top of page

Monthly Report - August 2021

Regional Shortage…


If you are driving around Margaret River at the current you will note a rather large percentage of vines as you drive along are still not pruned – and this is odd as we are fast approaching budburst with all the proceeding activity that comes with it.  And the reason for this lack of closure?  Simply a lack of vineyard workers – they are like hen’s teeth out in the field, and this is causing a bit of heart burn for many many vineyard owners.  I have not finished either – completed the Merlot and Marsanne and half the Cab Franc and still with about 2 days’ worth of Shiraz to tidy up.


Pruning Shiraz – all cut, just requiring those canes to be removed

We do have a number of Pacific Islanders who have been flown in to help with pruning in the region (breaking into the state effectively).  You catch up with them every now and again at the Post Office and at Coles – always wearing their gumboots and in groups of 3 or 4.  They are also very strongly religious and when Marjory was in town and attending the Catholic Church there would be a group of them at the back belting out songs at the top of their lungs.  The town has become a bit of a melting pot of peoples, and it is an interesting place to be in at any time of year now as the shops and cafes are not just summer dependent and this means better coffee for all!


My month therefore has been pruning heavy.  This is the most I have had to prune by myself for over 10 years, and though I have enjoyed it, it has been tough – and it is still to be completed.  The weather has not been a great help, though thankfully we have had some warmer days and a touch less rain this month which has given me a bit more comfort out there standing in the rows.  I have about 6 days of work to complete it so just a matter of knuckling down and getting it done.


Not much action on the shed front unfortunately.  Access to the location is very very wet, and the salvage guys and the shed builders need to be able to get their equipment across without becoming bogged in a sea of mud.  I have had trucks stuck in the access to the shed way way back when we first had the shed built – and it was a nightmare with one concrete truck stuck for 3 days and making a rather large hole when eventually pulled out.  Once bitten, now very bloody shy when it comes to this sort of thing so better to be cautious and suck it up, rather than make a bad situation worse (and the simple fact I do not have 3 hours each day to stand around looking at a bogged vehicle with the owner and saying “well if you had of driven on that side of the track…”).


With other news to hand – Chardonnay has budburst and is already racing towards the finish line of beautiful wine.  Always a bit nervy when a variety is so early with budburst, and this proved to be the case with a series of heavy hail showers on the night of 1 September – but they appear all unscathed and it is not such a danger as very little of the new growth is exposed.  Unlike areas of France for the past few years where they have had massive frosts post budburst, and then massive hailstorms months into the growing season – now that is soul destroying as at many times there is simply nothing you could do.


My month was also punctuated by attending our wine maker Clive Otto and his wife Bridget’s joint birthday bash at Fraser Gallop Estate.  Thirty years of Cabernet Sauvignon that Clive has made from his initial time with Vasse Felix through to his Fraser Gallop Estate years were laid out in order from 1989 onwards.  Very enjoyable evening as the wines were slowly ticked off in a rough order from young to old – all of us in the industry took tiny pours knowing that one bottle must last, and those who had no idea just filled up their Riedels and carried on getting in the mood.  You have to laugh as you see wine makers wince in pain as they watch some lush keeping on pouring a 90’s Cabernet without a care in the world – we forget that most people drink for the effect!


Yes, Clive and Bridget are of the Disco Generation


Do you have a Reservation?...


Yes, our 2019 Reserve wines are to be released this month.  I discussed the vintage of 2019 in the last report, so now I had better discuss the wines.  Are they any good?  Best vintage that we have ever had?  Best wines we have ever made?


Now the obvious answer is simply, of course – I am in the wine industry, and we say this every year, silly billies.


But as my position in the wine industry is very much on the edge of it, I might be able to expand a little bit and maybe apply some perspective just for the sake of “honesty”.  As I noted last month, the 2019 vintage was a cool dry vintage and this pushed the grapes out in picking times and made the berries small and intense.  It also had the capacity to keep acid levels high and also tannins were tricky to get balanced as they are time related and picking late means they “tip over” a bit and go missing or go sort of “blocky” for a word.  With the vines being dry grown and having nearly 20 years of age, we ended up picking not too late in the piece (very early April) and this meant we got lovely fruit flavours, fine tannins, and acid on the upper end of our desired values.


