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Monthly Report - May 2023

Locked Gates…


Less of a clunk, more of a groan as the gates of the region’s vineyards are closed during this short recess between vintage and pruning.  You may also have noticed as the gates close; wineries and wine makers gain wings and scoot off to the big smoke to take time promoting and presenting their wines to the various retailers and restaurants – it also gives us all an excuse to fine dine it up as well.  We personally did not take up the opportunity to book ourselves into a hotel and the retailer schedules this year, the release of the Chardonnay, work abroad and preparing for the 2020 Allouran release all took precedence.


So, what happens in May to make this vigneron busy?  Well, the shed had a good old clean up with nets stacked in order and pump given a wash as it now has a few months off.  Some of the broken wires in the vineyard were removed and disposed of with another of those jobs coming up of setting a number of new foliage wires.  Still have a pile of steels from the trellising in the vineyard to replace as the dry weather put a hold on that until the ground gets soft (it is hard enough by yourself to complete, let alone having to spend 5 minutes working out for each steel while whacking it in).


Jack is now less of a puppy, more of a truculent teenager – loves his early morning run though

A run through of all the wines in barrel was also completed, and for all of the delays and hand wringing that the 2023 vintage entailed, it is very apparent that the wines are very very good.  Much more colour in the reds with the extended season, tannins are exceptional restrained and filling, acid retention from this cooler year has meant the length of the wine is astounding, and all the wines are showing significant rich fruit forward flavours.  It will be a good vintage and by the temperatures and rainfall averages the closest vintage to it is 2018, but by looking for a cooler spring and warmer summer the closest vintage is 2010 and that brings a smile to my lips as those wines were exceptional.


Also, in May we have had my mother make a pilgrimage to the vineyard to spend a month away from poor old flood strewn New Zealand which really has been in the weather wars.  It is always good to have Mum around and to be able to have an excuse to have dessert and a few games of crib – she is a bit of a lucky cards’ player, but she swears it is all skill.


As mentioned, we did release the delicious 2022 Chardonnay and it is now available on our website.  Feedback to date has been really positive and we enjoy hearing from comrades who have drunk our wines and would like to comment – we do reply to all queries pretty quickly as that is how Tim and I have been raised, we also eat our greens and do not talk to strangers.


The Gary Walsh review was a cracker:


2022 Blue Poles Chardonnay – 12.8% Alc

“You’d expect Osmington to be a good site for Chardonnay, and so it seems to be turning out. The Chardonnay was grafted on to Shiraz vines in 2019 (good move!). There’s a year on year improvement with this grape variety, and I reckon this is the best one to date, albeit there’s only been three of them.

Peach and pink grapefruit, a creamy nougat gloss, mint tea, wheatgerm, cedar and spice. It’s juicy and flavoursome, but has a core of bright acidity, cashew creaminess, some flinty texture, and a long kind of sunshiny Chardonnay finish. Maybe a little lemon zest in the mix too, and gee, it’s a lovely thing to drink. The balance is excellent. Highly recommended.” 94pts GW

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Forwarded by Comrade Chris – pleased with his evening tipple

2020 Allouran and 2020 Reserve Merlot


These wines will be released to all very soon.  What a pair of really lovely red wines – still in their infancy but they have all the hallmarks of the best versions of their lineage, with the Allouran now becoming our signature wine.  We have upgraded the label to the wraparound style, played around with the images and fonts, and made it feel a bit more complete as a label – it may seem a bit pretentious in some ways, but the presentation of the wines you drink should be part of the experience and Tim and I are immensely proud of our wines and what they offer so we felt it was time for an upgrade.


Reviews from Gary Walsh at WineFront for both wines were extremely positive and mimicked much of our take and descriptors of the wines as well.  These reviews are as per below:


2020 Blue Poles Allouran – 13.4% Alc

“Here’s a charming iteration of Allouran. It’s medium-bodied, a lovely crunch and freshness to it, boysenberry and raspberry, cedar and tobacco, with a nice bit of perfume too. Redcurrant and a smattering of dried herb, some black olive savoury stuff, light chalky feel to tannin, and a bright finish of crispness and good length. It’s understated in a positive way, though it does build up somewhat with time in glass.” 94pts GW


2020 Blue Poles Reserve Merlot – 13.4% Alc

“A pleasing spectrum of fruit colour here – blue and red mainly – with a little cocoa and baking spice, and subtle bay leaf and mint top note. It’s medium-bodied, fresh and lively, cranberry acidity, some tobacco in the mix, a bit of graphite tannin, and crisp finish of solid length. It’s light but charming, and I reckon it will do well with some time in the cellar.” 93+pts GW


Some of you did take up the en primeur offer from earlier in the year (prior to the reviews – you did very well!), and your wines will be on their way very shortly.  For those who would like to top up or now newly purchase at a reduced cost from the registered price, everyone will receive an initial offer email shortly.


Prices have risen for the first time in 10 years, as it was just not possible to maintain these wines at the prices we were setting.  Clive our winemaker always points his finger at me and says the wines are way too cheap, and he may have a point, but we want to maintain the good faith we have with all our comrades and not leave anyone behind when wines are released.



Shaking the tree…


Right now, I am sitting at a table within the walled compound of a catholic convent and church within the very remote town of Liparamba in Tanzania.  My accommodation is costing me $1 per day and I am here to help set up some exploration work within a nickel project in this remote corner of the country.  Each morning I am woken by bells ringing at 6.30am as the African nuns and priests all begin their day of service and worship.


