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Monthly Report - December 2022

Into stride…


Kind of ironic I would say that as I sit here with a pair of pulled calf muscles from pushing myself to walk and run every day for the past month – my little exercise schedule.  Quite a few “I told you so” looks from Marjory, but heck I am now having a “high” VO2 fitness level according to the Apple Fitness App so I can handle the naysayers!  Such a pleasant month weather-wise this December – bit like goldilocks wandering into the bear’s family home and finding the “Just Right Porridge” sitting by itself on the table.  The vines have hit their straps and are now fully into stride as noted above.  The vineyard does however need a further slashing mid-row due to the long growing season this spring, but the dry month and the even heat has meant some respite from the cool and unusual flowering conditions that we went through in October / November.


Chardonnay looking positive – fingers crossed for a good crop


It never stops surprising me on how the vines react to the vintage each year.  There are always variations that make planning for specific tasks a little bit foolhardy – the cool start meant wire lifting was delayed, but once it warmed up it all sort of had to happen at once.  My plan of doing a variety every 3-4 days sort of came down around me and forced a few longer days as we chipped that task off the tablet.


Now, as we all know, Christmas and New Year has been ticked off the to do list and we are all now sitting looking at an inbox and our mobile phone thinking “bugger”.  It was good while it lasted, that gap between Xmas and New Year used to be as a child “forevverrr” and now it seems like a blink of an eye, and we have missed it.  Our aged selves’ sole achievement is now the “Build the Ikea Billy” off the long list of promised jobs and unread books.  I too built an Ikea Billy and achieved little else apart from reading a book on Boxing Day due to a food coma from the previous day – mission accomplished.


As mentioned, the vineyard is in rude health due to the extended spring like conditions so wires were lifted, and bases were cleaned – but this is a job that never quite gets finished so it will drag into January.  Unsure if we will be able to not irrigate this season again – the ground has become very arid and hard, and I will need to keep an eye on the growing tips of the canes as they are the ones that usually show the first signs of stress.  With no rainfall predicted in the long range forecast I may just top up a couple of days going forward, but if we can dry grow we will, as the flavours are just amped up that little bit more.


New Year Chardonnay…


We only have a few cases left of the delicious 2021 Chardonnay post an excellent response in the last monthly report newsletter.  With the 2022 Chardonnay having been put to bottle as of 12 December, it is a good time to tidy up the balance prior to the new Chardonnay’s release in Autumn.  So, the 20% off the Chardonnay if you use the following Code when checking out GoHard-GoChard is still available for a few more weeks.  All orders received will be posted out when weather conditions are suitable in regards to where they are off to – we will keep you updated in regards to the delivering schedule of your wines.


Cheers Comrades.



Nuanced Numbers…


Any one that knows me, knows me as the smooth urbane “George Clooney” of Margaret River winery owners, but what they may not be aware of behind my Brad Pitt good looks and Chris Hemsworth physique is that I do like my numbers.  Love my numbers.  The part about geology that fires up my imagination is the piecing together of how it all works, how it came to be – but the bit that most satisfies me is having a database of 1000’s of assays and locating the minutiae of clues that helps explain that bigger picture.


Those who are new on the scene may not be aware that Tim and I (the owners of Blue Poles), are both geologists and early on Tim worked with me as a resource geologist.  Our jobs at the time was working how much of any metal or mineral is present in the ground by reviewing the data formed by thousands if not hundreds of thousands of drill holes and samples.  Part of the process of making an accurate prediction of the amount of any metal or mineral is to know what sample relates to another sample and ensuring that like stays with like, and to slowly accrue the model which will give you the closest answer to the reality of mining the ore and processing it.  If I may be so bold, I can say that I am not too bad at this part of the geological skill set, and my number pattern and connection recognition has helped me throughout my professional life and in a way kept the wolf from the door.


When we bought the property which we developed the vineyard on I did do a fair bit of research on the soils and specifics of the geology so as to find a location that was suitable for the growing of Merlot and Cabernet Franc predominantly.  But I also had a dabble with the climate information and this guided me to Rosa Brook / Osmington in the central/ eastern portion of the Margaret River GI.  With the purchase which was predominantly based around the soils being perfect and the location pretty much where I had hoped to be, the climate of our site – our micro-climate – became part of my life and I think about it often and how it impacts on today and into the future.


While I may know enough details on the “weather” in Margaret River to bore even the politest person into an absolute stupor, I am going to provide here a little snippet of information from the month of December 2022 which will give you dear comrade a bit more knowledge on why buying Margaret River wine is not like buying wine from many other regions.  We have major climate differences within the region and it is politely hidden under the carpet of “brand” so as to provide any of you poor dears with confusing contradictory information.

202212_MR Logo.jpg


The Margaret River GI is about 100km long and about 25km wide (give or take) and is ~2,100km2 in size.  The area is split into sub-regions to account for the generic hotter at the top, cooler at the bottom which has caused a degree of rupture amongst the wineries as the Wilyabrup sub-region has a number of wineries that want to “go it alone” due to their “uniqueness”.  This sub-region debate highlighted more that the sub-region classification was not built around climate and geology (which may play into more quality/ unique grapes), but rather just stream-river catchment areas that were not sufficiently different to warrant the “split” – at least on those boundaries alone.

