Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Book Reviews / May 2017 / Part 1

Tony Abbott was a very aggressive Liberal/National Party Coalition (conservative) opposition leader in the Australian parliament specializing in obstructionist tactics.
He was English by birth, a failed catholic theological student and mediocre journalist who had received a Rhodes Scholarship on very dubious grounds.
What else could he be in the end other than a politician?
In September 2013 he came to power as Prime Minister of the country with the demise of the Rudd/Gillard/ Rudd Labor (liberal) government.
He turned out to be a strange kettle of fish, loose with the truth and had a habit of making what were known as 'captain's picks' ie. making decisions without consultation with his cabinet. Many were bewildering eg. awarding Australia's highest honour to the Duke of Edinburgh (a foreigner) on Australia Day!
Among his many conservative views he was a climate change denier, anti gay marriage, anti abortion, anti stem cell research, anti Union/pro free market and a staunch monarchist.

He was ably supported in all his political endeavours by his chief of staff, Peta Credlin. In fact rumour had it she was the one who pulled the strings. Her husband at the time was the Liberal Party federal director. Be that as it may she did run a tight ship and seemed to have excessive control over the PM. It was mooted, but never proven, that the relationship extended beyond business.
For two years this farce continued. Not only did he and Peta alienate the electorate but also his own party.
In the end the the parliamentary party dumped him as Prime Minister replacing him as with someone who has turned out to be just as hopeless. But that is another story..
Niki Savva is an Australian journalist, author and former political staffer of the Liberal Party.
Her husband is a Liberal political staffer in the office of the current Prime Minister so you cannot get a more conservative duo.
The Road to Ruin documents the bizarre goings on in the PM's office, Abbott's dependence on Credlin and the disarray it caused within the government as well as the consternation throughout the country.
Of course the protagonists have have denied the claims made with it being described as  "dispiriting and self-serving revenge tale".
I liked the book immensely, a tale of female Svengali and a male Trilby. 
One for the Australian political junkie.
I liked Niki Savva's writing style so much I sought out her autobiography.
She was born in a small village in Cyprus. Her father emigrated to Melbourne, Australia in 1951 and she followed with her mother and brother several years later.
So Greek  details her childhood and school years in one of Melbourne’s working-class suburbs where at the time locals were suspicious of olive oil and 'strange' food and Greek kids spoke Gringlish to their parents.

A few decades later, despite all the challenges of being a migrant woman in Australia, Savva rose through the ranks of political journalism at major Australian newspapers going on to head the Canberra bureaus of two of them.
When a family tragedy struck in the late 90s she decided on a career change.
She became Liberal treasurer Peter Costello’s press secretary for six years before moving on to join prime Minister John Howard’s staff.
This is a book about Australian political life written by an insider with decades of exposure to its major players. It can be hilarious or moving but is endlessly fascinating,
This is a great book for students of  Australian politics, the media and for lovers of scuttlebutt.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Feral Animals

Australia has a problem with many introduced species.
Here are a a few.
They arrived in Australia with the First Fleet in 1788, but then more were deliberately released for hunting in the 1800s. The rate of spread of the rabbit in Australia was the fastest of any colonizing mammal anywhere in the world
It is estimated that their presence reduces Australia’s agricultural productivity by over $200 million each year. Rabbits also have a direct impact on over 300 threatened species nationally.

Land owners are required by law to keep rabbits under control. We do this by poisoning, shooting and gassing and ripping warrens. Many years ago myxomatosis was released as a biological control. It was effective for a while but then the rabbit population became resistant.
This was followed up by the release of the calicivirus RHDV 1 in 1996. It had a devastatingly successful affect on the rabbit population. But again, resistance began to surface.
Early this year a new strain, RHDV1 - K5, variant was released.
Foxes were originally introduced to mainland Australia in the 1850s for recreational hunting and spread rapidly.
They have few natural predators in the country and pose a threat to livestock, as they prey on poultry, calves, lambs and goat kids.
They also prey on native wild life.
They are controlled by shooting and poisoning.
We give permission to licensed shooters to come onto our property annually to try to take care of the problem. Being almost surrounded by a National Park, we have a thriving population of foxes around here. It is not unusual to see one blithely trot through our backyard.
Wild Dogs
The dingo is considered a native dog. They originated in Asia where they were present possibly 10 000 to 14 000 years ago and were derived from wolves. Aboriginal people brought the dingo to Australia approximately 4000 years ago. It is the largest animal predator on the continent and considered a pest by many in the rural community.

