Monthly Report - March 2022
And it ends…
It has been an unusual vintage in the sense that the region has had to accept that the weather was not following a script of the previous couple of decades, and we were reliant on a series of other factors out of our control. I have never had a vintage in which I have felt so elated and so disappointed – quality of fruit is superb; volume of fruit was rubbish.
Looking back through the weather numbers it was apparent that the issue with a wet and windy spring was going to turn up later down the track. The way it reappeared was the surprise, I was almost certain we were in for a late vintage due to the late flowering and wet soils retarding the drive of the vines early on – nope totally wrong. The three continuous months of hot weather brought all of the varieties back into a timely schedule and the growth during the warm evenings even brought the tannins forward and able to be ripened early so we were all finished before April.
Where we were hurt was the poor fruit set, especially in the Merlot and Cabernet Franc. This has harmed us as we had hoped to be able to take advantage of such a unique and high quality vintage, and that is not so much the case anymore. I will snap back into positivity once I sit down with Clive and Ellin and go through the wines in May and feel the quality of the vintage coming through the glass and start my process of working out what the wines will become, come blending.
Marjory with the Marsanne – Off to the press for our JV “Lost on Mars”
The Chardonnay as reported last month made it to barrel in February and were safely fermenting away in the cool room prior to the next pick which was the Marsanne. We have continued with the collaboration with Brad from Amato Vino as he has a high demand for the “Lost on Mars” wine and our small take always moves quickly when released and can be finished over the following few months. The grapes were handpicked and completed in a couple of hours with Brad even making his way to the vineyard to help with the delivery to his winery. Being a “natural” wine, as is Brad’s want, it was pressed off into barrels and amphora and let sit to start a wild ferment – all is going well and the fruit looked clean and healthy. The numbers were as below:
Date 4 March
From early March I had been testing the Merlot, and the sugar levels had been creeping up much faster than normal. The numerous days over 30°C and the later sea breeze arrivals had made this variety just lift and lift. Being completely dry grown has meant that the berries were super-small and concentrated. On 10 March there was a message to say “pick, pick, pick” but I was not convinced – it just was not quite right for me, so I organised all the action for 15 March.
[As an aside, it has been extremely difficult to organise vintage this year with the continuing drama with lack of staff in the region and the lack of equipment – every little thing became a Rubik’s cube of interlinked options that just made you twist and turn at every point. A big thanks to John, Ali D, Brett, Craig, and Troy who formed the core of the contractors that helped out in the vineyard this year.]
The fruit came off between 7-9am on a cool morning by the selective machine harvester and it was super clean and super intense as the flavour and weight in the fruit really arrived on the weekend before the pick. Very very happy with the fruit – my most intense grapes since 2018 and perhaps the smallest berries for the variety as well. High skin to fruit ratio means potentially long-lived wines as the tannins are ramped up and chatting with Clive he has recorded very small berries and huge tannin / anthocyanin (red colour) levels in his fruit at Fraser Gallop Estate making him very confident of something special from his own patch. The results came back with slightly higher sugar levels but absolutely pitch perfect acid levels in the fruit, and are as below:
Date 15 March
Titratable Acidity 6.0TA
It is not often that the winemakers come running out to meet me at any time – but even more so during vintage as everyone is super busy. While collecting the bins for the Cabernet Franc pick this actually occurred as Ellin came out carrying glasses and freshly pressed Merlot to show me just how special the wine was. It was inky purple/black and had those freshly fermented fruit notes on the nose – but the taste? Extraordinary - as it already has a depth and weight I had not seen before. It is a “goody” as my grandmother/ mother/ sister would say.
