Wine dinners aren’t something I make a habit of; at least, not those run by producers. It’s not an in principle objection – I simply prefer, most of the time, a wider range of wines with dinner than might be offered by a single maker. The temptation of back vintages and verticals, however, can be strong, as can the promise of highly amusing company. Mark Gifford from Blue Poles Vineyard is most certainly that, so it was with pleasure that I attended the recent Blue Poles dinner in Brisbane.
The boutique producer’s dilemma must seem intractable at times: what to produce? How to get noticed? Whose attention to court? I won’t venture to suggest I have any answers, but I know I respond to a focused portfolio that communicates identity and intent rather than a wide range of wines that, together, lack coherence. Although it contains a highly drinkable Viognier and Shiraz, the Blue Poles portfolio stands out for its beautiful, uncompromising Bordeaux-inspired wines, as well as a quirky Teroldego.
Dinner was the first time I have tasted all the Blue Poles Reserve Merlots side by side, and they really do justify the praise I and many other wine writers have given them. The 2007 is by far the richest of the three and is starting to show an aged character that meshes superbly with its primary fruit. Very Bordeaux-like, this one, and quite mouthfilling. The 2008 and 2010 are both very tight, still, and it took about half an hour of swirling to coax from the 2010 more than the aroma of iron filings. When it did start to unfold, I felt it was the most precise wine of the three. The way it lands in the mouth, articulating its flavours with such clarity, is truly impressive. They keep getting better, these Merlots and, although there isn’t a great deal of competition, they are surely amongst the best of this varietal made in Australia.
The Allouran, a Merlot Cabernet Franc blend, is a lighter wine, less masculine than the straight Merlot. Both the 2007 and 2008 seem quite primary, with fresh fruit and bright, acid-driven structures. I can see these being overlooked in favour of the Merlot, but for my taste their flavour profiles show a light and shade that is subtle and attractive. Quite unforced as a style.
There was some discussion regarding the clear influence exerted by Bordeaux on these wines. Blue Poles has never been shy of admitting this stylistic lineage, and is far from the only producer to explicitly claim Old World wines as a starting point. However, what is emerging from the portfolio over time is a coherence on its own terms. These wines don’t taste like imitations of something else, despite strong nods to classic models. I look forward to further releases and the ongoing conversation between style and terroir.
The new release Teroldego is a fascinating interpretation of the “drink now” red wine. What often typifies this category of wine is a simplicity and fruit-forwardness the Teroldego almost entirely lacks. Its argument, rather, is one of chewy tannin, charismatic masculinity and an apparent absence of fruit. To be sure, dark berry fruit underlines the flavour profile, but it’s so joyously secondary that one is drawn immediately to other aspects of the wine. Despite this, it’s highly drinkable, a term not often associated with primarily structural wines. A contradiction, then, in all sorts of ways, and one I look forward to drinking again.