Monthly Report - November 2021

Coming in to focus…

 

The work on a vineyard is meant to be a form of following the seasons – a form of time motion you see in the movies where the vineyard quickly traverses four seasons in one day (blessed be Crowded House).  This year has been all stop /start, up /down and wet wet wet.  So, when the seasons start doing what they are meant to do, you just gain some heart and you feel like the ball is back rolling down the hill.  The vines are still well behind of course, cool weather has damned us to a late vintage, and this can be confirmed by the process of flowering still to be completed (and not even started in some cases!) amongst all the different varieties.

 

But let us be grateful.

 

November proved to be dry and had some warmth to bring our underfed and pale vines back into life and brought on the growth we had so sought in the previous month.  Vines have been going gangbusters since mid-November and growing tips have been reaching higher and higher as they attempt to make up for lost time.  Thus, they needed some support and structure in their lives, and this resulted in the vineyard being wire lifted to ensure all the shoots stay in the upright position.  Several sprays went out to keep the mildews at bay with the spray mix now reverting back to just sulphur as we have gone through the bulk of the growing season, with maybe another 6 weeks of canes on the up before the grapes become prioritised.

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My job of cleaning up the base of all the vines will start in December and I will tap away at that as I thin out excess growth in some of the blocks and fix up some vines that have had arms broken by vigorous machinery passing by.  I have managed to have a large job completed in the vines with a number of wooden posts installed ahead of steels so as to give a bit more “strength” to the trellising.  This has meant a fair few staples are required to have a clip point for the wires, and this was a job that makes my tennis elbow give me “jip”, as my father used to say.  But all done and put to bed, and the first wires safely ensconced in their tuckaway staple locations.

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A pair of little wins during the month.  The first was that we had our first visitors to the recently reopened tasting room and that went very well.  I recovered some of the 2018 Cabernet Franc as a bonus for the tasting, and the comrades duly bought all the bottles I had possessed leaving me to ponder the wisdom of giving out my Christmas turkey wine willy nilly.  The other little win was with our winemaker Clive who splendiferously shared out 6 delicious 2018 Bordeaux wines from a taster pack sent through from Langtons – 6 x 60mls for $500 does seem excessive (well actually yes, it is blooming horrendous) but the wines were sublime and to be able to try Cheval Blanc, Mouton, Canon, L’Evangile, Pichon Baron and Cos all in one sitting was fantastic.  The biggest difference between our wines (yes Clive and I had a bottle of both Blue Poles and Fraser Gallop Estate on hand – this is science you know!) was the way the acid interweaved with the tannins in the bordelaise wines in comparison to the Margaret River interlopers.  Our wines came across more “wide eyed” whereas the six samples were more “slumber party” and much more at ease, with the weight almost feeling like an oily texture – fascinating and leading both Clive and I into contemplation of “how the bloody heck do they manage to do this?”

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Covid (Omicron) News…

 

Another variant, another reason for Australia to jump into a state of panic.  Covid news is now similar to the announcements made when you are delayed at the airport (remember the days?) – when every time the dulcet tones of the announcer would come across the PA (usually commencing with some feedback) and say “Passengers on flight PH2074 to Zamboanga.  We regret to inform you that due to continuing maintenance issues your flight will be delayed by 2 hours.  A further announcement will be made…. etc etc”.  By this time, you are thinking “should I stay, or should I go now?”.

 

Unfortunately for Western Australians, we are all in the “we can only stay” bucket of choices.  So, for all of our comrades I do hope that your Christmas friends, family, and visitors make it to your door this festive season for some cheer and good times – heaven knows we need it.

 

Marsanne...

 

Also known as the “Pumpkin Patch” due to the size of the leaves and the prodigious growth each vintage from this variety at Blue Poles.  A little discussion here as we have some recently arrived cases of the latest “Lost on Mars” collaboration between Amato Vino and ourselves in regards to the 2021 bottling of this wine landed on our doorstep.  The arrangement has gone on for a few vintages where we provide the grapes and Brad provides the winemaking, and then we split it up – simple!

 

We obtained our cuttings from Voyager Estate in 2001, who, after planting it 3 years earlier decided it was not for them and were about to rip it all out.  We turned up with some spades and went about digging up as many vines as we could and then planted them out on two rows adjacent to the Cabernet Franc.  Never really understood why the vines were discarded after only one vintage made from them (I did buy a bottle and it was alright for young vines – had some flavour at least).  But lucky for us I suppose as the total cost of the 300 odd vines – two cases of beer.

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The variety is from the northern Rhône Valley, with its most well-known (and expensive) renditions coming from the AOC Hermitage with a number of other Rhône AOC’s having it in their white variety mix.  It should suit Margs pretty well in the sense that our soils are granite / granitic gneiss derived as seen in the Northern Rhône, but we are a bit more maritime and that means we will have flavour profile variations in comparison to the home wines (as seen in our version of Teroldego for example).

 

[One thing that is strange about Marsanne in Hermitage is that it can be blended with Syrah up to 15% of the wine volume in a similar vein to Viognier being added to Syrah in Côte Rôtie (which is quite well known and even mimicked around the world, with Clonakilla producing perhaps the most well-known example of this blend).  The thought of doing this blend with Marsanne leaves me pretty bewildered as there is nothing that appears to make it make sense, and there is no way I am trying!]

 

Our Marsanne does have the similar wine characteristics of which the variety is known for – honeysuckle, a waxy lanolin lick, and often lemon, citric notes which sparks the wine into life.  Very very reliant on the picking dates in regard to what wine will appear in the glass as picked too early and it is very neutral, and picked too late it is flat and overblown with those musky tropical flavours.  The 2021 version is a lovely bright and rich version and will be available to the Mailing List very soon so as to provide a nice wine to counterpoint prawns and crayfish during the summer months.

 

I will be drinking some at Christmas with my prawn cocktail (all class in a glass!) as it has become almost a tradition for me now.

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Warming Bones...

 

A weather section that does not begin with a complaint – a rarity for this year!  November has proved to be dry and warm with even a day warm enough to give me a little bit of heat stroke as I had spent the day lifting the Merlot wires as it crept over 34°C.  It can be said that weather for the month was not very hot – more of a median to the past 20 years – but in relation to the year to date it has proved a tonic.

 

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

 

November 2021:        

Avg Maximum Temp          22.3°C

Daily Max recorded            34.1°C

 

Avg Minimum Temp             9.3°C

Daily Min recorded               2.9°C

 

Rainfall:                               10.2mm

The maximum was warmer than 2020, with the minimum a little cooler bringing the total heat load into a similar balance.  Rainfall total for 2021 for the first time in many months is lower than in 2020 and this is good news.

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

 

Christmas Cheer…

 

Lots of walking once more amongst the vines with lots of bending and stretching – a month of cleaning up and thinning the vines before we can just let them grow through to the end of vintage.  Another wire lift will also be on the cards and the bottling of our 2021 Chardonnay will be put to bed just before Christmas as well.  From all of us here in the Blue Poles families, we wish all our dear comrades a very merry and safe holiday season and we look forward to what 2022 will bring.

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