Plump Shiraz – great vintage for this variety in 2022
Our little patch of Shiraz also had been tested for ripeness regularly from the start of March, and whereas the Merlot was roaring along with sugars on the up and up – Shiraz literally did nothing for over a fortnight. Like a 4yo holding its breath, the grapes refused to budge from ~12.5 Baumé and quite high acid levels. Eventually, like all good parents, I lost patience and said you’re off next week whether you like it or not. So, we handpicked from 6am on 22 March and filled off a few bins, sending them off to the winery in the fervent hope that the fruit has moved on up for sugar, acid has dropped a tad and all that flavour was intact. Luckily for us this was exactly what had happened, and the ferment is now approaching completion and I’m looking forward to seeing how it looks.
Date 22 March
Titratable Acidity 6.0TA
Cabernet Franc – Poor yield but amazing small berried intense fruit
The last variety on the picking block was the Cabernet Franc, always last as it is the latest ripening of our varieties at the estate. Again, dry grown, but the vines were in really good health with long canes and good leaf separations throughout vintage – the problem was fruit set, as it was the most affected by the poor spring weather. You know that there is a reduced yield, but with every solid looking vine you walk by you sort of hope that the tonnage may hang in there. On the weekend before the pick, we had our first downpour since October 2021 and this sounded like a problem, but as the vines were dry grown and the ground was as hard as old boots, almost all of that 29mm of rain simply ran across the surface and out of the vineyard. We did lose some tonnage through the machine harvester knocking off some fruit in front of the machine itself (a problem with fully ripe fruit), but it may have only been an extra few hundred kilos at most. So once duly delivered to the winery I moped about a bit but realized that what fruit we have is excellent and it should provide us with 8 barrels of super juice. So onwards. Numbers as below:
Date 29 March
Titratable Acidity 5.4TA
The last of the odd jobs required a day or two to tidy up, nets were taken to where the new shed should be built in a few weeks and buckets and snips cleaned and oiled for storage for another year. Lows and highs and lows and highs was the vintage that has just been – perhaps the most “difficult” for a decade for many reasons, but also perhaps potentially the most rewarding. My partner Marjory has a little YouTube channel where she has recorded the harvesting of some of the grapes at Blue Poles [Marjory Vega YouTube Channel] and you can see a bit more of the vineyard and the activities around the estate.
I’ll need a little lie down for a day or so before cracking on to a tonne of jobs that have piled up in the background. We have to start the next round of promotional work with Covid-type restrictions finally being lifted and we are all sort of feeling safe enough to leave Western Australia (and more importantly be allowed to come back!).
First Job – fix the house pump!
Coming soon, check your inboxes over the coming week or so. New label. Lashings of integrated new oak. And best of all, blooming delicious.
The telling of a story…
One of the little joys we have left in life now is to be able to sit down and watch an online movie or show in the evening – wine / gin / rum / brandy / whisky at hand (hang on…) – lights dimmed and the internet speed sufficient to avoid buffering. We have all felt a little bruised and emotional by the past 2 years of drama drama and streaming services have become our close friends during these crazy times.
We had a visitor to the tasting room last week (Mark M and friends), and we did discuss movies and series made about wine and I did blurt out that they were pretty much all rubbish. Apart from some “hang on, what abouts?” I stand by my statement 100% - and my reason for my curmudgeonly take on this topic? Have you actually enjoyed a movie around the topic of wine? Honestly now – none of this fudging – it is a load of old cobblers, is it not?
We do not often get movies based around any other booze – unless the murder was in a brewery, or the drugs were being made in the basement of the distillery. The idea that wine has a “mystique” and should correspond into some heartfelt expressions of love / tenderness / longing / compassion / rage, all leading to an epiphany of some kind is imagined and hoped for by the producers. However, when wine is a centrepiece (or the theme of the story), of any production (be it a screen big or small) it is all becomes just so incredibly flaaaaat and dullllll. And I think I know the reason why.
Wine is everything to everyone. We know too much, and we know too little.
