Monthly Report - April 2022
The rolling hills in front of my study window, speckled with misty rain, are all now a svelte green as the season has now truly broken and we are now approaching our winter months with our fingers crossed that rain fills up the dams and riverways of the region. We do have quite distinct seasons in the Southwest of Australia and the Aboriginals refer to 6 seasons - these are a “life” cycle and April-May is known as “Djeran”, the season of adulthood. The winter months of June-July (“Makuru”) are the recovery months with rain and cool required to make the country whole again and prepare it for the drying months ahead. Perfect climate for growing grapes of course – just the heat in summer to contend with and the Margaret River region is best situated to deal with that as it hugs the coast and parts the two oceans.
This month has been dominated by the release of our Chardonnay and Shiraz wines – both being delicious drinks with a few re-orders of the Shiraz especially as the first bottle proved too good a value to not pick up extra with the discounts in play. I am particularly pleased with the Chardonnay – those 4 months in bottle have really settled it down and made it much more generous on the nose and the palate. Very little of both to go – Shiraz especially as it was a small make in 2019 – so if you are keen, please drop in on the ordering page and pick up a few before the dreaded “Out of Stock” sticker is applied.
If you can remember, we had a bit of a calamity back in August with our shed being destroyed in a heavy storm. Once the weather settled, we went about the process of getting it rebuilt and much to our surprise this was not straightforward in any way at all. No shed could be constructed until the New Year, and when this came around and our deposit forwarded, we were then informed that there was no metal available until April, and then scarce builders were to be secured to match in with this delayed timeline. With the weather now becoming wet, all our nets and equipment sitting around the empty concrete pad, and vague schedules, we were starting to get a tad worried.
Fortunately, it all came together this month with the shed built over the Easter weekend. Almost identical to the previous blue incarnation, the shed has now been filled with our nets, equipment and chemicals, and our awesome electrician Kim has connected up the irrigation equipment and we just need the pump specialist Brad to get the water flowing once more (and that should be in a day or so). An expensive exercise by the end of it all, as even though we were covered by insurance, the “gap” has been hefty.
As for work in the vineyard – not much. The vines are now taking a well-earned break and this revolves around bringing all the goodness earned by their growth back into the root system and resetting. Pruning starts in June with the Chardonnay receiving the first haircut, before moving on through the following varieties for the following 8-10 weeks. I have had a chance to get back into the swing of some geological work, always interesting when working on mineral deposits from all around the world as you take a little holiday in your mind as you imagine the savannah, hills, and jungles underlain by the various rocks and minerals which are integral to our world today. Not really travelling much which is fine with me – two years of border closures in Western Australia has made us a little more wary of jumping on the levitating aluminium transport tubes.
Terroir and the grand explanation…
There is something deeply amusing to me that I think that maybe I am the only one that senses the ephemeral nature of it all – the cyclical discussions surrounding “terroir”. The dreaded terroir – that unexplainable, undefinable, unconfirmable creature that stalks vineyards and regions and is spotted by hedonists that so often fail to take photos to prove their sightings. The Bigfoot / Tasmanian Devil of a creature that is discussed as if it is living amongst us, but never more than droppings and footprints are seen…
For those of you dear readers who have not had the pleasure of shouting out this word in mixed company, I will supply you with the zarf required to be able to hold on to this hot topic. Terroir is most simply put as the “sense of place” of a wine, provided solely by the wine itself. The wines made from any specific location due to their soils, topography, underlying geology, viticulture, weather (and numerous little components that ebb and flow into the terroir definition), have smell and taste that are markers of the site. Like a fingerprint, terroir can locate the wine’s source and show you the links between you, the wine, and the land.
Wine writers love terroir. It is their catnip. But is it real? Is there a special thread that leads back to the source of all wines through the glass being drunk?
You all know that moment of realization of when you are told something, and the problem in front of you is miraculously solved. That dawning of recognition, that sharpness of focus coming to life as if you rotated the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens yourself, is a combination of being led and being genius. Any wine drinker remembers the first time they could articulate what was in the glass in front of them – shouting out blackcurrant into the throng and watch the bowed nodding heads, nose on rim reaffirming your totally excellent descriptor. You feel like you have cracked the code; you can see more than just simply “wine”, you see a thouand little nuances of smell and taste from your childhood (“musk lollies!”) to your big grown-up self (“corked!”).