202212_MR Map.jpg


So let us look at December 2022 – a delightful month for weather as it was average in maximums and minimums, with minimal rainfall for me here in Rosa Brook such that the rest of the region had pretty similar conditions.  I have downloaded data from 4 location sites – Jindong (in the Carbunup sub-region) which is the large broad acre plantings in the north of the region, Wilyabrup with many of the classy vines and wineries, Rosa Brook which is us (east of Margs), and Karridale (the weather site is nearer to Augusta than Margs) which is the most southern area of large plantings in the region.


So straight up let us have a look at Maximums and Minimums for each of the areas going North to South:


Jindong:            Avg. Max 28.5°C           (max 35.6°C)

                           Avg. Min 11.8°C            (min    4.7°C)


Wilyabrup:       Avg. Max 25.8°C           (max 33.9°C)

                          Avg. Min 12.9°C            (min    8.0°C)


Rosa Brook:      Avg. Max 25.9°C           (max 32.9°C)

                           Avg. Min 11.6°C            (min    5.9°C)


Karridale:          Avg. Max 23.2°C           (max 27.9°C)

                            Avg. Min 12.6°C            (min    8.8°C)


Now you begin to see the spread of temperatures within this region, and it is significant – really significant.  And why do I say that?  Jindong is in many ways closer climatically this December to Perth 200km to the north than Wilyabrup 20km to the southwest!  Perth had an average maximum of 29.8°C which is only 1.3°C more than Jindong, whereas Wilyabrup is 2.7°C cooler.  And then we have Karridale which is a full 2.6°C cooler again than Wilyabrup – the range of maximum temperature averages along this portion of the country is very large.


More subtle variances are noted if you look closely to the minimums.  Note that Karridale and Wilyabrup have higher minimum averages than Jindong and Rosa Brook, and you can see the influence of the Southern and Indian Oceans in play – ensuring that the diurnal spread (that is the maximum and the minimum difference) is not as large as areas inland or near the shallow Geographe Bay in the north which does not reduce the cool air in the more northern Jindong location.


One other aspect which is crucial in understanding how vines are affected by climate is the number of minutes that the vines are under a heat load (that is >30oC) and you will find in December Karridale does not have a single minute, Rosa Brook has 821 minutes, Wilyabrup has 959 minutes and Jindong has a whopping 2547 minutes.  So, stepping back for a second you begin to note that the heat load is not spread evenly, the diurnal spread is greater inland and in the north to the east, and that such a range leads one into finding micro-climates quite easily as we all can have a niche within a broad spread that not many (or any!) other locations could be similar to.


By the climate numbers alone you may possibly not find a more diverse defined single GI region for growing grapes in the world.  Add into this mix the range of soils derived from very inconsistent weathering of the granites and gneisses along the centra spine, the recent sediment outwash into the Jindong and Karridale Plains, and the inland Cretaceous aged sediments of Rosa Brook and Treeton – oh my, such a mélange.


Here you have a “terroir” masterclass in the making. Terroir in many ways is an idea of an idea, an ideogenous process that has no rights and wrongs just a whole lot of threads to be pulled.

202301_Terroir Logo.png

So next time you pick up a bottle of Margaret River red or white, take a quick note on where the grapes came from – the vines from the north will be different to the vines from the south for the same varieties (and wine making artifice aside), it is going to influence the wine.  The next wave of “terroir” discussions is just around the corner as everyone will be trying to place their vineyard at the top of the tree and saying that they are “unique” in their “micro-climate” is classic marketing 101.  Always remember, the numbers never lie…


Easing into vintage...


What a pleasant month – one when washing could be dried every day.  Only a couple of days that were hot enough to slow growth, but the dry warm conditions have meant the vines have caught up some of their delayed growth and are pushing ever on.  The one touch of rainfall did have some hail attached, but it was an odd occurrence as it seemed to be on the cusp of not being there and as such no vines received any damage.


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


December 2022:        

Avg Maximum Temp          25.9°C

Daily Max recorded            32.9°C


Avg Minimum Temp           11.6°C

Daily Min recorded               5.9°C


Rainfall:                               5.2mm

The average maximum and minimum temperature averages are lower than in 2021 which can be explained by the lack of intense heat days which was encountered last year.  Rainfall total for 2022 is negligible and this was the case in 2021 as well.

December 2021:        

Avg Maximum Temp           27.8°C

Daily Max recorded             43.1°C


Avg Minimum Temp            12.5°C

Daily Min recorded                5.9°C


Rainfall:                                12.4mm

Resolution Bay…


What a beautiful part of New Zealand it is too, hidden away in the Marlborough Sounds, mapped, and named by Captain Cook – but this majestic segway into the few New Year resolutions that we note in the back of our heads or whisper silently to ourselves seems to be totally off track (which is not the Queen Charlotte Track to Resolution Bay with its beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife).  January has vine excess growth that needs to be sorted out, the last of the wires placed, some irrigation lines need confirming that they are alright, and more sprays will be heading out.  Touch and go if we need to put our first nets out on the Chardonnay at the end of the month – exciting times ahead.


Also, Marjory has a short break back in the Philippines, bit of bling on her finger to show off and some odd jobs to sort out as always.  Tim and family returns from a break in Japan – he will be bringing back some Japanese whisky for me, so God Speed Tim, God Speed!

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.




Mark Gifford

Blue Poles Vineyard

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