The wines were very tannic and hard in barrel for the first year.  By the second year they had begun to loosen up and by the time I completed the blending I knew I had some lovely wines from the barrels chosen.  No Deux Écus in 2019 as I was a little wary of having a wine that could be closed for a decade and I felt the overall Allouran blend was pretty brilliant as it turned out, so I did not want to mess about with the wines that I had made.


I had tried the wines with friends and by myself and thought they were excellent, but the “cellar palate” that you get from drinking your own wines for so long needed calibration, so some bottles were sent off to Gary “Withnail” Walsh from the WineFront website and he completed a pair of reviews as per below:

2019 Blue Poles Reserve Cabernet Franc – 14.1% Alc

“I like the 2019 red wines from Margaret River.  I find the best examples to have an extra dimension of small berried intensity, and ‘minerality’, for want of a better word.


Blackcurrant, raspberry, dried flower perfume, pencils, a flutter of aniseed and dried herb.  It’s tight and compact, with a distinct ‘mineral’ and slate feel, firm cool glassy acidity, all the pencil and a little baking spice.  Tannin is firm and gravelly on a long fresh finish.  Coiled up, sophisticated, no excess.  Pretty serious in 2019, and one of the best releases to date for my tastes.” 95pts GW


2019 Blue Poles Reserve Merlot – 13.8% Alc

“Blueberry, boysenberry, dried roses, cocoa and baking spice.  Medium-bodied, plenty of pencilly firm tannin, but something of a pretty mouth-perfume too, freshness, some black olive savoury stuff, distinct ‘mineral’ feel to acidity, pulling more to red fruits on a long and chalky finish.  Lovely energy here, and a tighter more serious release in 2019.” 95pts GW


A real shot in the arm – a pair of 95 pointers and confirmation that all is still going well.  Checking in with Tim and Yuko after they had cracked a pair of bottles and they too were pleased as punch – a good sign.


These are lovely wines.  They will age for decades, they will be wonderful from the point of release, and they will marry brilliantly with delicious rich meals.  There is never a lot of Reserve wines made (<100 cases) – so purchasing on release may be the best chance to secure some of them as we have noted a large number of new mailing list members joining up in the past year or so.  Check your inboxes over the next week for the release email.  Any day now.


Vaccinate or Hibernate…


There is little chance of many in the eastern states getting out of the Covid bind that seems to be swamping them.  The “catchiness” of the Delta Variant has made the process of bringing it all back to “zero” seemingly impossible and the only solution appears to be vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate.


We out west have had little involvement with this Delta Drama, and on Sunday 5 September 60,000 of us will be at Optus stadium watching the Wallabies take on the All Blacks in a rugby test match.  Mask-less, no social distancing, and everyone having the inability to leave the state without the fear of never been able to return!  We have made our most isolated city in the world tag of Perth into an ultimate game – pretty soon the borders will be electrified and having machinegun outposts to ensure all is secure.


I am pleased to note that my family is all now fully vaccinated, and I hope all of you, our dear comrades, have had a chance to get some protection through vaccination.  The fear of losing your sense of smell and taste should be enough dear comrades to ensure you get the jab when it is available to you – think of all the lovely wines and meals that you would not enjoy if you do not!




I will have a break on my topical comment this month.  I need to find something that I can get my teeth into, and this month has just been so much work that I have not really had time to think of anything to discuss.  Until next month.


Winding down winter...


It felt like we had finally come to an arrangement to have winter weather similar to how we remembered it – frontal rains coming through before a few nice clear days and some chilly mornings to match the blue skies.  And this is how it panned out – one wet wet day on 8 August, but otherwise even winter weather.


My lunch time view – it has been woolly weather that is for sure


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


August 2021:        

Avg Maximum Temp          17.2°C

Daily Max recorded            22.8°C


Avg Minimum Temp             8.2°C

Daily Min recorded               3.0°C


Rainfall:                               158.9mm

The maximum was slightly higher than 2020, with the minimum pretty much the same.   Rainfall total for 2021 continues to be much higher than last year, with a record rainfall total in the making (for the last 20 years – let us not get too carried away).

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

Hassled more…


I have a month of been hassled more.  With the shed still to be rebuilt and the need to do some under vine spraying, mulching, first protective spray, dropping wires; I will also be needing to finish off my pruning before we can start seeing those buds really start to move.  Sleep is for the weak.


As always if you have any queries about what has been written or about wine in general, do not hesitate to contact us either by email, Instagram or Twitter and we will do our very best to answer any question.




Mark Gifford

Blue Poles Vineyard

bottom of page