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Monthly Report - February 2023



What a summer it has been, post a cool and relatively dry spring we have been baked to a crisp since 10 December as we have had a grand total of 3.0mm of rain since that date and the weather has been warm with not a skerrick of humidity.  Great if you want to have a spray program that ensures no mildews and constant access to the vines – not so hot if you want the vines to have some respite with a little tropical air and moisture dropping in (nothing for us this year, first in a while!).  Vintage still has a month or so to run of course and anything is possible, but as versions go, this is a dry and warm one after a cool dryer spring so it is unique in the sense, I cannot get an equivalent from my review of the past 20 years.


Veraison is finally in full swing with the red varieties all putting on a show – bunches in the Merlot and Cabernet Franc are small but the Shiraz has produced a full crop and is looking very good in this dry year, even being dry grown as with the rest of the vineyard.  The Chardonnay is to be picked on 1 March and as I tap on this missive away the wine has been put to barrel, but the saga of the making of this wine will wait for next month as I will complete the vintage summary for what I hope all of the varieties.


Just another February day – Vintage 2023


Nets are currently doing the Mr Miyagi, Nets On / Nets Off.  Our resident net maestro is Craig and I do enjoy him rolling up as he is really under the pump this time of year and it is always nice to see someone worse off than me.  Marjory and I take over the net responsibilities from Craig’s staff after the initial nets are put out, so we get the job of setting them up for taking off, and if we can, we cycle them over to one of the later varieties to be picked such that more vines are covered.


Birds are active in the region as blossom in the red gums is not at all consistent.  We do see some areas around Margaret River with good blossom and other areas (like around Osmington) with no blossom at all – this means the birds are either moving to where the action is or staying put and hitting on what fruit (such as our ripening grapes) is available.  Very patchy, but unlike a few years ago when there was simply no blossom at all, we will take the current situation as a little win.


En Primeur


What a response!  Thanks so very much comrades, as of the first week of March we have nearly sold out of the allotted 2020 Reserve Merlot and the 2020 Allouran has had nearly a third allocated to our Five Spot and Mailing List members.  We will maintain the En Primeur promotion on the website for a further week and then we will close it off – with the wines released this coming June.


So, if you wish to take advantage of the offer do so right away.  It is recognised that an En Primeur offer is to provide you with a significant discount, such that if you enter the discount codes below on the "View My Cart" page, this promise will be achieved:


  •   For 6-pack orders ($60 EP discount)   ML2020EP_6-pack

  •   For dozen orders ($120 EP discount)  ML2020EP_Dozen


Once again, thanks so very very much comrades for all of your support and we hope that you can all take advantage of the pricing before our price rises kick in for future vintages.



Oh, Ye of Little Faith…


The way we see ourselves is always one of spotting the blemishes.  I am sure if you asked a Miss Universe or male model what they thought of their looks you would find that even they would come out with “crooked teeth” or “wrinkly skin”, while we mere mortals shake our heads and think “yeah, yeah whatever”.  I personally know that I am a bit of a sholt, and it is in the human psyche to focus on the negative and not the positive – but this form of self-doubt / cynical thinking has most probably saved us from extinction a few times in the past as patting the cute cuddly grizzly bear cub may have led to a bit of “emotional damage”.


I have always been intrigued by this form of critical thinking – literally – as it is that self-protection mechanism as well as a delimiter on you and your life.  Now, this discussion is not entering into the realms of “self-confidence”, that is a whole other bucket of fish and we do not have time dear comrades to discuss the arrogant and blow-hards that swirl past you along your life’s journey.  This topic sits in the grounds of how we see ourselves, and how we perceive we are in regards to tasting wine.


Tasting wine is a tricky skill.  And not because the art of being able to do the casual double reverse swirl while staring in panic at your partner across the room as the person you do not want to talk to is walking straight towards you to ensure your evening is ruined.  Or not even the capacity to remember a few wine terms and descriptors in mixed company.  It is tricky as we ALL have doubts that we are actually any good at it at all – and I would hazard a guess many wine makers and sommeliers put themselves into their own form of purgatory when they look inwards and shudder.


You see once you have got to the point where you buy wines that you can cellar, you are now in the world of wine “wankerism” regardless of how many times you tell yourself you are not.  You are dear comrade, you are.  You have this issue that you actually really really like the stuff, but if you sat down with 5 blind wines and were asked to describe and name all the wines your blood would freeze, your eyes would twitch and breathing suddenly becomes a bit more ragged.  No amount of bluffing is possible; right and wrong, black and white is at the end of a very awkward set of smells and sips.

202302_Mr Grey.jpg

This is a bit Mr Grey – I do not think they quite understand the “blind tasting” concept…


Trust me.  I am with you all the way on this.  [So let me put you in on a very big secret.]  It is almost all totally irrelevant.  It is the most ridiculous load of old codswallop that has ever been spewed forth as facts and skills – even if there was a competition on the “Love Boat” (Series 5, Episode 3), which makes it seem all so so plausible.


