Blue Poles Vineyard
Cut, cut, cut…
Well it is back into the vineyard pruning for me. I have started a few weeks earlier this year as I was very mean-spirited in regards to watering the vines during vintage and this has meant the vines have gone into recess a month or so quicker than normal.
The lack of irrigation to the vines post mid-January was also a bit of an experiment to see how the vines handled it, the grapes that they produced, and the ripening windows during the period. What I found very much surprised me – the Shiraz, Viognier and Teroldego were utterly hammered, looked ill, could not ripen the grapes at all well and did not push any more growth out post January (I felt terribly bad, but they have got to toughen up!). The Cabernet Franc was completely the opposite, grew through the season, looked fine (maybe a touch dry), and ripened the grapes in a small yield through to completion at a normal picking date (~2nd -3rd April), and the fruit was very flavorsome and tannic. Merlot was in the middle, it grew poorly but not without a reasonable canopy, ripened the grapes at the last minute (very late March), and the grapes were excellent in flavor (but tannins were not resolved), with a small crop.
Though doing what I have done seems cruel, I did want to make use of this year as an opportunity to stress the vines, push some roots down, and for me to determine the capacity of the vines for water stress. The surprise was the behavior of the Cabernet Franc, and I will change the watering regime next vintage to wind back on the irrigation it receives. In regards to the Merlot, I am not too far away, and I guess that shows in our wines – BUT – as for the others I need to wind it up a notch and bring in a better balance to these varieties. Every year amongst the vines provides you with clues on how to grow more flavorsome grapes, thus hopefully make better wines – and even though 2013 was not a year we made wines, it was a year in which I have learnt how to potentially make better wines.
As I discussed in last month’s report, we at the Blue Poles hacienda had a few visitors during the month of April. First were Dave and Claire of Melbourne, and later in the month, Julian from Brisbane. We did eat and drink extremely well during their respective visits and on one of the days I headed out with Julian, I did something I had not done for a while – had a day off touring the wine region of Margaret River.
As this is such an odd occasion I will attempt to recall what we did.
First up was coffee at Yahava in Margs, they do make a nice coffee and a range of beans. Then after we re-hydrated with caffeine off we went to Fraser-Gallop to do a vertical of the Teroldegos we have made (including the 2012), and to have a look at a 2013 version made for Brad Wehr. The wines were really interesting and the 2009 version of ours is really drinking well and implies that the current wine and future wines have the capacity to age gracefully and create some character. Off from Fraser-Gallop we headed to Lynne and Phil Foster’s vineyard to have a look at all of their wonderful vines – Fiano, Vermentino, Savagnin, Tempranillo, Petit Manseng, Nebbiolo …. Just fantastic to see these vines and learning about their growth and grapes. Time for lunch – Wills Domain with its inspired chef was on the cards – not disappointed by the meal at all. Next was a tasting at Juniper Estate with the wines of Mark Messenger, which rarely disappoint, with the top Cab Sauv very much in form. A cruise down Caves Road to Hamelin Bay through the Boranup Forest – stingrays were not to be found in the choppy surf unfortunately – and then back home to prepare a further meal and to crack some more wines. Slept well.
Teroldego tasting Fabulous food at Wills Domain
There has always been a counter culture to the vanity of capitalistic success. The feeling that the desire for wealth and all that entails is destructive and that living a simpler life with less is actually more fulfilling and healthy. It is odd isn’t it – we have so many ways of reading into this simple premise that “less is more”, but we rarely if ever act on it. We have all moved up the scale of goods and services, so much so that we do not actually know what is “essential” or “non-essential” any more.
Take the humble phone for example. As a child, I had a phone, it was by the front door and I may have used once a week to ring a friend about catching up. Our phone number was 7035 – my friend John’s number was 7240. Basically that was the telecommunications industry in New Zealand in the 1970’s. Today, ah well, we have all gone slightly berserk. Smart phones have taken communication to another level and have brought a whole generation of children up with the belief that constant contact is “normal” – to me a crazy concept, but to kids today it is not questioned. Is a smart phone an “essential”? – I would say about 50% of you all actually think so, and this is now creeping inexorably upwards and upwards. Thus the vanity of owning an expensive phone is countered by the essential nature of having to own one.