Any perception you have of 100’s of different topics is controlled by your actual knowledge of the thing being discussed. I love action movies (especially on plane flights - remember them? What a joy to spend 2 hours just watching things explode and zip around) – but do I know the first thing about driving through Florence at 100kph? Could I fire an Uzi into a bunch of goons, reload and do a double backflip somersault to escape through the back window into a street parade in Mexico City? Nup, not a freaking clue – thus we are transported along through our ignorance. This form of “escapism” can be translated into some of the best movies ever made – look at Clockwork Orange and recognise the genius of the story as we travel with our Droogs and strap ourselves in for the emotional rollercoaster to follow, or how about jumping into the Bluesmobile with Jake and Elwood in Blues Brothers, roaring through the Midwest, and singing some of the best music ever put to vinyl. Not many of us are futuristic gang members or awesome blues musicians, but did we not enjoy the ride!
I went along to a wine movie with Clive a few years back – “Back to Burgundy” – and to me it was utterly tiresome. The excitement revolved around a family trying to sort out their emotional baggage while operating a Burgundy estate. Good gracious it just bored me to tears and left me looking at myself in disbelief with all the pedantic details that I fretted over like Raymond missing his episode of “The People’s Court” in Rain Man. Clive’s perspective would be completely different to mine, and to everyone else at the viewing at Cape Mentelle that cool evening under the stars they would range from ecstatic to confused. The bringing in of wine / wineries / vineyards seems such a romantic and evocative concept but it is not – it is like bringing Disneyland up to an audience that has at various times visited and had an incredible range of experiences while been there (yes, haven’t we all waited for an hour for a 30 second roller coaster ride?).
Movies, series and shows involving wine are unfortunately just mundane. Not because of the story being told but because of the location and props are too easy to relate too. Watching “Sideways”, the perhaps most quoted of all wine movies, was tortuous for me as the main character was a wine “wanker” that we were to sympathise with. Having Oz Clarke and James May trip through France and the US drinking and “educating” took a little bit of my soul and fed it to the worms as there was no real reason to do the tour at all. A comedic version of Australian wine touring was presented in a show called “Plonk” – I needed a bottle or two to get through that one, but I was keen to see which Aussie wine luminary made an appearance.
Wine and movies should only be combined when the audience only has a glass of this delightful beverage while watching said movie. Escapism into the screen cannot be had while seeing your everyday being promoted as exotic – the story being told cannot be made to be secondary to the rows of vines rolling into the distance, or walls of bottles in large cellars. The telling of a story has to move you out of the mundane and into the ether so leave the vines and wines on the periphery and give us that thrill of feeling the new…
That is how it feels – the season has broken from Summer to Autumn post the one big downpour on Sunday 27 March. With our last really hot day on 25 March we are now moving towards the winter months and a big reset of the region from brown to green as the cool and the wet start to impact the parched countryside.
The numbers for this month and last year’s figures are provided below:
Avg Maximum Temp 27.1°C
Daily Max recorded 37.8°C
Avg Minimum Temp 14.1°C
Daily Min recorded 9.2°C
The average maximum remains well above average and 1°C more than in 2021, however minimum averages are very similar with slightly lower minimums in 2021. Rainfall total for 2022 was similar to 2021, however the bulk of the rainfall fell at the end of the month in 2022 and at the start of month in 2021.
Avg Maximum Temp 26.1°C
Daily Max recorded 34.8°C
Avg Minimum Temp 14.0°C
Daily Min recorded 7.6°C
Time to visit…
Margaret River in April / May and October / November are simply wonderful times to visit the region. Heat has lifted and the air feels so clean that you could bathe in it. Most of the wineries in the region are finishing off their reds currently and the vineyards are now in recess as leaves fall and energy starts being put back into the ground in preparation of doing it all again. I also need to take time to visit places outside of my home in Osmington, so some wine dinners and other functions are on the cards as we start the next round of promotions. The delicious 2021 Chardonnay will be released this month so there’s a day picking and posting, mixed in with some shed building and repacking.
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.
Blue Poles Vineyard