Monthly Report - June 2011
Pruning starts in earnest …
It is cold and it is wet, and long may it continue. The change of seasons is such a critical path for the vineyards development that without this marked change up of temperature and rainfall then really I have planted the wrong crop. Vines need to follow a path of slowly going into a phase of root development post the vintage, as the energy built up in the canopy during a growing season is passed back down the vine and into “storage”. This store of goodness kick starts the vine during spring and pushes the growth out quickly so as to then capture the sunlight and heat with a broad canopy early on – like a weed it is trying to out compete all other deciduous trees for light and moisture (you must remember that vitus vinifera was a forest vine that used larger trees for support as it climbed to the light). Pruning of vines is really the harnessing and focusing of the vines stored energy and driving growth from specific buds, carefully set.
Enough, I here you say! What have you been doing and why are you late again with this epistle of egomania? Alas I have been out and about again and working away from the vines I love, but I am back, not quite totally chipper or cherry pie but getting there, and preparing for a very busy month.
June saw the Shiraz vines pruned and prepared for the New Year – the growth continues to become more balanced in the Shiraz vines and the wine produced this year from the vines is really interesting and complex. We can not make high alcohol, high extract, high every-damn-thing Shiraz’s on our vineyard, we can simply make an elegant style with all the elements not trying to out compete each other but rather complement each other. The 2011 Shiraz appears to have found a nice piece of middle ground, and I am extremely pleased with this wine and I am very hopeful that it creates a bit of noise when released as those who enjoy Shiraz from the northern Rhone Valley may start to see similarities in everything except price.
A few reviews of the 2008 Allouran found their way out into the public sphere – and they were cracking. Just a word to the wise, if you are reading this and are not on our email list, contact us ASAP as we will be releasing the 2008 Allouran to the mailing list and we will have the “deal of the decade” presented with this wine. As it was 10 years ago that we started this folly of developing a vineyard based upon research and appreciation of what it would take to make a “great” wine – and I personally believe that the 2008 Allouran is our peak to date and we would love to share this with all our friends and clients who have made the journey that much more exciting.
Winemaker extraordinaire Dave Johnson
Next Big Thing…
As a society we are obsessed by the “Next Big Thing” – I will call it NBT for short – it seems to dominate the news and media outlets like no other. I blame reality television as it presented itself as the NBT very early on – I mean do you remember Big Brother and all that carry on? Yep, it was damn dire – but it will not go away as every nuance is squeezed out of every reality show to try and be the NBT. As we try and put our heads under pillows (into gas ovens?), to avoid further Masterchef or Dancing with the Stars exposés it has come to my attention that the Australian Wine Industry is rattling the chain of the NBT and it is unnerving.
I am sure dear readers you are more than aware of the rise and rise of NZ Sauvignon Blanc throughout the wine retailing world. Of course the average Australian can not remember a time before this so I will go back to the deep dark history of the 1990’s and 1980’s and remind you of past dalliances with our most popular wines.
In the 1980’s it was simply reds from South Australia – the power of Wolf Blass, Jacobs Creek and Penfold’s wines was astounding, and in their wake were 100’s of labels that made wines in similar styles and quantities. I even remember my father putting on annual “duck dinners” where the wine of the night was always Jacobs Creek Shiraz – festooned with medals on every corner of the label (that is why we KNEW it was good). As for white wines of the period, big fat oaky chardonnays filled the ice buckets – a less food friendly wine I doubt you could find, but it was loved for its huge blousy flavors.
Well the 1990’s arrived and the might of Cabernet Sauvignon pushed against the wall of South Australian Shiraz and Coonawarra / Margaret River started to gain ground, as well as various leaner white styles (Unoaked Chardonnay / Semillon) started to find a foot hold. But as you can see, it has all started to splinter, it was like the reality of our wine country – we have a myriad of styles from a myriad of climates and they were all now clambering for attention.
BOOM! In walks NZ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and that is all she wrote folks. A NBT must have no questions that can not be easily answered, it must be as consistent as granite, and it does not need promotion – its price is its party trick. Thus while Australia went through a phase of believing that their wines were deserving of $100 price tags, and anything under $20 / bottle matched “goon in a box” quality wise the industry deserved to be smacked in the chops. To be honest the price of wine in Margaret River for a standard Sem/Sauv Blanc and a Cabernet Sauvignon I believe has only risen $4-5/bottle since 1988!!! This is solely due to the increasing size of the wine crush and the realisation that no-one will purchase a bottle of your wine if you are priced 2-3x more than supermarket equivalents.
