Monthly Report - October 2021

Frustratingly Frustrating…

 

October is meant to be a month of joy in Margaret River.  It is the month when the heat starts to pick up and shorts and t-shirts become the fashion for the man about town.  It is the month where the vines let loose and start growing at what feels like an inch a day, and the vineyard dries up and makes the walk around the vineyard a stroll through a firm green sward of grass, just starting to wilt in the weather.  It is the month when you get your first swim in the Indian Ocean and remark “gawd damn that’s cold” as you sit on the warm sand.

 

Not this month.

 

It has been as cold as September.  It has been as wet as September.  The vines are in a sort of stasis where they know they should be belting along but there is simply not the warmth and sunshine to start the process of drying the ground and providing the cues for them to jump.  It just FRUSTRATES you to the point of making your head itch.  What is going on here – and to cap it all off when I went to the Bureau of Meteorology website to check in on all of the weather madness, they have closed down the only Margaret River weather station and I have no access to the official weather data for the region.  Talk about making one grumpier than standing in a Manila Domestic Airport queue waiting to check-in luggage (… that has nearly killed me more than once, I kid you not).

 

My month has been so damn busy in the vineyard, while it itself seems to be put into a holding pattern.  All the wires are down now, with only the Chardonnay having grown enough to have had the first wire lifted to keep it tidy and looking upwards – normally all the vines barring maybe the Cabernet Franc would have had the first wire lifted by now.  Flowering will be delayed by weeks as well – and the knock-on implication is that we will be picking well into April in 2022 this vintage – almost regardless of whether the weather turns warm and dry for the rest of the growing season or not.

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Steel posts that have seen better days…all replaced

I have been so very busy in the vineyard as it is now of an age as to require a fair chunk of maintenance.  Those who know me well recognise my skills are more mental than physical, so I have convinced myself this is an excellent opportunity to “work out” every day (while every muscle in my body aches every morning).  I have to date replaced about 250 steels in the Shiraz and Chardonnay blocks, set out 150 new woods to be placed in the trellising, fixed up numerous irrigation line issues and tidied up some wires.  Still have a week or two of the HIIT exercise program to work through – and then I can get my cardio on and walk up and down putting wires back to where I had removed them from a month ago (it does seem a little pointless when written like that).

 

On top of the vineyard antics, I have been working around the house a bit in an attempt to get the gardens back into shape.  My ambition here is to make the Tasting Room more accessible to visitors to the region who would like to try our wines.  This has been a bit of hard work as well, but it is now nearly complete, and I am pleased to say that visitors are welcome once more to try the wines from the estate.  The only real issue is lack of wines to sell!  We do have some cases remnant from the latest releases and I will set them aside for the Tasting Room – so if you are in the area and would like to drop in and taste the wines, email and I will see what can be done.

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The Tasting room

Covid News…

 

For the many readers of this missive who do not live in Western Australia I will attempt to explain the hostage situation we in this state have found ourselves in.  Now, do not think that I am in any way not complicit to what has happened, and my railing and ranting can only be seen as a two-year-old that insisted on drinking from the chilli sauce bottle, and found out that it is not a great idea.  But.  I am getting a bit over it.  In a big way.

 

We have lived in WA in a form of a Covid Fantasyland.  We have had in effect no restrictions, no lock downs, no mandates, no controls of any real consequence since the whole Covid pandemic began.  We have not had to continuously worry about been fined for walking holding hands or not wearing a mask, we have had no cases in a hospital bed for over 12 months and we have had basically no Covid cases this year period.  But to achieve this we have literally stopped anyone coming here, and on the flipside for anyone who lives here, leaving as well (who can leave if you can not be sure if you can come back?).  This has not always been so as we have had windows of movement, but they have been literally “weeks” before being slammed shut; and for the past 3 months no one has been able to enter the state without a full 14 days hotel quarantine – and that is if they can get a flight here at all.

 

So, we are now hostages in a strange sense.  We watch the world busy once more and we cannot join in for the greater good.  We dear not complain as it is against the principles of looking out for all – and I take that on board and agree in principle with the societal pact we all make.  But now after 4-5 months of getting the WA population vaccinated, we are still 4-5 months away from having family visit or travelling for work.  Our premier has decided that to maintain our Covid Fantasyland we will set a vaccination rate at 90% before we can travel, or others can travel to us – thus we are now hostages to antivaxxers or other malcontents or just simply those who are just not interested.

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My partner Marjory has been trying to get back to Western Australia for the past 18 months.  She was booked in on 5 December this year and we were looking forward to having Christmas together – but the flight (as other flights before), was cancelled and there were no further flights available until February.  I get it.  I know this is for the good of the state and everyone.  But, when does this all end?  What if we only ever get 89.9% fully vaccinated in WA?  We never travel or have tourists ever visit again on the risk of having a single Covid case in the state?  It is all becoming a bit too much and it is starting to hurt the state in more ways than simple family reunions and beach resort bookings.