But of more concern are domestic dogs that have gone feral. They hunt in packs and can do considerable damage to livestock. They are known to have interbred with the dingo.
Control is by trapping, baiting and shooting. We have a had a few packs around here at times but haven't seen them for some years now.
Wild Cats
Cats probably arrived in Australia as pets of European settlers and were later deliberately introduced in an attempt to control rabbits and rodents. Cats now occupy 99% of Australia, including many offshore islands.
Feral cats live, hunt and reproduce in the wild and have adapted to some of Australia’s harshest conditions and invade almost all parts of the continent.

They mainly eat small native and exotic mammals, birds, lizards and insects. About 80 endangered and threatened species are at risk from feral cat predation in the country.
There was quite a colony of them when we moved into this area. Some were very large and aggressive. We eventually got rid of them by shooting (before very strict gun laws came into force in 1996).
Biological control seems out of the question because of the huge number of domestic cats. However we have seen with the rabbit problem pet rabbits can be vaccinated against the calicivirusso maybe there is a similar argument for feral cat control.
Cane Toads
One of the most ill conceived biological control plans ever!
The cane toad was introduced into Australia in 1935 to control the native cane beetle in sugar cane which is a major agricultural crop. 102 were released in northern Queensland
It was a complete failure.
The cane beetle remained a pest and the cane toads thrived. Today the population is estimated at 200 million. They are making their way across northern Australia in a westerly direction at a rate estimated at 60km per year.

Cane toads naturally generate potent toxins (bufodienolides) throughout their bodies, which act by stopping the heart of most animals that attempt to eat them.
The cane toad is often cited in surveys as Australia’s most hated invasive animal taking over from the rabbit. They are listed as a ‘key threatening process’ under Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 as they adversely impact native species via predation, competition and poisoning by lethal toxin ingestion.

The Department of the Environment and Energy has stated "There is unlikely to ever be a broad scale method available to control cane toads across Australia. Researchers are beginning to understand the toad’s impact on native fauna and to appreciate the ways in which native species are adapting to the presence of cane toads and recovering from the impact of their arrival."
It is likely that the lessons from the cane toad debacle have influenced the strict quarantine laws and risk assessment procedures Australia has in place today as anyone arriving at our international airports would know.
They have yet to arrive in our part of the country. But I have seen seething masses of them in suburban backyards in my old stomping ground Brisbane. 
And then Australia also has problems with camels (yes, really!), wild goats, wild pigs, deer, water buffalo, wild horses (brumbies), carp, rats and mice.
But we might leave some of those for another time.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Vintage 2017 / Some Climate Data

Below is some local climate data for the growing season based on figures from the area's automatic weather station. There were apparently some technical difficulties with the AWS in March which resulted in unrecorded rainfall figures (as though there wasn't enough!) but the overall trend is still valid.

And for interest's sake an overview of the 2016/2017 Australian summer which demonstrates the extremes we have experienced with both temperature and rainfall on both sides of the country.
Read the full report here.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Easter Treats and Other Things.

Easter is hot crossed buns on Good Friday and chocolate eggs on Sunday.
When we were kids, we looked forward to those treats with great excitement.
But now, in this commercial world, things have changed.
As soon as the Christmas decorations came down in the stores in mid January what were on the shelves?
Easter eggs and hot crossed buns!!!
In some bakeries the latter are available all year.
But this seems to be the way now.
Everything available all the time.