So with this foreign power ruling the roost, the average quality of Australian wine has improved dramatically in the push to beat their enemies by quality alone. This has been a boon to the wine drinkers out there who can spot the difference between lighter fluid and Latour, and there are some amazing bargains to be had, as prices are not commensurate with the quality they are getting at all, and the costs to the wineries who are trying their hardest to compete. BUT – we have to find the NBT, because we just do. Almost every commentator and wine association has passed a comment on this as they want Aussies to buy Aussie wine, by the container load.
Well folks – it ain’t going to happen. There is no such thing and the NBT in Australian wine is a mirage. I will explain this very carefully as you will still hear plaintive bleats about the NBT for months if not years to come, but you can relax knowing the truth of the matter will never change. So here we go:
Price: The NBT must be cheap but good – and in the price ranges of $10-15 where the NBT stakes its ground most Australian varieties can not match this value. Everyone forgets how expensive it is to live in this country and thus how expensive labor is – we simply can not compete without reducing quality, and factory wines will not be the NBT.
Variety: You can only have one in the NBT – it is too confusing to have any more when dealing with the majority of the buyers of the NBT. As wine lovers we all assume everyone likes to know the detail about the wines they are drinking. Oh you could not be more wrong – make it simple and the Western Suburbs will love you for it.
Availability: It needs to be in the liquor barns in QUANTITY. Now while these retail barns are controlled by the big two wine producers in Australia, they are effectively the owners of the potential Aussie NBT. But the NBT must be seen to be individualistic as well (there are 50 NZ Sauv Blanc labels), and our big two will not allow the Aussie competition in the door. No Range – No Quantity – No NBT.
So the question has to be asked, why is everyone in the industry in a lather about the NBT?
I’ll tell you why, it is because they are a bit simple. We are talking about marketing 101 appreciations to an industry that has splintered into a million pieces. It is bull dust to refer to Australia’s total crush each year, as 60-70% fills goon bags, but they do. It is bull dust to talk up one grape's volume over another as 60-70% still fills goon bags, but they do. The wine industry of Australia is approaching a cross roads – if they want relevance, stop quoting rubbish and talking up the ridiculous. A path forward is to cull vines that provide the source of poor wine and create cheap alcohol that will tarnish the industry with its violent brush – and to do that, support a volumetric tax on alcohol. But while the big “two” in Treasury and Constellation pay most of the bills, this is not going to happen.
Wine as a product is a very difficult one to shoehorn into any particular box – but it continues to be pushed and prodded. My advice to the wine industry? Step back from the plate, have a look around and RECOGNISE where our industry is at, promote the positives, and move away from supporting cheap alcohol. If this is not done then the industry is in for a tough road ahead, as we show no initiative or soul, and at the end of the day that is exactly what is needed.
Winter is here...
Consistent cool and wet days finished the month after 9 days of dry weather in early June. A number of frontal systems went through the south west, with the later fronts shedding showers for a few days post each event – this brought the rainfall up for the month and this can only be a good thing.
The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:
Avg Maximum Temp 17.8°C
Daily Max recorded 20.4°C
Avg Minimum Temp 9.5°C
Daily Min recorded 2.3°C
The maximum and minimum temperature ranges are slightly warmer in comparison to last years and this can be explained by the cold cloudless days encountered in 2010. Rainfall is much higher and this provides us with a platform for good aquifer and dam recharge if we continue to have good rainfalls through July and August.
Avg Maximum Temp 17.3°C
Daily Max recorded 20.1°C
Avg Minimum Temp 7.1°C
Daily Min recorded -0.7°C
Out amongst it …
Yep, pruning is the reason for the season. A lot to do, but it is an enjoyable pursuit if you like that sort of thing, and fortunately I do. I promise to stay at home this month and have a quiet few weeks before I am off again. As I stated early on, if you are not already on our email list, join NOW as there will be a celebratory release coming up this month and I would hate anyone who loves good wine and good times to miss out.
As always if you have any queries about what’s been written or about wine in general, do not hesitate to contact us either by email or www.twitter.com/bluepoles and we’ll do our very best to answer any question.
Blue Poles Vineyard