 

This is not meant to be a whinge.  It is just another frustratingly frustrating component of this month that has been.  I do hope everyone who is reading this is safe and sound and able to enjoy the little pleasures of life.

 

 

Good Gracious...

 

If you have 5 minutes have a read of this rather bizarre article and come back to me with an almost be-fuzzled look as I had Read Article Here.  I have read it a few times and each time it makes even less sense, and the overall impression that strikes me is that critical thinking and that dreaded phrase “common sense” is a rare commodity out there in the wide world currently.  What makes it so bonkers is that quality wine writers are debating this very article as if it has a tiny teardrop of a point being made.  I will not discuss every misguided concept and gross generalization, but I will discuss aspects of the article that did strike a chord:

 

1. Maximum pricing for wines

 

What a quaint little thought – author sets a maximum price of $100 ($150 if he is feeling generous) for every wine in the world.  And why you ask?  Because rich people drink expensive wines, and it is just not fair.  He wants some, his friends want some, and everyone he thinks is deserving wants some – so give it to them.  So, to distribute it you just subscribe and get a mixed pack – easy peasy.  Wine is like music apparently – you press off wines like you used to press off vinyl records.  But alas there “may” be problems with our little communistic model so let’s do the next best thing…

 

2. Pay them all more

 

You see the most “deserving” of all wine drinkers are those that work in the industry as paid employees.  They have to be paid an eye-watering volume of money so that they are able to “drink” the finest wines in the world because they simple must know what is good and what is bad.  Their need is even greater than everyone else’s as they are the “future” and how will they ever know what they should be aiming for if they have never tried it?

 

Another point why you must pay them more is that exploitation is “rife” and because money is spent by wineries on making quality wine with quality equipment then they can afford to lose that attitude and simply give all their money to these deserving workers who are being “exploited” or even “slaves”.  You must connect the dots of course – examples noted in generic regions and wine factories are to be applied to every winery and vineyard worldwide - let us not confuse the issue with pesky realities.

3. The industry must do more

 

So, we get to what the author feels is some sort of compromise – knowing full well that his half-baked ideas and gross over-simplification and generalizations applied to pricing and wages may not convince the masses, he comes back to make a deal with the industry.  Do more you bourgeois swine.  Do more.  The industry is to provide access to the best wines in the world to their workers as “reward” and “guidance” so as to show their appreciation of their enthusiasm.  How else will the best wines in the world be made in the future?

 

I am going to go out on a limb here. Just as a guess, I believe the author put as much thought into this article as a 14yo asking his/her parents for a PS5.  Maybe less.

 

And why so critical of this article explaining to me why millennials are all now drinking natural wines because they can not afford Chateau Petrus?  Because it is like having a university student telling you that the best form of government is randomly picking 50 people in the country and leaving them in charge – they worked this out in a Sociology Class once while complaining about the “man”.  It is a perfect example of how the “every child gets a medal” mentality has made it into the mainstream – and gets a platform to pedal this waffle.

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Personally, I find this attitude taken by various individuals and groups pretty distasteful.  And not because of the “I want, I demand, I need, I believe” type BS, but simply because they lack any form of simple understanding of how anything actually works.  It is all gross generalizations and group hugs around agreed wants and desires without ever considering what it all means.  I am lost for words when trying to describe just how shallow all of this “woke” thinking actually is.

 

However, it has convinced me I deserve 12 cases of Pomerol wines because I really really want them…

 

Not good, not good at all...

 

As discussed at the start of the report – it has been cool for October with an equivalent cold start seen in the 2008 and 2017 vintages, but the main difference now and those cold months were that they were dry.  The heat load is also very low with reduced maximums and extended low temperatures most days – this too is unusual and causing a delay to vintage.  We can only hope for a return to warmth this coming November to straighten up our road to vintage.

 

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

 

October 2021:        

Avg Maximum Temp          18.9°C

Daily Max recorded            24.2°C

 

Avg Minimum Temp             9.5°C

Daily Min recorded               3.0°C

 

Rainfall:                               133.7mm

The maximum was much lower than 2020, with the minimum about the same in both years.    Rainfall total for 2021 still continues to be high with over 100mm once more for the month, with the current 2021 annual total >1250mm which is well over our average annual rainfall for the past 20 years of <1,000mm.

October 2020:        

Avg Maximum Temp           20.9°C

Daily Max recorded             30.5°C

 

Avg Minimum Temp              9.2°C

Daily Min recorded                5.8°C

 

Rainfall:                                30.9mm

 

A little ray of sunshine…

 

Would be nice. We really could do with some warm weather so as to lift the vines and our spirits when it comes to looking forward to vintage 2022.  Flowering will be on the go this month and we always hope for not too much wind and rain during this period.  Wires are to be lifted into place, a couple of sprays to keep the mildews at bay will be put out and I have my fingers crossed I can finally drop down to Prevelly and have a swim on a 30°C day.

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.

Cheers

 

 

Mark Gifford

Blue Poles Vineyard