Blue Poles Vineyard
It remains all quiet on the vineyard front – leaves continue to fall and the weather continues to get cooler and wetter. The south-west of Western Australia has quite distinct seasons, with our winter carrying most of the rain for the year with it. All of the surrounding countryside acts like a big sponge as the rainfall goes into the ground to top up a huge aquifer known by two names – the Leederville and the Yaragadee Aquifers – which sit one above the other. The effect of these aquifers is huge throughout the region (and beyond), as they support all of the streams and rivers of the south-west, keep the levels high enough in stranded lakes and ponds to support many rare animals breeding, and they oddly have an effect on the marine life in Geographe Bay (and possibly Augusta Bay) as the fresh water upwells miles from shore and generates unique marine niches upon which many marine species rely upon. The interconnectedness of it all astounds me at times, and looking back at the war we had with the coal miners within this aquifer, I am super pleased that they were battered into submission by commonsense and good science.
It is this time of year that most small wineries head out and about to release their wines and have the occasional dinners and promotions. I noted with interest Chris Tyrrell has been out and about with his latest selection of reds and whites and he has made a huge impact on the Wine Front website, with huge scores and lots of chatter, fantastic stuff. The Tyrrell legacy is one of an old vineyard and vines, tended by generations and a passion for making exceptional wine – a genuine signpost to where we all should be aiming. In one of the introductions to one of the most acclaimed wines, Gary Walsh wrote this segue into the tasting note:
“So, something of a rant and a rare op-ed from me here. Last century, you might well hold a wine like Penfolds Grange up to the light as an exemplar of the best qualities of Australian wine. Take the best grapes you can grow, or buy, from all the vineyards that can grow them best. Manipulate and work them in the winery, marry them to the finest American forests via the hot hand of a local cooper. Seal it with the terroir of a Portuguese cork forest, make as many thousand cases as quality will allow: price it as high as you dare. Market it. Brand it using all the power your corporate structure can bring. Take it to the world. Court the wine media to propagate and propel the myth. In this century, the model of Australian wine will be, and I think is, a small vineyard that produces distinctive flavours, year by year. It may be old vines, it may be young, but it will be small and tended by families, raised in the winery with minimal intervention. The oak will be, at worst, a seasoning, at best a structural component. It will be bottled with an inert closure, made in small quantities, and the marketing and branding will be done by the drinkers. Welcome to the 21st century, from vines planted in 1879.”
An excellent monologue and I and many many others would heartily concur. But something gnaws away at the back of my mind when I read the words “marketing and branding will be done by the drinkers” – it is predominantly correct, but something grates as I am not sure the public (no matter how well intentioned) really take on this role with a gusto, but with more of a blowing out of the candle. Attention spans within the social media sphere are almost micro-second measurements and there is no “reference” book in which these moments of support are stored, thus good news needs to come out regularly and in a format that generates chatter chatter. It comes back to the formation of the “critical mass” of buyers of your wine and recognition of your name that tips any winery into the black. The retailers that support you, the mailing list that follow you, the friends and family who get on board, the wine critics and enthusiasts who see your vision and enjoy your booze. Good wine and a sustainable vineyard, made in a way that strives for excellence should win out in the long run, soooo keep on jogging MG!
This month I did have a 9 day sojourn in my home town Morrinsville, New Zealand. My father Butch has not been well of late, and with my mother most probably wanting a bit of support which was more practical than a series of emails, my daughter Beth and I headed out east. I must be honest here, I love going home for about 2-3 days before the sense of claustrophobia starts to overwhelm me and I was waiting for the dark clouds to surround me – but for the first time in 28 years I felt at ease most of the time, which was great, if not very surprising. Also it was the first trip in which I had travelled with only Beth, and it was nice to spend the time boring her rigid with tales of yore (as I slowly turn into my father without as much as a hint of hesitation).
Headland at the mouth of Whangapoua Harbor, Coromandel Peninsula
Watched rugby, ate mussels and cockles, had Pokeno bacon for breakfast each day, manuka honey on toast, Beth got car sick on the Coromandel road, and drank Tui beer. Pretty much a perfect kiwi break, and though I missed out on seeing a number of the whanau (family), I will be back soon enough and chase them down for a bit of a chat and meal (with the obligatory Blue Poles wine).
Beth and I at Hobbiton, waiting for the dwarves to arrive.
I actually do get this asked of me every now and again, and the answer is simple – because no one would buy a wine called Merlot / Cabernet Franc unless they knew something about wine (in the geeky sense). Our first commercial wine was the 2005 Merlot / Cabernet Franc and we posted it off with our hearts in our mouth to Campbell Mattinson in the earliest days of his Wine Front Monthly (that often became quarterly, to nearly bi-annually as Campbell is an excellent wine scribe but perhaps the slowest to pass on his writings to the masses).
We were beside ourselves with excitement when he came back with a score of 90 points and a really encouraging note, and added to that was a score of 92 from Gary Walsh on his newly formed Winorama site (I do miss the gratuitous dinosaur shots) – so off we went hunting down retailers and restaurants. And that is when trouble struck, no one had a clue what a Merlot / Cabernet Franc was meant to taste like even though ~70% of all Bordeaux wines were this blend. No trouble liking the wine, just a heap of trouble thinking why they should try to explain this wine to everyone that queries them. We did not sell half of this wine before we had the 2006 knocking on the door, and this vintage in Margaret River was really hard work. It was at this point Tim and I went out on a limb and decided to name the wine, rather than use the grape varieties present. The label we use has two lions facing each other and they are a representation of the lion on the prow of the first French boat to land in Australia – the Gros Ventre - captained by Captain Louis Saint-Allouran (or Allouarn, or Allouaran, as the spelling has been contentious!)
