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Monthly Report - April 2024

Emotional Damage…

 

The time off afforded in autumn post vintage is a blessed relief.  For weeks and weeks on end there has been this tether between me and the vines, and that is released at the end of vintage, and it gives you that breath out.  But this year, for all the speed of vintage and the reduced tonnages, that sense of relief has not been available as the weather of dry clear blue skies continue unabated.

202404_Hamelin Bay.jpg

Another day in Paradise – this time Hamelin Bay, April 2024

This lack of rainfall has meant for the first time in 17 years our very large rain tank for the house had nearly run dry – and this forms its own stress as we were not orphans in this lack of stored water.  By 18 April we were down to our last 2 corrugations of the tank – by my estimations about 8-10,000 litres and the weather apps were indicating no rainfall for a fortnight.  We may or may not get through to the first rains, so a call was made for a water delivery from the resident delivery man – three weeks was the wait; not ideal one could say.  A couple of opportunists had also popped up as water delivery providers and yes they could deliver but it was expensive, so stupid money was paid, 7,000 litres delivered, and an element of concern slightly reduced but we still sat close to the edge, and it is not nice.

 

With the vintage put to bed we have had a few folk come through the estate for tastings by appointment, and for one of our regular customers we dropped in to Fraser Gallop Estate to show them some of our wines in barrel as well as to taste-test the 2022 Deux Écus with the wine making team.  I will return to the wines in a little while as this matches in with our release of the 2022 Reserves this month, but Clive our wine maker did make an interesting discussion about how we have seen major vintage variations in the past and he referenced the 2006 vintage which was the opposite of this vintage by being very cool.  I remembered 2006 very clearly, it was a lot of work, but while standing there I thought “Just how cold was it against the averages?”.  So, I did a bit of number crunching and below is a graph with the hot 2024 vintage, the cool 2006 vintage, and the regional average for the past 20 years (the overall average is a degree or so cooler, but this provides an average closer to our current climate):

202404_2006 vs 2024.jpg

Looking at the top line which represents the 2024 on the graph, you can see how it was in excess of the average each and every month (May is an estimate based on the first week of weather) – with November >5°C above the average.  The 2006 vintage was the polar opposite with December >5°C below the average BUT during February and March in 2006 the weather warmed to a point where grapes were able to be harvested much later but with some chance of making solid wines (however small).  Yes Clive does have a point that we do see climate extremes, however, I still contend that no vintage from Margaret River has ever been so extreme as the past vintage and when you add in the complete absence of rainfall for 7 months, it does give you a shiver up the spine if it was to be repeated.

 

Back to the vineyard.  It is just dry dry dry.  Poor vines are in recess but no real relief as the dry subsoil has limited the root activity which at this time of year is getting energy fed back down into the ground for root growth and storage.  So, all in stasis as we await the first major falls to kick start our wetter and cooler months.

 

Reserve a Case or Deux…

 

There are two important releases during the annual cycle of Blue Poles.  One is the release of the Allouran, our wine that represents the vineyard and the vintages most accurately; and the second is the release of the Reserves – our selections that highlight the varieties in their best light.  As you may remember we did not release any 2021 Reserve wines last year due to the more difficult vintage in 2021 and our desire to ensure that the Allouran was excellent, and keeping to the level we have set.  In 2022 we did have an overall excellent vintage, recovering from the Covid shut downs and relative isolation, the vintage was solid and gave us great hope for some excellent wines.

 

This has proved to be the case, with Reserves selected from the 2022 vintage’s barrels and from within these selections our most iconic wine was formed, the Deux Écus - a Reserve styled blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  As this wine is unique with only two vintages of this wine in the 20 odd years of operation, as well as an exceptional pair of Reserve wines, we did have an en primeur campaign and about half of the Deux Écus and Reserve Cabernet Franc were pre-sold to the Mailing List.

2022 Reserve Wines

This leads us into the general release of the balance of the Deux Écus and Reserve Cabernet Franc, as well as the beautiful Reserve Merlot which is a fantastic wine in its own right.  During May-June we will be completing the release of all of these three wines – knowing that the wines are limited post the en primeur campaign, there will be some restrictions as we do not wish to limit the spread of comrades who get to try these exceptional wines.  The notes from the tasting of these wines during the initial releases and more recently are as below:

 

2022 Blue Poles Reserve Allouran “Deux Écus” – 14.1% Alc

“Inky plum essence coats the glass and reveals a deep deep “red” resonating in the glass.  The aromas are not singularities, but of woven scents – plum and blackberry, cedar and star anise, richness and svelte sweeping above the rim.  First sip gives a guiding light for the others to follow, building and building a wealth of flavour before giving into a length that lingers with an intensity only encountered in the finest of wines.  Our vines produced this opus – I could not be more happy.”

 

2022 Blue Poles Reserve Cabernet Franc – 13.8% Alc

“Black set plum red settles in the glass.  Big glasses are an essential component of making this superb wine sublime as the aroma is 11/10 with huge lifts of fresh raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, and floral potpourri / violets taking over the room.  A wine with Damascus edged balance, creating width and length through the palate and giving in to a raspberry length that adds to the completeness of the wine.  Delicious.”

