Monthly Report - October 2022
I can only feel for the wineries and grape growers in the Eastern States of Australia as they appear to be battling incessant rainfall and cool weather. We may not be in that washing machine cycle of rain, rain, rain out here in Western Australia – but by golly this weather is so damn cold that I am feeling that when I was in Finland earlier this month, it was in fact the warmest I have been. What is happening to the weather? Last year we had a cold and wet start to vintage, and I noted this:
“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.”
Well, we may not be as wet as last year, but we are a whole lot cooler – a whole lot cooler. Budburst and early-stage growth is finding it hard going and we get the same feeling that vintage is going to be pushed out if we do not get some serious heat into the system this summer. Last vintage had a cool start, but we had two very hot months during summer, and I mean very hot and I am not keen on going through that once more – local forest fires, sunburnt fruit, and irregular ripening across the blocks until the last few weeks of vintage.
So let us hope the patience of an average summer heat load with little rain and nice clear skies makes the vintage a cracker. For all the drama of the 2022 vintage, the wines in barrel are looking great and tasting the Cabernet Franc with a barrel rep (tis the season), he was dumbstruck on how good it was (especially as it was his brand’s new oak!).
Speaking of barrel tastings, the 2021 wines were tasted and prepared for bottling in the new year. This was perhaps the most difficult barrel tasting and blending work that I have done as the vintage was tricky and the wines showed it. Clive and I went backwards and forwards over what was in front of us, and we came to the same conclusion – we could not make any reserve wines from the 2021 vintage without impacting on the blended Allouran.
This is a difficult decision for us, but one that has to be followed through. We had barrels that could make an excellent Reserve Cabernet Franc, and I could have selected a solid Reserve Merlot – but – the balance of the barrels? These barrels did not make a wine of the quality that we have prided ourselves on – they simply made a “wine” and that is BS. The resultant Allouran with almost all barrels included from 2021 is truly excellent, it nods towards the vintage by being so Bordeaux in nature that Clive was questioning our geographic location early on, but the riper Cabernet Franc tempers that linear Merlot (so upside down!) and the wine is a complete, complex, top of the comptoir blend – a true representation of the vineyard.
With the vineyard looking back at me each morning, there is never a time in which I can say everything is up to date. So, wire dropping is nearly complete – cool start has meant not even the Chardonnay has been pulled back in to shape as yet so no wire lifting to match in – more steel post replacements, the never-ending finding of popped irrigation lines, and the telling off of oneself for the missing of the occasional cane in the pruning. Marjory and Jack have made solid efforts, but the cool weather has not helped with their enthusiasm – and so much for Jack the little puppy, he is becoming a very big big boy!
Pix – elated – Wine…
The world of selling and making money from wine is a curious thing. This sales “sphere” is unbelievably complex in so many ways – let me name but a portion - an incredible array of producers using an incredible range of grape varieties located an incredible number of places throughout the world. But it gets worse, you may know the producer, variety, and location but do you know the vintage quality, the style of wine, the sustainable status of the winery, vineyard, winemaker? Oh, and do not get me started on what it tastes like….
You see, wine is simply a complex beast. That is its fascination and its camouflage.
A group headed up by a guy called Paul Mabray (who I have followed on Twitter for a while – was a marketing lecturer in California by memory), initiated a start-up called Pix Wine. The idea was … actually I’m not really sure what the idea was, as I am still working it out having read through a whole lot of stuff to be even more confused than when I started but let us pretend … to have a website that you could connect to, enter in a few words (click on a few descriptors?) and then wines would be selected for you to purchase.
Pix Wine describes it like this…
“Our mission is as simple as it is essential. We exist to connect as many people to the world of wine as we can. We’re here to build a bigger tent for wine, and to invite everyone inside.”
“If we accomplish our goals, we’ll have grown the ranks of wine lovers everywhere, shown more people that there’s a place for them in wine, while at the same time helping producers and retailers be successful. In other words, we’re changing the world of wine for the better.”
And as Paul, when discussing this wine community, so elegantly puts it…
“At Pix, we believe that inclusion unlocks innovation. We embrace the power of diverse perspectives, and seek to elevate people in the industry who are driving positive change. Our goal is to make Pix accessible for wine enthusiasts from all backgrounds, and to contribute to a more equitable future for the wine industry.”
Okay – it is a word salad. With much of the reporting on Pix Wine had this form of alieniloquy when discussing on just “how” the difference would be made from a major retail website. This form of marketing overspin and language was a common feature of explanation to the concept which I have deciphered to be, and my ABC understanding is, as below:
Generate a website that used much of the current predictive software and search engine software which could then be focused solely on wine.
The commercial aim was a little different – they were not selling wine. They were introducing “searched” wine to paying subscribers.
To achieve the breadth of service to their subscribers they needed almost every store and winery to provide their data, or for them to mine the information and make it available.
On top of this they needed various regulatory information defined and clearly articulated (every location has differing rules to follow).
To make it attractive to consumers, the website also provided a lot of content about wines and wine regions from paid contributors.
The cost of generating the database from which Pix Wine could operate would have been enormous. The capacity to make that useable for anyone from Boisey, Idaho to Miami, Florida – mind-boggling. The fact that they believed that wineries and retailers would play ball – now that is just …. cray cray.