So the 2006 proudly carries the name of this French sailor who, had he survived, could have claimed Australia for France as he landed prior to Captain Cook in March, 1772. The label has not changed from the early days and we personally like the way it sits on the bottle. From 2007 to the 2011, which is to be released next month, we have had a great run of scores for this wine, and to be slightly one eyed here, well deserved. We do produce our Reserve Merlot and Teroldego which is priced higher, but the Allouran represents what I had hoped the vineyard would produce, a classic Bordeaux styled wine that tastes excellent from release and can age for decades.
Our run of scores from the early days for all of the Allourans goes as follows:
2005 Merlot/Franc 92 (GW), 90 (CW)
2006 Allouran 91 (GW)
2007 Allouran 94 (GW)
2008 Allouran 94 (CM)
2010 Allouran 94 (MB), 95(JP), 94+++(PW)
2011 Allouran 95 (GW)
GW=Gary Walsh CM=Campbell Mattinson PW=PhilipWhite JP=Jeremy Pringle MB=Mike Bennie
We have had other wine writers review the wines including Max Allen and Julian Coldrey, and often there is no score associated with the wines they have rated but rather a solid positive response.
Now it is easy to say that wine scores are of little use without the tasting note, and I agree, but the drive I am pushing here is that our Allouran wines have from their humble beginnings, consistently scored well and they have shown over the past 9 years to both be able to age well and to give great drinking pleasure along the way. Every one of these wines has the capacity to age gracefully for 20 years, and I do not say this as a throwaway line, I really mean it as we ensure the tannins are picked perfectly ripe and that the ferment extracts them in the most supportive way possible so as to get that fine balance that every excellent red needs to make it even better. This does however mean I do not release the wines in any specific order – they are released when they are ready as they take a while to settle in the bottle.
Next month is the release of the 2011 Allouran, possibly our best yet, but regardless it is a really beautiful classic Bordeaux-styled wine that will age indefinitely and provide immense drinking pleasure for those who like their wines balanced and stylish. 2011 was a hot year and we ended up picking the Merlot off in two picks so as to ensure the tannins were fully resolved in the lower portion of the Merlot block. The Cabernet Franc came off in a really low tonnage, but the flavors were excellent, and if it was not for the very low tonnage I would have loved to have made a Cabernet Franc reserve from this vintage. I have given a wine for review to Gary Walsh who I think is one of the best tasters in Australia currently (I am starting to sound like Mel from Flight of the Conchords – not good!), and he came back with this description and score for the wine:
“This is a very strong release in both the quality sense, and a physical sense. Certainly it’s one of the more robust offerings from Blue Poles, and perhaps none the worse for that either. Plum, chocolate, aniseed, redcurrant, violets, baking spices and menthol – a fair riot of richness and perfume here. Medium to full bodied, lovely sweet uptake of mainly small red berry and plum fruit, tobacco and chocolaty oak, and these delightfully firm open knit gravelly tannins laying down the bass. Acidity is spot on, and drives a path through the succulent fruit. Finish is savoury, redcurrant laced, long and dusted with chalky tannin. Right proper wine.”
Rated : 95 Points
Tasted : Apr15
Alcohol : 14%
Price : $28
Closure : Screwcap
Drink : 2016 - 2028
As always the wine is offered to the mailing list first and this will continue to be a tradition at Blue Poles as we will always support those who have supported us. So the start of next month is the go line, do not miss out as we are not a big producer and we are starting to get some solid support from both here in Australia and abroad which makes the task of growing and making wine that much easier.
Well apart from some very stormy days in the middle of the month, we have had a really pleasant and cool month with enough rain to keep the grass growing and the farmers smiling. The occurrence of some frosty mornings have kept the minimums down, and the cold southerlies that have popped up have keep the maximums down as well – but overall it has been a very pleasant month in Margaret River.
The numbers for the month and last year’s figures are provided below:
May 2015: Avg Maximum Temp 18.4oC (Daily Max recorded 21.0oC)
Avg Minimum Temp 8.8oC (Daily Min recorded 1.7oC)
The maximum temperature average was again a fair bit lower than last years as well as the minimums, which highlights the amount of cloud cover and rain in 2014 which held the temperatures up. Rainfall is a little lower due to the fewer rain events that came through, but the ones that did roll in were very wet.
May 2014: Avg Maximum Temp 19.4oC (Daily Max recorded 21.8oC)
Avg Minimum Temp 12.0oC (Daily Min recorded 6.7oC)
Pruning will commence…
…if only amongst the Shiraz vines which are in need of a haircut. I have time working abroad as I keep the candle burning at both ends and with a lovely break back in NZ I do feel pretty revitalized and ready to crack on. Some emails will be on the cards to various retailers and other supporters as the release of the 2011 Allouran is locked and loaded, and we will bottle the 2015 Fiano which gets me giddy just thinking about it. Huge month coming up and I am excited for all that is going on in my busy world.
Blue Poles Vineyard