One example is seasonal fruit.
'Back in the day' there was always an apple, stone fruit, citrus or berry season.
Now thanks to improved cold storage techniques, hot houses, hydroponics and imports,‘stuff' is available almost 12 months a year.
Some examples for us are grapes, cherries, stone fruit and citrus from the USA in our winter.
Asparagus from Mexico and Peru out of season.
Strawberries and apples all year.
Some might think this great but I am a little on the fence with it all.
And talking of hydroponics, a world-leading concentrated solar power (CSP) tower plant that will supply electricity, heat and desalinated seawater to grow tomatoes in the Australian desert has been constructed in South Australia.
Maybe this is the future of some crop production in this era of climate change.
This video is worth watching if you have 16 minutes to spare.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Vintage 2017 Final Update

The Semillon was racked off the fermentation lees and returned to the tank with 50ppm SO2.
The night before we had prepared a slurry of bentonite. To this we added some of the wine to make a solution and stirred this into the the tank for some time thoroughly dispersing it.
Bentonite is a special clay made of aluminium-silicate. It is distinct from other clays in that it is formed from volcanic ash.
Bentonite is principally used to remove proteins from white wine and juice, as it is a negatively charged clay colloid and reacts with positively charged proteins, precipitating them from the wine and clarifying it.
After it settles for a week or so, the wine is racked again and then checked for pH and free SO2 content in preparation for bottling at a later date.
For the Cabernet rose' we tried a different method. We added the bentonite solution to the ferment. The vigorous action of fermentation keeps the clay circulating through the wine, not letting it settle on the bottom of the tank, theoretically making it more effective.
After settling,  the fermentation lees and bentonite are then racked off together eliminating one production step.
We do not go through the cold stabilization process for white wine or rose' here. Tartrate crystal precipitation during cold storage eg. in the refrigerator, is a fact of life and, although not aesthetically pleasing in commercial wines, it is of little consequence quality wise. And it's one less process to subject the wine to in our oxidation prevention program.
All our red wines are fined with egg white.
The albumen is gently dispersed into 10 times its volume of water with a little salt added to help the process.
The solution is then gently stirred into the wine and left for a couple of weeks before racking.
French oak chips are added to each red wine in various percentages to impart the traditional oaky aroma/flavour. The wine is stored in the sealed tanks for about a year before bottling is considered. It is racked off sedimentation lees a number of times during this period and SO2 levels monitored.
So that was that for 2017.
What started out as a more than satisfactory vintage weather wise ended on a disastrous note.
We are happy with the quality of the Semillon, Pinot Noir and Tempranillo.
How the Cabernet rose' will turn out is anybody's guess. It was produced somewhat as an act of desperation to try to salvage a grape crop destined to rot on the vine so if we have to dump it at least we can say we tried.
In a few months pruning will start and we will be ready to do it over again for 2018.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Vintage 2017 Update 8

Cabernet Sauvignon is a 'late' variety of Vitis vinifera.
This means it is one of the last to shoot and last to ripen during a vintage.
For us bud burst is late September/early October and we usually harvest late March or even early April.
We therefore run the gauntlet, in our coastal area with its warm maritime climate, of possible wet late summer/early autumn months.
Too much rain means juice dilution which means lower sugar levels which translates into lower alcohol content of the resultant wine.
It also means the risk of fungus diseases eg. botrytis is significantly higher.
Picking these grapes too early leads to thin uninteresting red wines with a distinct vegetative flavour so we always try to keep the spray programme up to date and monitor potential bad weather events in an effort to keep the grapes on the vines as long as possible to reach our 'sugar goal' of 13.5° Baume.
This vintage we had the driest, hottest summer on record. A little relief came in February with some welcome but not totally disastrous rainfall.
March however was a completely different story.
366mm fell over 18 of the first 26 days (a third of our average annual rainfall!).
The berries within the bunches swelled, split and burst and then shrivelled. Expressed juice is open invitation for botrytis and there was quickly evidence of it.

What to do with vineyard tests showing only a Baume of 10° to 11°?
One path was just to leave to grapes on the vine and forget harvest.
Another was to harvest early and 'fix' the sugar level and try to make a Rose'.
Chaptalization is the process of adding white cane sugar to juice to increase the Baume level.
This is a normal procedure in Europe when seasons prevent grapes ripening to a satisfactory level.
The practice is banned in Australia for commercial wines.
Increased sugar levels here can be achieved legally by adding grape juice concentrate.
This is available in different grape varieties and comes with a sugar level of around 35° Baume.
Unfortunately it comes in large containers and is very expensive for us amateur non commercial wine makers.
Of course you can make your own concentrate if you have the right equipment.
Grape juice can be frozen and the ice formed removed (the juice is 80% water).
What remains is a high sugar grape concentrate.
Another method is to boil the grape juice to remove the water. 

