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Monthly Report - January 2023



It is almost too hot to write this missive – it is early February, and the sun has the hot stove in the kitchen feel to it, just a glow of heat.  A very warm consistent month, it only pretended to have some weather on the morning of the 27th as I had planned to have a spray run through the vineyard – most probably being the last one for the season – but it was delayed for the 30th with little impact.  With the weather being so dry, the mildew pressures have been significantly reduced this vintage and the vines are all nice and clean if not a bit parched.


The hills and surrounds of the region at this time of year are just a tinder box.  I do a walk down Bramley River Road to keep my fitness levels up and see more than the house and the vines, and this time of year it feels like you are walking past kindling.  The trees creak and crack and the understory crackles as the kangaroos scoot off from the road’s edge as you approach.  Every local always keeps an eye to the horizon just to ensure no plume of smoke has popped up down wind, and this kiwi has become no different as you feel that dry dry heat bore down onto the brown landscape.


It is something that you do not notice until you look, but the eucalypt “green” colours in the southwest of Western Australia during summer are almost “steely” in the brightness of the sky, giving a bit of an eerie feel at times, especially amongst the red gums.  Maybe it is just a feature of the brown landscape reflecting back in my consciousness, but this time of year does put you in the mood for beachside reflective whites, blues, and aquamarines to counter the sunburnt landscape.


The vines.  They are late.  They are a bit dry.  And they have set a small to medium sized crop.


Jack the wonder dog and I head out most mornings to work away with thinning and cleaning the various blocks and it is all a bit askew.  Normally by mid-January the changing of colour in the reds (nicknamed veraison) is in full swing – this year we have nothing going on in the Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and even the Shiraz has only just noted it is time to get a move along.  Chardonnay is starting to soften, but it is baby steps and not leaps and bounds.


So short and brief for the vineyard.  Lots of walking and bending but little to excite the romantic – no grapes to taste, no perfect bunches of red grapes filtered through the autumn leaves – just a lot of setting up for the rush of vintage itself.



En Primeur


Just a head’s up comrades.  Keep an eye to the inbox in the coming week – Tim and I have been putting our head’s together on how we keep you all in front of the curve and we may have an offer too good to refuse.  Very hush hush of course.



Short and Sweet…


The heat outside and the hundred little jobs I should be doing before Marjory heads back from her short break in the Philippines has meant wine topics are slim pickings, but I am just going to discuss something that puts a shiver down my spine, roscidating my soul so to speak.



Virulent Opinions and The Ease of being Affronted


We are all accosted by this seemingly modern scourge of self-righteousness almost every day.  The videos of Karens screaming for the manager, some Sovereign Citizen claiming they are above any law, the merry-go-round of transgender debates, banning of songs being sung and everything in between.  The issues raised by these “fringe” elements within our lives actually should not impact us much, if at all, as we are just simply, in many many ways, not involved.  But somehow, by whatever means, it is leaking into our private and first degree of separation worlds.  And it is extremely bewildering.


The source of Virulent Opinions is an easy one to point back to its origins – the internet doing internet things.  You went from a time where to have a firm opinion on something you had to read (and read a lot), on a subject that you may not have had access too anyway.  This old-fashioned notion of having to find out more than hearsay for anyone living very busy lives meant that doctors, lawyers, scientists, even plumbers, builders and electricians were respected because they had the capacity to know – because they had been taught and they were qualified.  The internet changed that in such a way that we may have cracked a corner off one of society’s pillars – respect.


I remember watching ABC’s QandA years ago and there was basically a “flat earther” Senator on the stage with Brian Cox, a British Physicist who is extremely intelligent and knowledgeable in areas that he has studied and beyond.  It became an embarrassing series of gaffes from the Senator, it was a cringe festival of the highest order.  Slap down after slap down.  But there is however no consequence to his apparent lack of basic knowledge and at times decency as he maintains his position as one of our Senators – passing the laws of this country.

22301_Flat Earth.jpg


For the origin story of The Ease of being Affronted you need not go too far back as well – in a way I believe this all started in a truly decent concept of recognising that those in position of less opportunity were to have equal access and opportunity as their peers.  This started pre-internet - universities and governments were promoting this (quite rightly) in the 1970’s and 80’s, and I can assume this would have been the time when much of this type of thinking started being written in stone as part of laws and rules and regulations.


