Margaret River Goes Right Bank - Taste Blue Poles
Monday, October 21, 2019 in News
Mark Gifford, a geologist by trade, leans on a tasting table in the Margaret River, talking Merlot with some of the top names in the then-nascent wine region. It’s the late ‘80s. He now recalls his comment as something along the lines of ‘...Bit soupy aren’t they?’ The locals told him in fairly few words that he was free to go and try to do better himself. He’s done better.
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Gifford’s Blue Poles now has a passionate cult following, (counting among their numbers Messrs Bennie, Mattinson and Walsh at The Wine Front) and these wines tend to sell out quickly to private customers.
The incredibly affordable ‘Allouran’ is a Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend and Blue Poles’ most talked about wine, and the Reserve range is equally coveted by those who’ve seen the light.
After years of contemplating the wines of Pomerol and Cheval Blanc, and feeling that Cabernet Sauvignon was something of a ‘1970s hangover’ in the Margaret, Gifford and fellow geologist Tim Markwell went out together to find just the right spot to plant their vines. With the region’s natural bounty, and their professional backgrounds, finding a site that ticked their boxes (two metres of gravel over clay, a southerly aspect, cooling breezes) would be ‘an absolute piece of piece!’, the pair figured.
Two years later, they finally had it: one-third of a gravel strip next to a river in the geographical heart of the region, the other two thirds (still to this day) belonging to a cattle farmer. The first vines (Merlot and Cabernet Franc) went into the ground there in 2001.
Regarding the ‘do it better yourself’ invitations of other winemakers a decade previously, the pair had laid the foundation for the first of two necessary inputs for making fine wines: good fruit. The second came in the addition of the winemaking of Clive Otto (of Fraser Gallop fame).
Blue Poles is still run by the two founding families, they’ve never on-sold the fruit, and they only release the wines when the quality of the vintage passes their own rigorous internal standards.
Langton’s Head of Domestic Buying, Ramon Gunasekara, remembers meeting Gifford at the famous wine trade watering hole in Margaret, the Settlers Inn:
‘I’ve been buying (and selling) Margaret River wines for 20 years. I spoke to Mark on the recommendation of Ned Goodwin, and wines are some of the most memorable and exciting I have ever seen–probably the biggest eye-opener I’ve had since I first discovered Cullen. And so inexpensive!’
Taste something different from Margaret River…