So I made to decision to add sugar in an effort to salvage a hard year's work in the vineyard knowing that the wine produced could be of very inferior quality. Sugar ripeness of grapes is not the only criteria for good wine. Less than optimally ripe grapes have other negative influences.
Approximately 20g/L cane sugar will increase Baume by one degree.
So we harvested very selectively discarding or leaving poor quality bunches hang. This took place over two days as we were continually interrupted by rain. I estimate we would have been lucky to have taken off 50% of what was originally a large and high quality crop.
Then we destemmed and crushed into an open fermenter and only then were able to accurately test the Baume level. Vineyard testing almost always produces a higher result.
It was 10°
pH 3.6
So we needed to add 40g/L to get it up to 12.0° ie. potentially 12% alcohol, which is fine for the Rose' style. We decided to aim for a Spanish style rosado ie. crisp, a little fruity yet dry.
We immediately initiated fermentation by addition of white wine yeast and DAP.
After a few hours maceration we were happy with the colour achieved so transferred the must to the press to drain the juice off the skins, stalks and seeds.
Here it was very lightly pressed and the resulting free run juice was transferred into a stainless steel tank. We didn't want a strong colour, just what naturally came from the skins from those few hours of soaking, and definitely no tannin.
From then on the Rose' was treated like a white wine.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Vintage 2017 Update 7

The Pinot Noir was picked during a short break in the weather on 5th March after 4 days of very heavy rain totalling 125mm.
The was more evidence of botrytis in this variety than in the Semillon. The bunches were extremely tightly packed and the rain has caused some berry splitting encouraging the fungus.
The affected berries were removed from the bunches during the harvesting process.
Baume 13.5° (great!)
pH 3.8 (needs adjusting to 3.6 or a little less by tartaric acid addition)
The grapes were immediately destemmed and crushed and the must (skins, seeds and juice) transferred to a stainless steel tank.
Normally we ferment red wine in an open top fermenter. However we want to let the Pinot soak for some time after fermentation has finished to extract as much colour and tannin as possible. We also want the wine to go through MLF. All this has to be done without any SO2 addition so a sealable tank gives us more oxidation prevention control.
200ppm DAP and 15g/hL rehydrated specific red wine yeast added.
Fermentation began within 12 hours.
The cap was punched down about every 4 hours and any wayward stalks that had found their way into the must at the crusher removed. Alcoholic extraction of stalk tannins can give wine a unpleasant bitter or vegetative flavour.
"Tight" Pinot Noir (L) and "loose" Tempranillo (R) Bunches

The Tempranillo was picked on 9th March.
Fruit was in fair condition after over a week of constant rain but with little sign of fungus. Leaving it longer on the vine to get a little riper was always going to be a gamble this time of year. We thought the dry summer might continue into early autumn but alas....
Baume 13.4° (ok considering the rain dilution)
pH 4.0 (way too high! Needs adjusting as above)
200ppm DAP and 15g/hL rehydrated specific red wine yeast added.
Fermentation started within 12 hours.
The cap was punched down every 4 hours and any wayward stalks removed.
When the Tempranillo is 'finished' we will the press it and the 'soaking' Pinot on the same day saving one clean up.
The free run wine and pressings of each will be transferred to their individual tanks.
After a few days the wines will be racked off their fermentation lees ready for the fining process.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

The Milton Show 2017

We knew it was show time as, after an extremely dry summer, the heavens were predicted to open up with a severe weather warning in place.
I have been going to this two day event for nearly 30 years and inevitably it is wet.
So we went early to avoid the crowds and the mud. It was already pretty soggy underfoot so we only 'did' the pavilions.
The co driver had entered a number of quilts and did well winning quite a few awards and taking out most successful exhibitor.