 

2022 Blue Poles Reserve Merlot – 14.3% Alc

“Deeply coloured wine sparkling a cherry hue on the rim.  Such an aromatic wine for our Merlot, contriving an array of fruits (blueberry, plum, redcurrant, fig) ensuring a deep red core with what appears to be a complex coating of nutmeg, tannin and oak.  What a palate – such fresh fruit density and balance for a young wine, singing out the perfect growing season having preserved the richness and idyll of the grapes.  So very exciting.”

 

It is almost too easy to get excited about these wines.  We have forwarded off the change-over stock from the bottling of these wines and we are already receiving emails back saying how good these wines are, and their enthusiasm for the upcoming releases (Shiraz included!).  So dear comrades, we hope you have the capacity to share in this bounty with us, we will be releasing these wines soon to the Mailing List and we do not expect the wines to last long knowing how little remains to be sold.

 

For those in Perth we will have all of the new Reserve wines available for tasting at two events promoted by Old Bridge Cellars from 4pm-7pm on the following dates:

  • 23 May – Como Old Bridge Cellars, 461 Canning Hwy

  • 24 May – North Freo Old Bridge Cellars, 221 Queen Victoria St

 

I will also have a Deux Écus under the table – so you will need to provide me with a secret “St-Emilion” signal and a pour will be forthcoming.  Should be a great couple of nights and it is always a pleasure working with Aly, Justin, Jay and the team at OBC.

Expect to see this cool guy serving out top booze at Old Bridge Cellars…

What to do…

 

I am a bit out of sorts when it comes to the topic this month.  I did write about two topics and then deleted them in a pique of “yeah, nah”.  The topics were about the Australian First Families of Wine (what has happened to them after the blitz of promotion in 2020?), and a discussion on Jancis Robinson’s foray into the world of videos, discussing wine myths and etiquette (and the like) … my dissertations were as dull as day old bath water.  Blah.

 

And I guess this is where the wine industry is at a bit at the moment as well.  What is the most interesting thing going on out there?  We have had the 100 year war with the screwcaps and cork debates – every now and again it is resurrected but for no real reason, no one cares.  If you are using one or either, the customer just assumes you have your reasons and moves on.  As for the guerrilla insurgency of the natural wine makers into the fortified barricades of the “industrial wine complex” – they turned up, both sides made a big noise and now just set up shop next to each other and seeking some sort of harmony (… in this period of armistice you will hear one of the funniest lines from the hard core “naturalistes” in that “We make fine wine too” being whined out loud with a genuine expectation that they will receive some sort of pat on the back … of course you do dear, of course you do).

 

Drama has left the building.

 

From past experience, it is not worth making drama as it just is a waste of energy within a sector that has the lightest touch on the population’s psyche.  The everlasting Norse saga of “this $30 bottle scores better than this $1,000 bottle” is like annual elections, always rolling around in our click bait world whether we want it or not.  To spend money promoting wine in the form of advertisements in the old forms of media is like burning money in a wood fired oven – it literally does absolutely nothing (not even cook the pizza), and it is only direct contacts, word of mouth, and “buzz” for a word that makes your sales pop.  Wine is hiding in direct view, and all and sundry are walking past without much, if any concern.

 

So, perplexed am I.  What is there left in this huge world of wine to crack open and have a deeper look inside of?  This will be my homework for May, so I will do my best to find some topic we can all get our teeth in to after we have put our thinking caps on.  I must find my inner neoteny for wine once more, regain that inquisitiveness which is currently distracted with life.

 

Dry as a Dingo’s D...

 

It was so disheartening this month I almost forgot we were meant to be delighted with the lovely blue skies and endless summer that many were praising with gusto.  The queue of water trucks lined up at the council’s water point and the extortionate amount being charged for its delivery was a feature of the month for the local farmers and vignerons.  The numbers below are self-explanatory, and the whining above provides the backdrop to what has been an incredible seven months of weather.

 

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

April 2024:        

Avg Maximum Temp          25.9°C

Daily Max recorded            32.0°C

 

Avg Minimum Temp           10.1°C

Daily Min recorded               5.0°C

 

Rainfall:                                1.6mm

The average maximum temperature average was much higher than in 2023 with the minimum temperatures quite similar.  Rainfall total for 2024 is negligible with a solid month of rain in 2023.

April 2023:        

Avg Maximum Temp           21.1°C

Daily Max recorded             26.5°C

 

Avg Minimum Temp           10.4°C

Daily Min recorded               4.6°C

 

Rainfall:                              123.4mm

Water Prayers…

 

May there be rain and buckets and buckets of it.  I will be happy to work in it, slosh about in flooded paddocks and even clean out a drainage pipe or two – just drop some of that lovely sky juice upon our heads in the southwest please.  Everything else will be quiet in the vines, with only a small chance that I may prune the Chardonnay at the end of the month.

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.

Cheers

 

 

Mark Gifford

Blue Poles Vineyard

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