Last month we went through the “value” versus “worth” debate, and it could be argued that expensive wine is simply a vanity. We have a very poor appreciation of vanity, as it implies waste, lack of frugality, self-obsession and poor behavior. But I would like to counter some of these (most probably very correct) assertions with a statement – vanity is an essential component of progress and health, without it we would not seek improvement.
Let’s go through this.
Exhibit A is dieting/ training so as to be in “shape”. Often derided and now seen as potentially vain, we have forgotten the goals of simply losing weight and being fit. This actually is the path to a healthier and longer life – but many have now gone out to embrace our “range” of body shapes, to “accept” us as we are – all good, but you are still at greater risk of a number of health problems no matter how you “sugarcoat” the fact. And I know this. In the past 5 months I have lost about 20kg simply because I was heading towards future health problems if I did not react sooner rather than later. The vanity of wanting to be in shape also provides the support of a potentially healthier life.
Exhibit B is the humble phone. Without the desire to be seen with a phone with multiple functions, the drive to develop technologies that are both smaller and “smarter” would have been still in the future. The drive to minimize microprocessors in smart phones, has led importantly to the development of medical technologies using these same microprocessors. The impact is huge and right now these technologies may be saving the lives of many thousands if not millions of people. So for the vanity of every initial Apple iPhone buyer in the world, we should actually give a “tiny” share of thanks for the lives that have been saved theoretically through their vanity.
Old clunker vs. iPhone 5
In luxury products such as wine and watches, the advantage of the vanity market may be limited, but be aware that the drive within these luxury industries for individuals to improve their product to gain both prestige and income is huge. And to have your wine compared favorably to the best wines of the world is a vain target but one that ensures your clients have access to a great product and one that they can enjoy through your endeavors to always improve. This concept can even move into the space of “natural” wine, as each year is to provide a conceptual chance of “great” wine and all artisans have their own level of vanity to express through their produce.
We as a community are now part of a bigger global village, and our behavior has had to adjust. Issues such as global warming, racism, gay rights, vaccinations, organic produce, political correctness (to name barely a few), are all part of the common vernacular and the expectation that conformity of opinion be accepted for the greater good is strong. In some cases this is absolutely without question, but shades of grey appear at the edges of many and the failure to recognize our own behavior as integral to our nature has caused intolerance and “outrage” in star bursts of politically correct indignation. As I am getting older I am seeing more of the grey than the black and the white, and at times even taking the opposite stance from the accepted norm. Why? Well may be I am just being that little bit vain… :)
The big wet...
Wet. That was the month of May with three major rainfall events bringing over 250mm of rain which equates to ~1/4 of our annual rainfall. It was also was a month where the warmth of April simply vanished and not a single day broke 22oC – very rare for this time of year. Let it be said, “normal” weather is now indeed becoming a rare bird in these parts.
The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:
April 2013: Avg Maximum Temp 19.2oC (Daily Max recorded 21.9oC)
Avg Minimum Temp 8.8oC (Daily Min recorded 3.9oC)
The maximum temperature range is lower than last year and this temperature average for May is on the low side of the average over the past 10 years. The minimum is identical, but with the amount of rainfall we did not get the clear skies and the frosts that occurred in 2012. Rainfall is 3 times greater than in 2012 and one of the highest months of rainfall ever recorded at Blue Poles.
May 2012: Avg Maximum Temp 20.0oC (Daily Max recorded 25.4oC)
Avg Minimum Temp 8.8oC (Daily Min recorded 0.6oC)
June is a month away …
While I had a whole month at home amongst my vines and in my house, this month has me travelling once more to the Philippines, and then straight back into a series of tastings in Canberra and Wollongong at the end of the month. I am very much looking forward to the tastings and dinners as the organizers have put together some fantastic menus and are keen to present our wines – and I am very keen to show them in such a series of super settings. More details of these events will be sent to our mailing list, or if you are not on the mailing list (why not?), contact us and we will pass on the details.
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 or www.twitter.com/bluepoles and we’ll do our very best to answer any question.
Blue Poles Vineyard