The other competitive sections were well represented. The art and photography were amazing as usual as was the wood working. There are some very talented artisans in our area.
Then there are flowers, fruit, vegetables, jam and preserves, honey, sewing, rug making and baked goods of all descriptions.
I always like the bonsai.

Outside the livestock were being judged and the numerous horse events taking place but there were hardly any spectators braving the wind and rain.
The deserted sideshows, rides and carnival food booths must have been praying for a break in the weather.
A rodeo was planned for that night but assumed it would have been called off as conditions worsened during the day.
This was the 148th annual show.
Big things are apparently in the pipeline for 2019.
I really don't know what they can be. It's always been virtually the same all the times I have been.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Vintage 2017 Update 6

The Semillon was harvested on 20th February.
We threw in a few buckets of Chardonnay that has been growing 'rogue' in the Cabernet Sauvignon block since its planting and have rejected all attempts to graft the latter variety onto it. More the grafter's fault than the graftee I will admit although he did manage to graft six different apple varieties onto the one tree at one stage.
The grapes were in excellent condition. There were very small incidences of botrytis where the bunches had been growing under a denser canopy. Obviously the hot dry season had a lot to do with this positive outcome.
Affected berries were easily removed 'on the run' with a flick of the points of the picking shears during the harvest.
Yield was down a little.Vines that had been 'grazed on' by kangaroos early in the season had not produced fruit on the secondary shoot regrowth.
Baume 11.0°(good for the style of Semillon we want to produce ie. Hunter Valley / low alcohol, fruit driven)
pH 3.34 (excellent with no adjustments necessary)
The grapes were immediately destemmed and crushed, then the must was drained, lightly pressed and resultant free run juice and pressings transferred to a stainless steel tank.
At the crusher - 50ppm each SO2 and Ascorbic acid (to protect juice from oxidation and wild yeast fermentation)
After crushing - 15mL/tonne pectic enzyme (to increase juice yield from the must).
To the tank - 200ppm DAP (yeast nutrient), 0.2g/L PVPP (absorbing and precipitating polyphenols responsible for browning) and 30g/hL rehydrated white wine yeast culture.
Fermentation began within 36 hours.

Then there is always the post harvest/wine making clean up. All the equipment needs to be dismantled and hosed clean. Any residue encourages the proliferation of 'nasty' wild yeasts like Brettanomyces, Kloeckera and Candida genera and unwanted bacteria like Acetic acid, and Lactic acid bacteria eg. Lactobacillus sp. Leuconostoc sp.and Pediococcus sp.
The marc (skins and stalks) were thrown back onto the vine rows. They are a good soil conditioner and contain residual potassium.
Ferment finished on 27th February when 50mg/L SO2 was added and the tank sealed to let the settling process begin

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Kiama / A Date Day

We travelled north about 90 minutes to Kiama to meet up with friends of mine who were holidaying there with their daughter and her twins (visiting from New York) and one of their sons.
I have known them for 50 years.
On the way we stopped off in Nowra (two quilt/fabric stores) and Berry (two quilt/fabric stores, one book shop and one of our favorite coffee stops). I somehow resisted a visit to the eclectic wine store in that town.
They always have a great range of little known New Zealand Pinot Noirs to choose from.
Kiama was always a favourite holiday destination for those living in southern Sydney. Easts Beach which was overlooked by our host's rental house was the place to go. Back then it was a camping and caravan park. Now it seems to be filled with cabins.

Better roads and an electrified train link has turned the town into a easy day trip from Sydney and even a dormitory suburb of Wollongong and probably, for some, Sydney.
The main tourist attraction has always been the blow hole.
It turns on a spectacular display when the sea conditions are right.
But Kiama has a interesting history as well.
In the early 1800s cedar getters arrived to harvest timber from the dense temperate rain forests that covered rolling hills. When this was gone settlers tried their hand at wheat farming on the 'denuded' landscape which failed. Dairying then became the mainstay. Some dairy farms remain to this day.

