Monthly Report - July 2022

Whirrr snip…

 

Ahh the sound of electric secateurs as they snip away at what feels like a never-ending row of vines in front of you.  Back into the swing of things once more, getting through the Merlot slowly and pruning is never a case of “are you there yet?”, rather a case of “steady steady wins the race”.  Your mind always feels like it is racing once you start cutting away in the vines – it is almost an hour before that washes away and the job starts to settle the mind and you can then pull yourself back into the whole.  And in a paragraph – that is the vineyard summary for this month.

But…

 

I did have a trip away from the vines as I travelled into Tanzania for some work on a few projects I am involved in.  The location was out west in a place called Mpanda and I was a bit of a celebrity due to no one of my particular skin type actually goes to Mpanda (that was two hours in the police station I will never get back).  Lots of bureaucracy that makes you pull your hair out and frustrated my movements a bit, but I did get most of what I needed to do done and I was fortunate enough to visit two places that I have always wanted to see.

 

  1. Got to see the Rift Valley – or more specifically Lake Tanganyika on Tanzania’s western edge.  Africa for the first time in a verrrrrry long time is now splitting apart and to see a sunset (above the horizon, as we were below sea level) was awesome.

  2. Visited the Tanzania National Museum and saw the original hominid fossils found by the Leaky’s and their staff all those years ago.  Incredible to see them for real, as my first memory of them was in a National Geographic when I was very little.  Amazed me then, amazed me now … very grateful to have had the opportunity to see them.

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Sunset at Lake Tanganyika

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Tanzanian National Museum

 

I have been to Africa a few times now – not the flash bits, more the out and about bits.  It never really dawned on me until this trip on why it feels so different to everywhere else I have been before – outback Australia included - and finally I think I understand a little.  It is the total lack of fences; you never see a fence anywhere except around the houses as compounds.  It just is an open landscape, even where there are planted fields and crops there is not a fence to be found.  Maybe it is my Kiwi/Aussie mind “expecting” a fence, a boundary, something to determine where I am (so many instructions over the years in the Pilbara or Goldfields of “Drive down the boundary fence for 15km until you see the pink flagging tape…”), or just something to hide behind.

 

Sometimes you just cannot see what is or is not right in front of you – I tend to always have a second look now, just in case.

 

PS: A little known fact is that Clive Otto our winemaker was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.  And even more amazing is that his mother worked with the Leaky’s during her time in East Africa – small world comrades.

 

Reserve Release…

 

In the next couple of weeks all of the Mailing List will have access to purchasing the 2020 Reserve Cabernet Franc.  I will not say that it is the best, the greatest, the most profound – it is simply just as good as the previous five releases, and every one of those was dead set delicious and continue to grow in the bottle.

 

The 2020 vintage was warm and every variety in the region was hitting the wineries weeks in advance of their normal schedule.  We picked off this Reserve Cabernet Franc in mid-March, at least two weeks in front of our average for the vines.  Totally dry grown and yielding just over 3 tonnes in a warm vintage, small fruit set, and bird pressured year; that was to be our lot.  The fruit quality was really good with the “numbers” coming back at my preferred values of 3.4pH / 6.5TA and sugar levels at ~14 – so no need for playing around with this wine for balance as it was already there.

 

One review to date and is as below:

 

“A mix of red, blue, and black fruit, pencils and baking spice, dried flower perfume, cocoa powder and sweet tobacco. It’s medium-bodied, tastes more of red fruits, with a fine mesh of ripe tannin, feels subtly sweet, yet savoury too, and has a long finish offering plenty of fine grip and succulence, and a whole lot of charm. It’s a very good release.” 94+ points GW WineFront July 2022

 

It does have a bit of the mulberry / blackcurrant cabernet character coming through, but that violet petal note does hold on to the underpinning Franc homeland, which makes it that much more interesting.  New livery this vintage, matching in with the new Chardonnay label released earlier this year – we love the new look as it really suits the bottle, and it feels great to touch and hold.

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In regards to the 2020 Reserve Merlot – yes, this wine was made but I have noted a degree of Allouran like “petulance” in the wine and rather than release it during this early phase in bottle I have decided to let it settle.  It is a delicious wine no doubt, I remember the blending of it and my notes were good, great, oohlala – but I am still going to give it another 6-9 months to sort itself out, so you will see it in March next year if all goes to plan.

 

Blue Poles Road Trip (Part 2)

 

Well, it has sort of been teed up in a few cities around the traps and I need to ensure enough wine is sitting at various drop points to keep the show rolling.  I will list what has officially been planned below and let us see if we can meet up in your city.

 

 

A tasting of all the new releases at the wonderful OBC in North Freo.  I will be pouring from 5pm and you can taste through the just released wines as well as pick up some awesome breads and other treats that OBC have in abundance.

 

 

Straight off a red-eye and down to the maroon-coloured streets of Brisvegas.  A couple of hours from 11am pouring out all the latest releases, including the 2020 Reserve Cab Franc.

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A tasting of all the new releases with older wines alongside for comparison and in a relaxed setting.  Event will run between 6-9pm and charcuterie will be provided.  Bookings are able to be secured via the website.

 

 

Five course meal prepared by Donovan Cooke with a large selection of Blue Poles wines, including the 2018 Deux Écus and many other older vintages secured from our storage facility.  Should be great fun as it always is on these nights in Melbourne – starts at 7pm, finishes late – nearly booked out.  Cost $150pp and bookings available on our website.

