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Monthly Report - June 2023

Moving along…


Which is a hard thing to do with it being so cold in the vineyard this month.  Very difficult to get excited to head out pruning when it is about 5°C apparent temperature, wind from the south and your woolie beanie is getting wetter and wetter.  But this is a must do, so you do your best to muster up some enthusiasm and crack on.

The vineyard is always a bit of a ghost town when walking around in winter.  You feel the energy has left the building and it is a strange sensation to be working in this very quiet and sterile feeling environment.  Great for head clearing though – thinking through all sorts of twists and turns with half ideas does provide a great sense of clarity, if not much binning of silly concepts.


I did spend the start of the month in Tanzania and upon my return I had a day or so sitting in the warehouse packing out all of the En Primeur and Release wines that the mailing list took up a few months back.  So many cases – transferring pallets from one side to the other, but this time with a label and fragile logoed packing tape (not that this helps much in some cases – a number of broken returns which is super annoying).  Having hand delivered our wines for almost two decades now, I do always get that twinge of recognition on so many names and addresses – and also having met a good number of you, I can also place a number of faces – a very large number of comrades form the core of our supporters which is great.


Nothing much else to report comrades – Clive our winemaker did have some surgery on his eyes, pirate patch and all, so he is all set for another 20 years.  Some heart break with my Chiefs rugby team losing a final in the Super Rugby Championship – they had a very good season so I cannot complain – but one more win would have been oh so sweet.  Jack has had a gate installed at the head of our driveway which has had a roscidating effect upon his wandering with all the exciting ideas he has had in the past causing us much consternation, thus sweet sweet relief for Marjory and I.


2020 Allouran and 2020 Reserve Merlot

All released and with the 2022 Chardonnay, they have sold really well.  Reserve Merlot and Chardonnay are still in stock but getting low so I would not hesitate if you would like some more (especially the Chardonnay – 94pts from the Chardonnay Master® Gary Walsh who even had the temerity to note that in the future this could be our best wine, I would consider the better framing to be “it may become one of our best wines”!).


As far as I am aware the discount promo codes are all still active (Ed. they sure are!), so take advantage while you can.  If you were one of the En Primeur group that ordered a mixed 6-pack – crack one of each and just confirm that these wines are worth stocking up on and get a top up – you will never regret it as deliciousness is always in fashion.


Expensive Experience…

What are we meant to think?  When I heard the news about the Titanic viewing submersible being lost with billionaires on board, and the follow up stories which had two themes – cost (US$250,000 each apparently), and how long they could survive (4 days was the window according to OceanGate the operators) – I was intrigued but not overly interested.  But this story had legs like the Thailand Boys Soccer team trapped in the caves and it grew and grew due to the apparent cavalier attitude held by the OceanGate company themselves for both safety and staffing, as well as the ticking clock.  The company reached out to the US Coast Guard in quite a heavy-handed fashion, which set off all the groups stating the obvious – it was no-one’s responsibility but themselves.  But lives… you know.

By now you are all aware that the submersible imploded under the pressure of the deep waters it was traversing, causing a tragic catastrophic crush killing all 5 passengers instantly.  This apparently happened early on; the ticking clock was all an illusion and not a window of opportunity for a miraculous escape.  So why my fascination with the unfortunate events in the North Atlantic for some wealthy elites?


Because this connection between experience and price is now a universal constant.  It plays a significant role in all of our decision making and our purchasing habits as well.  The clickbait provided in this media frenzy was as much the fascination of the riskiness of it all, but the cost associated with having that experience.  “Imagine dropping a quarter of a million to be in a dodgy tin-can to see the wreck of the Titanic at 3800m down” – would have resonated with many on the simple grounds that the sum of money discussed here could be life changing – and it was being spent on what appears to be something so frivolous.


We have just released our latest versions of our Allouran and Reserve Merlot, and last month we released the Chardonnay – all between $35 and $50.  To my frame of mind, these prices are mid-range to expensive in their pricing.  It is a price that makes sense when placing your wines amongst equivalents within Margaret River and Australia, as they may be slightly cheaper with regards to their high quality, they are not very far away from the market “averages” – thus can be seen as excellent value, which we hope pushes sales.


And this is where I find the disconnect.


For everyone who buys wine to cellar and drink over time, they combine price with the experience they hope to have.  Prestige for a word is a significant component of your purchasing choices and your anticipated experience.  You are obliged to pay well above the “odds” for prestige in wines and almost any luxury goods and this is where real wealth, moderate wealth and minimal wealth are flung to the far corners of the wine spectrum.