Kiama sits on a bed of basalt formed by two volcanic eruptions 240 million years and 66 million years ago and was a valuable commodity for a growing colony with the blue metal used to pave Sydney's roads and as ballast for its railways.
In the early 20th century it became a rollicking mining town with the basalt being shipped north to Sydney from its man made harbour.
There are still active quarries in the region.
It was a lovely day sitting on the balcony overlooking the ocean eating seafood and steak and drinking good Margan wine.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Vintage 2017 Update 5

They have discovered that the grapes are ripening and are patrolling the netting looking for a way in.
Some have been successful.
It is a constant job monitoring the nets for holes.
Kangaroos 'visiting' at night pull down shoots protruding through the nets (they like the young leaves) and inevitably tear holes with their sharply clawed feet. Just what the birds, mainly currawongs, are looking for.
So am mending and shooing! (yes, shooing, not shooting)
Due to the dry weather the birds' natural feed is not readily available so they have turned to the man made. Commercial vineyards in the area as well as other regions eg. Hunter Valley,  have reported increased bird and flying fox activity this year.

I had planned to harvest the Semillon this weekend but it's raining today and forecast similarly for tomorrow.
Bad news for us but good news for the people just to the west of us up over the mountains where devastating bush fires have destroyed a lot of property.
Meanwhile 'the lab' has been restocked with the necessary chemicals and organized and the wine making equipment checked that it is in working order.
Next job will be to clean all the buckets pre picking.
Then I need to sterilize the crusher, press, fermenter and a tank. This is done generally between picking and processing.

Monday might be the day it all starts.
I tested the Pinot Noir again and recorded almost the same result as reported in Vintage Update 4 so am confidant it is right. Will look at it and the Tempranillo again late next week.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Vintage 2017 Update 4

Weather has been searingly hot in the state since our last report.
On Saturday and Sunday just gone, New South Wales was reported to be the hottest region in the world.
Temperatures in some places reached 48°C (118°F)
These conditions, with accompanying dry gusty winds, produced the inevitable bush fires.
Tens of thousands of ha.were burnt out by 80+ fires which raged across the dry countryside. Whole villages, farm houses and stock have been lost. No loss of life has yet been notified. Sadly some of these fires were deliberately lit.

We have escaped the more extreme temperatures apart from one day in the 40s but it's been consistently in the low 30s and has been very dry.
This combination has caused leaf burn and drop. We were getting concerned that reduced canopy cover would lead to fruit burn and reduced ripening.
But unexpectedly 70mm rain fell a few days ago and while most of the state was on fire yesterday it rained again here.
This seems to have revived the vines.

Be' sugar tests today:
Pinot Noir 10.0° (no change from 2 weeks ago).
Semillon 11.0° (up 2.0 from 2 weeks ago)
Tempranillo 12.0° (up 1.5  from 2 weeks ago).
Why didn't the Pinot move? The vines are the healthiest looking of the four varieties planted and have a good canopy. Maybe the vines absorbed more soil moisture from the rain than those with a lighter leaf cover, diluting the grape juice to some extent. Or there was a testing error.
So it will probably be another week before the Semillon is harvested and at least 2 weeks before the two reds hit the crusher.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Vintage 2017 Update 3

Weather has been hot and dry since our last report.
Very dry in fact. Some of our dams are drying up and our creek does not have any water in it at all. This is a first in 30 years I have been here.
Added to this we have had some very hot days in the mid to high 30s with a few in the 40s.
This has put vines in the shallower soils under considerable pressure. We have noticed some leaf wilting, burning and fall.
This does not auger well for grape ripening. Bunches need leaves to ripen.
The last preliminary sugar level tests a few days ago showed:
Tempranillo 10.5 Be'
Semillon 9.0 Be'
Pinot Noir10.0 Be'

Our targets are:
Tempranillo 13.5 Be'
Semillon 11.5 Be'
Pinot Noir 13.5 Be'
I know farmers are always complaining about the weather but when you are used to a wet vintage year after year, a dry one that comes along once every decade should be welcomed.
But this one is too bloody dry!
At least we are disease free. All but the Cabernet Sauvignon have had their last spray to comply with industry standard chemical withholding periods.
I expect to start harvest in about two to three weeks