 

The Dinner in Perth is on hold – but it will be a go most probably in September when pruning has been put to bed and we have recovered from our jet setting about.  Thinking at this stage of heading back to Mayfair Lane but can be convinced of another venue if pushed and pulled by convincing arguments.

 

 

Would you like the Wine List?…

 

Topics in these monthly reports are always tricky.  Be positive, make some sunshine, present a happy face and all those uplifting spins that you are required to make your raison d'être all smiles.  It is just not possible for me to meet this standard – I am just so … curmudgeonly?

 

So, this month I am looking at a topic that can be seen as problematic.  The one in which I could be seen to be biting the hand that feeds me, but to be honest this area of the industry is one where we are becoming less involved due to the nature of the beast.  It is not an area that we have to deal with much anymore – it is floating on the perimeter of our wine world, and I get it, I really do.

 

This is the area of restaurants and bars and their wine lists.

 

They have become extremely predictable and, dear I say it, generic.  You may now be thinking that there is such a myriad of examples here that surely he cannot just lump them together and critique them as a whole.  Yes dear comrade I believe I can, and I am going to show you the secret.  The wine lists presented now on 99% of occasions will fit neatly into one of three categories:

1.      Generic Pap – country pub, cheap restaurant, too busy to do anything else

2.      Eccentricity Personified – new restaurants, woke sommeliers/ owners, new wine bars

3.      The Book – high end restaurants, reputation builders/ keepers, “collectors”

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We have all seen it – “The Book”

 

It is nigh on impossible to find a wine list that is a smallish well curated list of wines that represent major grape varieties and blends, are serving a large percentage by the glass, are not requiring you to “trust” the sommelier, and most importantly are good value.  Also, for one minute do not think that the top end restaurants are not providing many lists of generic pap – they are, but it is just that you are paying huge prices for names that have been the old guard of the “top end” for so many years that their clientele are trained to believe that they are now “fine dining” as they order their lovely bottle of ….

 

You see we may have all been duped.

 

We have been neatly categorised into specific customers, and much to the wine industry’s shame I believe the hospitality industry most probably is 99% correct.  But have we really been duped?  Let us break it down and match in with our list above what we are now categorised as:

1.      I just need a glass of booze – red or white – it is what you do…

2.      Please educate me – this is a “learning” experience…

3.      Let the “expert” find the bottle he would like…

 

To be honest they are pretty much spot on.  And this makes it a part of the industry that we have slowly but surely been worked out of.  The fact that many of our wines sell out on release and the small volumes we make does not allow us to fit into Category 1. – you have to be wines from the major retailers (Dan’s, Liquorland etc), or old names that spark recognition to be there.  Category 2 is predominantly not for us as the wines do not have enough wine making artifice or wild grape varieties to be able to fit into the “have you ever tried…” crowd, and lastly Category 3 just means you are often buried deep in the recesses of the 150 Australian red wines, to be found by only the hardiest of souls.

 

The trip to the eastern states coming up most probably will not involve many face to face tastings with sommeliers or restaurant staff.  It is not because I do not want to do it, but it is just all of the effort made to meet their schedules to possibly sell a case which is buried in “The Book”.  With that, the chances of becoming a wine on pour are slim, and if that was to occur there is an expectation of reduced rates and a finite window for this to occur.  Cold calling restaurants where you do see a “fit” for our wines is “humility training” to the max, so we tend to follow up with retailers more (who can at times be just as awkward), but as we have more of a history with a number now it becomes more like visiting old friends than any real form of pushy sales.

 

The best wine lists I ever received were not even wine lists, they were a blackboard outside of a café in Bordeaux with 8 wines chalked up, and a tapas bar in Valladolid which had 40-50 amazing bottles high on the wall.  Each by the glass, carafe or bottle, each great value, and each wine I had was delicious in both venues - amazing.  Great wine lists are the cracks of light between hard boundaries, the therking at dawn; but they are becoming unicorns in Australia as we too easily fall into the customer bins allocated to each and every one of us.

 

Steady flow...

 

As with June we have had a steady flow of rain during the month with only two days recording no rainfall – but there have been no major downpours which has suppressed the totals in comparison to last year (which admittedly was a very wet year).  Four very cold mornings at the start of the month hurt my poor tamarillo trees who are now “re-leafing” after being singed by the cold.  But overall, the weather is in winter mode and that is good news.

 

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

 

July 2022:        

Avg Maximum Temp          16.7°C

Daily Max recorded            19.7°C

 

Avg Minimum Temp           7.2°C

Daily Min recorded             0.5°C

 

Rainfall:                               177.0mm

The average maximum temperature is slightly higher than in 2021, but the average minimum temperature is a fair bit cooler accounted for by four very cold mornings at the start of the month.  Rainfall total for 2022 is lower than 2021, however rainfall both months are still a little above average for July.

July 2021:        

Avg Maximum Temp           16.3°C

Daily Max recorded             19.3°C

 

Avg Minimum Temp              9.7°C

Daily Min recorded                4.3°C

 

Rainfall:                                238.9mm

 

Jet setting…

 

I will be rushing about trying to achieve as much as possible in the vineyard before heading up to Perth on 12 August and then returning on 21 to get back to the grind.  I do have some visitors later in the month dropping through for 3-4 days which should break up the waking / pruning / eating / working / sleeping routine, as it may add in more / drinking / into the equation.

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