Hang on I hear you say – why the heck not? It is a database, you put your products in for free and provide a few key words and if they get a few gazillion subscribers, by default the sales will come. It seems a very open and transparent way of doing things – the site does not have any interest to hurt any side of the triangle of them, consumers, and producers/ retailers. And here is where I believe it all unravels.
Take one step back.
Let us be that subscriber who has put in the $50 to find lovely wines from stores nearby or from the producer themselves. They want a Chardonnay, they like the ones that taste fruity, are rich and for drinking soon. They login, have a look at the latest stories and messages from their inbox (?), and then type in Chardonnay / Fruity / Rich / Drink Now and hit enter. What do you think happens next? 1000 hits happen next. Okay, our AI cuts down all of the ones that did not rate with previous buys (perhaps), so let us say 100 on the page – what do you choose?
EVERY producer and retailer KNOWS that if the consumer does not know what they want, you have to lean on them to choose your product. However, in the Pix Wine setting you have the slimmest of chances of getting the purchase as they did not come to the website to buy YOUR wine, they came to buy A wine. On a retailer’s own website this is not the issue – every wine makes them a profit, and those wines have been purchased from the wineries and the producers can carry on with their own direct sales or seek other retail partners. To be on a website in which ALL of your competitors can “win” the purchase and amplify their own wines or shop – no thanks.
So how do you overcome this? Do you start sponsoring your own wine on the website to make it more prominent (an option offered by Pix Wine)? Do you try to game the system with changed imagery and text? Fake scores? Buy your way into content on the website? Heavily discount your wine against your own retail partners? For most you cannot overcome this, it is just too hard.
Of course, there would be some winners as some wines garner big positive responses and their promotion was more and more put forward by the website programming, but for the rest, simple obscurity and hours on inputs down the drain.
We have seen this type of promotion offered quite regularly in Australia – “straight from the producer” type of thing – and it is an utter dud. You pile in all your information and sit and hope. You have no control, you cannot make content like this monthly report to keep the information flow going, and you cannot provide a pathway for the consumer to get to you.
Selling wine is hard.
With that premise Pix Wine did try to work the angles by having no intention of selling wine, they just had the intention of getting a gazillion subscribers that may purchase wine through producers and retailers listed in their website. It implied that they could generate enough of a following due to their own wine content, and one would assume the access to such a range of wines that the subscribers would simply roll on in. However, the range of expectation from all of those subscribers would have been so varied as to be impossible to quantify, and when you are out raising money to continue the development of possibly the biggest wine retail database in history without the support of the wine industry as a whole – it could be assumed it is goodnight Irene.
Pixelation is the term used in computer graphics to describe blurry sections or fuzziness in an image due to visibility of single-coloured square display elements or individual pixels. That blurry and fuzziness is a great way of describing wine consumers when the single-coloured square is wine itself. Pix Wine arrived too soon – a derivative of this will occur within google or other search engines / phone software as data from stores and producers become more “mineable” for a term. It is unfortunate in a way when you take into account of the larger picture, but it is what I would have expected to happen – this broad church of an industry is simply too difficult to put into a cosy box and have every one sing hymns from the same sheet.
Ah well, let us wait for the next version of this Pix–elated–wine experience … arriving anytime soon.
You cannot be serious...
For all of the hard work and effort made every year within every vineyard in Australia, one thing totally out of our control is the weather. This is the pleasure and pain of growing grapes, fantastic when all is going well and green canes fill up a brown paddock on a glorious spring day, utterly frustrating when the weather refuses to follow seasonal patterns that you rely on so much for both crop and quality. October 2022 has been the coldest October in 15 years, and it feels it. Not much else to say really – not as much rain as per the averages – it is just damn cold…
The numbers for this month and last year’s figures are provided below:
Avg Maximum Temp 17.9°C
Daily Max recorded 24.1°C
Avg Minimum Temp 7.4°C
Daily Min recorded 3.4°C
The average maximum temperature is well lower than in 2021, with the average minimum temperature also being significantly lower. Rainfall total for 2022 is much lower than in 2021, but we have now managed to exceed 1000mm in the calendar year this month which is above the recent rainfall averages by a good 100mm.
Avg Maximum Temp 18.9°C
Daily Max recorded 24.2°C
Avg Minimum Temp 9.5°C
Daily Min recorded 3.0°C
Walking, walking and more walking…
It is hard to know how many times you may go up and down each row doing odd jobs and major jobs each year – but my best guess is about 7-9 times each. November is the month when you do start to rack up the steps as wires get lifted, base of vines get cleaned up, thinning of excess growth and those never ending maintenance jobs. Lucky I am competitive, and I have an Apple Watch – let me see if I beat last year’s kilometres.
Keep an eye out in the coming weeks as well. We have some of the changeover stock ready for dispatch and they will be cleanskins for $130 / 6-pack delivered. When we bottle our wines we do not tip the previous wine into the tank of the new wine to be bottled, instead we take off the 5 dozen as a “mix” between the two wines and have them as cleanskins. So, from the 2020 vintage we will be offering ten 6-packs from each of the 3 changeovers – Merlot / Allouran / Cabernet Franc. Tim will either put them directly up on the website or drop out an email to the mailing list. I will throw in some extra labels as well, and for very little your very own blend of a delicious Blue Poles red can be yours!
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