Now before everyone suddenly realizes how crazy that statement actually is (yes, I mean, come on, it was even on the “Love Boat” for heaven’s sake), I will set out the ground rules for my babble above.  The tasting and understanding of “wine” is an essential skill for those who make it, and it may come as a surprise, many of the skills wine makers have lie in knowing what faults that they are smelling and tasting rather than what a finished wine tastes and smells like.  This is the skill set that top wine makers have harnessed, they can pick up any fault from 100m and in wine shows for example, that is almost the first half of the event – the latter half being which of the “unfaulty” wines they enjoyed the most (for whichever reason is currently in vogue).  Good wine makers are a bit like good doctors, they know the healthy lifestyle their patient should adhere to, can spot a problem (fault) with their patient early, know the best pathway to fix the problem causing the least discomfort – thus they are the very skilled guys and gals.


For those in the promotion of wine, be it wine critics, wine writers, wholesalers, sommeliers, retailers – even me dear comrade – we are only able to “taste” wines more clearly simply because we are having to actually drink and promote the product day in and day out.  Ten thousand hours of anything will make you at least proficient.


But let us get back to the irrelevancy of it all.


From the Masters of Wine tasting exam, ~10% pass – of the Chief Sommeliers tasting exam in the US, ~8% pass.  Now why would that be?  We have a group of people that have spent tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars knowing all there is about what wine could be in the glass in front of them and 90% of them are utterly useless apparently.  


I will tell you why, it is simply a curated version of pure luck that the 8-10% “guessed” correctly a wine variety and region, and all of the “wrote” tasting descriptors they used matched the ”wrote” tasting descriptors as answers – not much more to say really.  Basically, a slightly modified version of pure chance.


Any normal run of the mill Blue Poles imbiber that drinks a few bottles a week with meals and company may end up tasting from 200-300 bottles in one year.  You do this for a decade and add in a few wine tasting trips, and by the end you might get to have experienced 4,000-5,000 bottles.  Some special occasion wines also would have popped up - someone has cracked a “Grange” or Chateau Latour (ooohs and ahhhs), and maybe a wine event/dinner or two where you get to experience some special bottles.  Where does this place you on the quantum of wine knowledge?  Can you spot a South African Pinotage?  Argentinian Malbec?  St Emilion vs Pomerol Bordeaux? – not that likely, and why would you?  Would you even spot another “Grange” if put blind in front of you?  Most probably not as the one you tasted was from a specific vintage, stored in a certain way and drank in a specific place and time – all unique.  After a decade you may have drank from many many bottles of wine, but most would be wines you have bought and enjoyed from the wineries you support – so to know all of this world of wine stuff is basically a “blind folly”.


Ignore it.  If you get roped into some learning circle, use it to define what you like and dislike – it is an opportunity to discover, not dissemble.  For those who do the courses and spend the time and effort to build up to the point where you attempt to spot the difference between St Julien and Paulliac, bless them, but it is all irrelevant in the big picture as any pairing of those wines could be mistaken by the most renowned taster at ANY point in time.  So do not stress, the differences are so ephemeral as to be imaginary 90% of the time.


I have been fortunate enough to taste many awesome wines.  If they were put in front of me blind to describe and accurately guess what they were, I most probably could not do it.  But the wines themselves will still be delicious bottles of booze.  By spending time with quality wines, sharing them with friends and family, and taking mental note of the essence of the wine in which someone, somewhere put the effort in to grow and vinify the grapes for you to enjoy is sufficient as a wine tasting set.

202302_Merlot Cartoon.jpg

So, ye of little faith – regardless of how you see yourself with all of your self-wine-doubt, you are on the righteous path and one that makes the most of a product that I too personally love and enjoy regularly.  At the end of the day, no one would ever remember that you did not spot a minor variance between clonal selections of pinot from the Yarra Valley, but they will remember the fact you were there with a bottle of excellent wine and a story to tell…


Drying off...


The paddocks that is, not as if there was any moisture in them after such a dry January and December.  Summer produced a paltry 6.8mm, with only 2014 and 2010 (awesome vintages I must say) having a similarly low single digit summer rainfall (but both of those years did have very wet springs with 293mm-301mm respectively, with this vintage having had had only 185mm of rainfall this past spring).  The ground feels baked, not a hint of bounce, just an oven cooked brownie surface – lucky our vines have 20 years of root depth to counter this relentless summer.


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


February 2023:        

Avg Maximum Temp          29.0°C

Daily Max recorded            37.1°C


Avg Minimum Temp           13.3°C

Daily Min recorded               6.1°C


Rainfall:                               0.4mm

The average maximum and minimum temperature averages are lower than in 2022 which remains 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.

February 2022:        

Avg Maximum Temp           29.6°C

Daily Max recorded             38.1°C


Avg Minimum Temp            14.4°C

Daily Min recorded              10.4°C


Rainfall:                                10.4mm

Vintage bites…


March will be all about trying to get all the pieces of vintage working together to get our grapes to Clive and his team for making into delicious booze.  Let me give a little secret; so far it has not been a great start in regards to piecing all the moving parts together, so I had better do my best to sort out the hiccups that occurred at the start of the month.  The grapes do look in good shape, so as always fingers are crossed for an awesome series of wines from the very dry 2023 vintage.

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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