Limited access to the internet.  Power available for a few hours a day.  No running water.  Limited phone service.  And I am the first ever Mzungu (white guy) to stay in the township apparently.  So just a head’s up – this topic is literally just being winged and tapped away in the candlelight.  Any major errors come from the fact I am getting a bit old to remember everything – most things – damn it, many things.


My African monastic life – well for a week


Last month I prattled on about how “big alcohol” rants and raves about reduced drinking among X% of the population and how we should be trying to eradicate this heresy – regardless of the cost to society.  I called out BS knowing full well that I sit within the industry that is trying to help me move our wines (well not “our” wines, but you know what I mean).  So, what is a solution that makes sense to the communities in which we live without being too restrictive and not recognizing the pleasure that the industry can provide?


Wine Australia had a large meeting recently to address the needs of the industry and all of the industrial complexes that form the problems that we are facing were there in force.  If not in the majority.  You see, wine to these guys is simply a sack of wheat in which you can raise and lower the charges based on whatever hype you can build up for the product.  And it makes sort of sense as most wine purchased comes in well under $20/bottle and often less than $10/liter.  For every Grange that Treasury pumps out, there is a 100 bottles of generic booze living off the brand names of “goon” that comes from the overcropped, overwatered heartland of southeast Australia.  For every story that comes with the Penfolds chief wine maker sitting on a barrel and parading the positives of the winery’s history and culture, note that there will be a 500,000l tank in the background being emptied into plastic bags or cheap bottles to underpin this puff piece.


Knowing full well that alcohol in all its forms is in many ways just another drug that society has accepted is not nice to hear.  Prohibition is touted by the boys and girls of medical associations quite often, as they see the ramifications of an easy access drug – their solution is medieval and fanciful as even they cannot be silly enough to not know that making alcohol is one of the simplest tasks in the world.  You do not need to be Walter White from Breaking Bad to be able to get your alcohol fix – thus the silliness of the campaign boggles the mind.

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What to do?  How can we balance this weighty wheel of booze for the masses and fine liquor for the intelligentsia?  There seems only two sticks to wield – restrictions or expenditures.


With restrictions you are basically going to put it to the people that you simply cannot buy volumes of alcohol.  I do not believe it could work as targeting wine bags will also target purchases of multiple bottles, and for those of us who purchase a dozen wines to cellar we would be caught up in this assumption we are simply drinking it all the following night – regardless on how many photos of your wine fridge you send to the authorities.  And to be honest, I am not really into the meddling of governments into such areas as what you own alcohol wise – both my friends and I would be in a huge chunk of trouble trying to explain why we have over 100 bottles of whisky in the house, let alone the 50 dozen wines!!


Expenditure is the other side of the coin – make it so expensive so as to make drinking the equivalent of being a pack-a-day smoker.  It then just demarcates all alcohol into the haves and the have nots – and the whole “make it yourself” marketplace now becomes an obvious answer to many people’s quest for a glass of beer.  This is where my thinking moves off the line in the sand – we have to find a way to weight the price of alcohol and we now all end up back to the table that was set years ago but no one ever sat down and treated it with any respect.


Alcohol is the drug.  Charge everyone equally for the price of the alcohol that is contained in any bag, bottle, flask or tank.  Nail it down and make that the gold standard for our society to consider.


The reason why no one will take up this option in government is because cheap “alcohol” used for immediate consumption would be damn expensive – much like comparing the price of cigarettes from the 90’s to the present.  Who is out there fighting for the smoker?  Therefore, why are we so keen to fight for the functioning alcoholics?  The price of bottles of wine over $20 will basically stay the same (very expensive bottles will actually be able to become much cheaper – but I would not count on this eventuality), same for the price of good spirits and beers – but oh the costs of cheap wines, beers and spirits will basically be at the same level as their fine product counterparts and over time how could they possibly compete with the finer products?  Allouran or Jacob’s Creek anyone?


It is time to shake the tree again.  Time to reset the argument on alcohol before it is reset for us by the wowsers or the suited reptilian industry delinquents.



Brakes come on...


It is very difficult being a farmer at times – for us growing vines we have all the vagaries of weather to deal with during the spring and summer months, but for the beef, sheep and dairy farmers of the region, autumn and winter is key for grass growth, and this May has been hopeless.  Last month we had lots of rain, ensuring the season was well and truly broken, but during May we have had very little weather coming through with little drizzle, mizzle, or feechie.  Many clear days and quite cool nights holding back the grass growth and not allowing all the fertilizer and seeds spread to be taken up and sprung forth.


Quite a lovely month for us vignerons, quite an average month for our farming contemporaries.  The numbers for this month and last year’s figures are provided below:


May 2023:        

Avg Maximum Temp          19.4°C

Daily Max recorded            23.9°C


Avg Minimum Temp             8.7°C

Daily Min recorded               1.8°C


Rainfall:                               51.4mm

The average maximum temperature was slightly higher and minimum temperature was the same in comparison to the 2022 values.  The rainfall total for 2023 however is much lower than in 2022, causing a delay in grass growth and groundwater refilling.

May 2022:        

Avg Maximum Temp           19.1°C

Daily Max recorded             24.2°C


Avg Minimum Temp            8.7°C

Daily Min recorded              3.8°C


Rainfall:                                130.4mm

And it begins…


That one job that both excites and overwhelms you at the same time each year - pruning.  Yes, it begins for another season.  Chardonnay gets its hair cut first, then onto the Merlot and Marsanne then the homeward straight of the Shiraz and Cabernet Franc.  August / September is the point of closure, so do not expect much excitement in this last paragraph of each report – it will be just me giving you updates and me moaning away like Myrtle.

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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