Blue Poles Vineyard
Break of season…
I am sitting here typing this while it is blowing a gale and raining outside as the third major cold frontal system for the month of April passes over our south-west corner of WA. The end of summer and the dry start to autumn which is so characteristic of Margaret River is well and truly passed and we now sit in anticipation of the rain and cool of winter. This month has been one of odd jobs and tasks that were driven by the results of the vintage such that there is not much to report vineyard wise (… unless you are very keen to find out about our weed spraying and organic fertilizer spreading, we may give it a miss). This month I will present some of the climatic data for the vintage months and also use some of the data I have managed to obtain from Bordeaux for comparative reasons. The reason I am using Bordeaux data rather than Rhone, Champagne, Burgundy etc is because our maritime climate best resembles that of Bordeaux and it provides the greatest link with regards to our Merlot and Cabernet Franc which we tend in the vineyard.
Below is a graph that has the average maximum temperatures for 3 vintages of Margaret River (2001, 2006, 2007), and 2 vintages of Bordeaux (2005, 2006). I have used the 2001 Margaret River data simply because 2001 was regarded as one of the regions finest red wine vintages, and the same could be said of the 2005 Bordeaux data.
On the graph above I draw your attention to the vintages of 2001/2007 Margaret River (MR) and 2005 Bordeaux (Bdx). The 2001 MR vintage (dark blue), shows an extremely even growing season and quite cool maximums going into March and April, this combined with low rainfall (see next section) meant that the red grapes were picked in late March / mid April in the peak of condition. The 2007 MR vintage (bright blue), shows a much warmer season on average but importantly without the heat spikes of February and March that is common to the region, the heat of spring brought many of the varieties forward and this meant that we encountered the earliest ripening season ever recorded in the region. Bordeaux in 2005 (green) shows a slightly different pattern, a cooler start to spring, early summer heat during veraison and a cool finish to the season – all combining to generate an early vintage and much acclaimed wines. Where 2007 MR and 2005 Bdx correlate so well is in sunlight hours and hours above 20°C, which are nearly identical over the growing period. This bodes well and implies that 2007 MR from the maximum temperatures has the opportunity to make fine wine.
Points of interest with regards to the less regarded vintages of 2006 MR and 2006 Bdx are:
The very cold start of the season in 2006 MR meant a very delayed vintage for the region.
The 2006 MR vintage had a warmer Feb and March which may have provided enough growth and ripening to bring in solid grapes for vinification for the best sites and most tended vines.
The heat spike in 2006 Bdx during their July (equivalent to January in the Southern Hemisphere) must have affected the growth rates and potentially stressed the vines.
The 2006 Bdx shows a “rollercoaster” pattern of maximums and this would have made life difficult for the growing of quality grapes.
Rainfall comparisons can be a little spurious as rainfall is much more variable than temperatures over a region and each vineyard has its own topography and water run-off management. For example our vineyard is quite steeply dipping to the south and west, and any heavy rainfall during a summer generally runs off the block, but for vineyards on the flats of Jindong in the northern areas of the Margaret River Appellation may have all that moisture taken up by the plants. In Bordeaux it is even more important that site location and drainage capacity is accounted for as this region is generally wetter that MR, and much of the best wines have slightly better drainage and this is a significant marker to quality.
As with maximum temperatures I draw your attention to the 2001/2007 MR and the 2005 Bdx rainfall data. The two MR vintages show a very similar start to the season with rainfall being moderate in October and November, and positively dry in December – this start of season pushes the grapes forward in their growing pattern as the ground water has dropped and this brings the vines into stress and ensures the flowering is earlier and the vine concentrates on setting a crop. Bordeaux in 2005 has a wet start to spring but the rainfall drops away during late spring and the bordelaise do not have another heavy month of rain until after vintage. During vintage in MR the rainfall was low for all years presented and this has meant the capacity to harvest grapes with less risk of disease than in many areas of Australia.
It is very common for the south-west corner of WA to have little to no rainfall during the 6 months of vintage. The only times that this alters is when weather from the northern tropics of the state come down in the form of cyclonic lows which have the capacity of bringing hundreds of millimeters of rain in very short periods of time. Fortunately we have not had a cyclone or remnant of a cyclone bring significant rainfall to the region in many years.
And the wash up?
The analysis of climate in the two regions shows we have the potential to make very good red wines from the 2007 vintage. Vineyard tasting and testing throughout the season has confirmed that this vintage was the most advanced and ripe vintage we have vinified and the colour and tannins extracted are the deepest and finest we have encountered as well. We put a lot of effort into our vines to maximize the opportunity provided by the soil and climate and in 2007 we believe that the wines made will be excellent and provide a great stepping stone in our path forward.
Grass is growing …
All the neighbours are very happy as this month has been great for getting grass out of the ground and starting what hopefully for them will be a great grass growing season for all their stock and hay requirements. With vintage now over, this month’s weather is not as critical as it has been in the past, but the rain has been good to distribute the fertilizers we spread down the rows. The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:
April 2007: Avg Maximum Temp 21.9°C (Daily Max recorded 27.3°C)
Avg Minimum Temp 10.7°C (Daily Min recorded 3.2°C)
In comparison to 2006 the maximum and minimum temperatures were a little higher, and this may be due to a bit more cloud cover associated with the extra rainfall. Rainfall is much higher this year with the “break of season” commencing on 15 -16 April with 50mm of rainfall over these two days.
April 2006: Avg Maximum Temp 20.6°C (Daily Max recorded 26.3°C)
Avg Minimum Temp 9.4°C (Daily Min recorded 4.1°C)
As with last month I have included below the weather values for Bordeaux during their equivalent of the month of April in the southern hemisphere.
October 2006: Avg Maximum Temp 20.9°C (Daily Max recorded 25.0°C)
Avg Minimum Temp 12.9°C (Daily Min recorded 9.8°C)
The rain has at least abated in Bordeaux, but not enough to save the vintage one would think. As this monthly report comes out, the first release of the 2006 Bordeaux wines will be sent around the world – personally I wouldn’t bother with these wines and rather collect some current 2004’s or find some good value 2005’s. The best estates in Bordeaux will make serviceable wines in 2006 but the prices will be such that previous years should prove better value. Hope this helps. During next year’s vintage I may spread my wings and have a look at vintage data from other spots on the globe that have similar characteristics to WA, maybe a Napa Valley comparison could be fun.
Tasting and Promoting…
With a few of the vineyard jobs out of the way and our house construction well under control it is time to do some vineyard promotion and wine testing. This month should see the release of the 2005 Merlot / Cabernet Franc to our mail order customers (if you wish to join the mailing list please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org), and the placement of our wine in select retailers and restaurants. It is therefore a busy month but quite an exciting one for us all as we go out to place our wine in front of as many people as we can. All the 2007 wines are now tucked up in their barrels and tanks so we will do a complete run through on their status this month and I’ll report in May if they are living up to their promise seen in ferment.
All the best everyone.
Blue Poles Vineyard