This is the underpinning of the enjoyment of wine, it takes you on a journey and it provides you with your private pocketbook of memories. The ones who have fantastic recall and the capacity to describe the flavours and sensations accurately often become wine reviewers / writers as it is a skill that not many of us could follow through with. It is within this subset of wine drinkers that try to provide terroir with the evidence required to prove of its existence. But it is damn damn damn difficult as the fickleness of these fragments of terroir DNA are so hard to define, and as such, lose any such importance.
You see, anyone that drinks their own wine for a long time (like myself and Blue Poles), knows every little kink in the glass and it becomes a form of terroir – nothing quite tastes like it, and I have those markers in my head. When I taste Bordeaux wines for example (a region I have stayed at and worked in, as well as collect), I can know almost immediately that this is a wine from the region and with a little bit of luck and good guessing I may be able to get the general location and vintage, but an individual winery would be pure guess work. When I have a glass of Pinot Noir from the USA in my hand, to locate it I may as well be throwing darts at a map – total random word salads would come out as I tried to pull a location or winery out of the air. This is in part predominantly due to my lack of wine knowledge as I move away from what I regularly drink and enjoy, but it is also in part of the fact that there is no way I can gain that knowledge by reading or talking about it with those who feel that they can sense the terroir of those wines.
For the wine writers and reviewers that taste/ drink thousands of wine each year, they can get a much greater appreciation of a wine region and a wine variety’s quirks and kinks outside of the “simple” descriptors, and yes they may have a greater sense of terroir due to the stacked flavours forming lego structures of place and time. But it is personal. It cannot be passed across like a memory stick and plugged in to give you and I that understanding of what they are tasting and smelling. It is a learned experience, and having a wine promoted as having a great sense of terroir is simply saying “that has an unusual taste” for whatever reason you wish to impart.
My advice for all of us driving down terroir Route 66, rooftop down, wind in our lush hair – enjoy the ride, take in the sights, but do not try and force a slide night on everyone you meet on the places you have been. Terroir does not need to be explained – I wish wine scribes could be just that bit subtle and lead you to what the wine is and how it articulates itself, rather than preach their appreciation of limestone and aeolian soils over what is in the glass. “You know it when you know it” is that saying that most fits here – do not expect terroir to be found in a chateau-cardboard, or a bottle of Grand Cru Burgundy if you yourself can not show the markers that surround those wines through your own drinking experiences.
Enjoy wine and remember terroir never requires the grand explanation – it can only be what it is to you and to me… and that is totally fine.
Season of Ants...
The Aboriginal seasons have specific events that dominate the months here in the SW of Australia, and for the “Djeran” season it is the time of ants as they are seen everywhere as the first rains seem to flush them out. Another insect that has exploded with the rains is the Portuguese Millipede and we had a week or two in which our house (and everyone else’s apparently) was rampaged by the rotters. Marjory was tres unimpressed as they crawled all over her clean floors! The weather has turned cool in a hurry – like a switch has been turned off, the heat has come out of the countryside, and we have had cool and variably wet days for most of the month.
The numbers for this month and last year’s figures are provided below:
Avg Maximum Temp 21.8°C
Daily Max recorded 29.8°C
Avg Minimum Temp 10.7°C
Daily Min recorded 5.8°C
The average maximum and minimum values are lower than last years by 1°C, a reversal for much of what we have seen for the past 4 months. Rainfall total for 2022 was similar to 2021, with both months being a bit above average for April in the region.
Avg Maximum Temp 22.8°C
Daily Max recorded 28.0°C
Avg Minimum Temp 12.1°C
Daily Min recorded 7.7°C
I look forward to my mother making the trip across from New Zealand for a few weeks holiday with us, as well as numerous other guests including Tim who can finally get across from Victoria (I will find a muddy job in the vineyard somewhere for him to help out on). We have a quiet time in the vines, but I will make time to go through the 2022 wines with Clive and Ellin to see how they are now looking as they sit in barrel after vintage – this is my first real indicator on how the vintage has turned out and often a little nervy as you always wish for the best. A busy month with wine sales as we start the process of preparing the release of the 2019 Allouran – one I can quite honestly say is just humbling, a wonderful bottle.
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