of the harvest and there will be a lot of “on again” / “off again” in the coming 4 weeks.  Weather is always a lottery due to the propensity of ex-cyclones wandering down the west coast and loading us up with unwanted rainfall – touching all the wood here.  Thus, the next two months is always a bit nerve racking, but our climate in Margaret River is pretty resilient and we should come out with another cracking vintage (fingers crossed!).

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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