I have not looked at Bordeaux En Primeur prices for years, Tim has bought a few bottles every now and again, and I did chip in for 3 of each of a few Pomerol and Saint-Emilion bottles – nothing crazy, $80-120 each sort of bracket.  But while thinking about this topic I logged into a few sites selling 2022 Bordeaux En Primeur wines and I nearly fainted – second wines from 3rd and 4th growths north of $400/ bottle, all 1st Growths in excess of $1600/ bottle and Ch. Petrus, when I did find it, was estimated to be $6000/ bottle.  How can it all be placed on a scale of quality and price without noting that it has nothing to do with either – it is simply the prestige of owning those bottles, be they drunk with coca cola or not, they have simply become a plaything of the very very wealthy.

I guess maintaining the estate can be expensive – Ch. Margaux


Now Australia is not immune from prestige pricing either – Grange and Hill of Grace are approaching if not breaching $1000/bottle, and even here in little Margaret River we have our own version of this totem type wine in Cullen’s “Vanya” rendition selling for $650/bottle.


My question to you dear comrade – is any wine worth that much?


I am not talking about the price to quality ratio – we all know that this gets blown away by diminishing returns quite early on.  But I am more interested in how an agricultural product that is not particularly limited (Ch. Margaux for example produces 150,000 bottles of their first wine annually, Grange has about 70,000 bottles), can reach such dizzy heights and across such a large number of estates and wines.  By having these end members dominate the discussion on wine and wine quality, we forget the important fact that many of these wines could not be drunk by those who are in the industry itself, let alone those who have a deep desire to do so through interest or curiosity.


Prestige pricing has made many wines “unicorns”, even though there are millions of bottles available.  The purchasing of the “prestigious” wines is almost solely for those who sit outside of the financial bell curve – thus the influence of these wines on the industry itself surprisingly becomes less, if not irrelevant.  Can any winery stand up and say “our wines are the equivalent of Chateau Cheval Blanc” – who is going to argue?  As basically no-one outside of the owners and employees have tasted “Cheval” regularly in a normal setting for decades.


Experiencing high quality wines is a real thrill when one has reached a point in their own wine journey to appreciate what they are drinking.  Like driving a racing car, it is not a normal commuter drive, and it is not convenient or cheap – it is just the pleasure attained from this moment in time.  I have been fortunate to have tasted a number of beautiful expensive and prestigious wines – they have provided some clarity in my perspective on how I would wish Blue Poles wines to move towards – but they were fleeting moments.

Mid-week Sippers

If you are able to afford these wine unicorns, you are very lucky.  In the past I may have been slightly jealous or envious, but not anymore.  To those that open those bottles, they are opening an experience and not a bottle of wine as such; because of this we hope that it matches the expectations hoped for as there are no markers in the field for you to relate to on many occasions.  Enjoy your expensive experience…


PS: Gawd, I hope it is not corked…



The weather patterns are always moving and swirling through what appears to be a general window of expectations.  January and February are hotter than December for summer for example, as well as July and August are colder than June.  But oh my, we did not just get the shortest day of the year, but we have also had a run of very cold days bringing the maximums and minimums down to record lows.  On top of this we have had a wet month, which is often not associated with the coldest months as they often require clear days, not cloud cover holding some remnant heat in.  So, after a dry month slowing grass growth, the cold weather for this month has provided a similar outcome – this is why most farmers find it hard not to complain just a little.


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


June 2023:        

Avg Maximum Temp          15.3°C

Daily Max recorded            18.2°C


Avg Minimum Temp             6.7°C

Daily Min recorded               0.8°C


Rainfall:                                210.2mm

The average maximum and minimum temperatures were much lower in comparison to the 2022 values.  The rainfall total for 2023 however was a touch higher than in 2022, with good totals during June for both years.

June 2022:        

Avg Maximum Temp           16.7°C

Daily Max recorded             19.8°C


Avg Minimum Temp            8.9°C

Daily Min recorded              2.8°C


Rainfall:                                193.0mm

And it continues…


Pruning, pruning, pruning.  But this month does have a quick trip into the Philippines with Marjory – first time back in 4 years for me so it is bound to have changed a bit, and to end the month we will be off to Perth for a couple of tasting events at Old Bridge Cellars – 27 July at the Como Store, and 28 July at the North Fremantle store – always fun with Jay and Aly.

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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