Now.  This is not the fault of the concept of equal opportunity.  It is the fault of the capacity for some to find a balance within this world, and the rage to stop the “oppression” which could be quite clearly “seen” (behind the red mist).  So, so, many sub-groups of the oppressed have made it to the list of those needing equal opportunity which makes it so difficult to keep pace with.  And who are the Affronted?  It is generally those who have little to be affronted about on many occasions, they have the need to “fight” for those who cannot – asked for or otherwise.

A left and right, yin and yang of utter balderdash that is washing over us on a daily basis.


So, just ignore it you say.  I would normally agree and carry on with my remote little lifestyle, but these attitudes are insinuating themselves within all around and when you encounter it personally for the first few times you do not even realise that it is simply what it is.  Let me provide some context:


A post on The Margaret River Wine Region Instagram page came out linking an article discussing the soils of Margaret River – the article was one that had been “sexed” up by trying to spin some “ancient soils” type of line which for me, simply misleading.  


My issue with the article came at numerous levels but the bit that gets me was the statement


“It is the region’s distinct ancient soils that hold the secret to its international success.”  


Woah – really?  I have discussed terroir in previous reports and soils are small single part of a myriad of components that make any wine region one that can produce fine wine, and not even all of them are physical and climatic!  Also, it implied the “ancient soils” were key – so only those areas developed on the older rocks down the central spine of the region are our hot spots of fine wine?  Really?


As it came from an association that we pay fees to, as well as being a geologist of 30+ years’ experience, and having a vineyard off these magical “ancient soils” I replied saying that the article made me feel uncomfortable.  The article is so easily refuted and does not make any connection with why wines in the region are better than wines from anywhere else due to these “ancient soils” – and honestly even the term “ancient soils” is a form of gibberish.  I had assumed the aim of our Wine Association was the promotion of the region’s wines; not this pseudoscience, catchphrase type of sales rhetoric which to any thinking person comes across as hollow and, in a way, “try hard”.


Of course, anyone that does not follow along with the narrative gets a tap on the shoulder.


Initially it was “I understand where you are coming from…” DM then noting that the article is not “completely scientific in nature”, then was a comment from the author which thought I was insulting her and the work of her colleagues, then the email saying that “they did not understand what I was saying” and after I replied with simple reasons on why I messaged my unease, I was quickly told to not criticize at any level and if I was actually concerned I should have basically joined the committee and done the work myself.


These ramping zealous responses was both confrontational and, basically, petty – no response dealt with the obvious question; are these “ancient soils” key in the development of fine wines or not? As they quite clearly stated that they are.  A quote from the report was also forwarded on the email string, as if it was to hold some truths for me, but it was just a mish mash of illogical statements coalescing to full stops.  Good gracious.


I deleted the comment I had made on Instagram.  What was the point?


The basic premise of pressing for simple answers is now a hostile act, regardless of intention.  The ease at which Virulent Opinions and The Ease of being Affronted can step into your life without a moment’s hesitation is scary and makes one consider why would you wish to partake in any form of collegiate activity – how easy it is to imply that you “insult” and “belittle”, regardless of the ignorance placed in front of you, or your simple desire to do good or seek straightforward answers.  It is a crazy old (new) world.


Thus, dear comrades maybe not so short and sweet, more like sweet and sour…



Blue, blue skies...


As a January goes, this one is slightly on the warm side, but not by much and in regard to rainfall – hardly a drop, just enough to have a single morning in which petrichor wafted off the dusty paddocks and paths around the house.  The sea breeze has been turning up a bit later this year which makes the house a little bit uncomfortable for those mid-afternoon naps that I am keen to try if only I had the time.


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


January 2023:        

Avg Maximum Temp          28.0°C

Daily Max recorded            35.8°C


Avg Minimum Temp           13.3°C

Daily Min recorded               8.7°C


Rainfall:                               1.2mm

The average maximum and minimum temperature averages are lower than in 2022 which can be explained by the lack of intense heat days which was encountered last year.  Rainfall total for 2023 is negligible and this was the case in 2022 as well.

January 2022:        

Avg Maximum Temp           29.2°C

Daily Max recorded             39.2°C


Avg Minimum Temp            14.2°C

Daily Min recorded                9.3°C


Rainfall:                                0.6mm

More of the same…


I cannot see how the vines will make a huge rush to ripeness as the vineyard sits right now.  So, with that Jack and I will keep on tapping away at getting rid of excess growth and keeping the canopy just right to account for the weather as we work through the last month of summer.  Nets will make an appearance, Marjory will return home, Tim has a short time in Perth for his work (also being my whisky and Bordeaux mule), and a few friends will be staying for short periods.  Sounds about right.

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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