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Australia Day 2017

Australian Day commemorates the day in 1788 when the First Fleet sailed into Sydney Harbour (Port Jackson) to establish a British convict colony.
As the years have gone on, the actual day of celebration has become more controversial.
While most Australians feel positively about Australia Day, most Indigenous Australians feel that it celebrates invasion and should be changed to a new date with a different name.
A recent Guardian Australia poll found that a majority (68%) felt positive about Australia Day, 19% indifferent and 7% had mixed feelings about the event while 6% of people felt negative about Australia Day
But among Aboriginal Australians and people from the Torres Strait Islands, less than a quarter (23%) felt positive about Australia Day and 31% felt negative about it. A further 30% said they had mixed feelings about Australia Day.

When participants were invited to associate three words with Australia Day, Australians polled chose barbecue, celebration and holiday. But, for Indigenous Australians, the three most chosen words were invasion, survival and murder.
No other ex British colony (that I can find) who still has ties to Great Britain eg. Canada and New Zealand celebrates the day the British 'arrived' as their national day so there is that argument for changing the day.
What to is another quesion.
Federation? ie. 1st January.
This will be an ongoing discussion over the years just like changing the flag ie. getting rid of the British Union Jack in the corner and Australia becoming a republic ie. getting rid of the English monarchy as head of state.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The South Coast Wine Show 2017

The show is over for another year.
This was the 18th.
104 entries came from 12 wineries in the South Coast Wine Zone which includes the Shoalhaven Coast and Southern Highlands Wine regions.
The number of entries was a bit disappointing as, in the show's heyday, it was nearly double this number. But the decline has been with us for some years now. Wine shows around the country are having similar experiences.
I am aware the committee is trying to remedy this situation. One innovation that 'stopped the rot' a little last year was opening up entries to wine made in the regions from grapes sourced outside the zone.
2017 Wine Show Judges: Nick O'Leary, David Morris (Chief), Deb Pearce

However a further step of making the show open to all comers would dilute its purpose which is to showcase South Coast Wine Zone wines.
It would be sad to see the show's demise after all the hard work that has gone into it over the years.
Results Summary: 6 gold, 14 silver and 40 bronze medals were awarded, a success rate of over 50% but the high ratio of bronze was a little concerning.
The public tasting took place at the local golf club the day after the judging and was reasonably attended.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Vintage 2017 Update 2

Weather continues to be kind.
Lots of sunshine and heat. Maybe too much as some of the vines on shallower soils are showing a little bit of water stress.
No sign of disease apart from a little patchy leaf botrytis.
We have veraison in the Tempranillo and just a hint in the Pinot Noir.
Tempranillo and Pinot Noir

No sign of colour change in the Semillon (green to yellow) or Cabernet Sauvignon (green to purple) yet.
Semillon and Cabernet Sauvignon

Leaf botrytis

While working in the Cabernet block I heard a strange buzzing sound and found that bees where beginning to swarm on one of the posts.
Not something I was familiar with.
The beginnings of the swarm
So I Googled.
The first piece of advice? Leave the swarm well alone. Angry bees en mass are not safe to deal with.
In most cases the swarm moves on in one to two days. If it doesn't, contact a local apiarist who might come and collect it for their own use or, as a last resort, call a pest exterminator.
Three hours later 'our' swarm had moved on. They must have been only resting for a short while.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

2016 / That Was the Year That Was

2016 was a relatively quiet year for us.
There was no overseas travel as we used that budget to make some home improvements and do some essential property maintenance.
We had a couple of trips north to Sydney and one to the Hunter Valley in what was, for us, a very low mileage year.
The co driver officially became an Australian citizen and the daughter and her husband moved to New York to live and work.
I made it to the big seven-o.
Vintage 2016 was a bit of a disaster wine quality wise. I decided in the end not to bottle any. Sad to see a few hundred liters poured into the ground but life is too short to drink sub standard wine.
This was a result of being away at a crucial growth stage during the latter end of 2015. The resultant grapes at harvest were in poor condition so no amount of chemistry (or alchemy) could make good wine from them.
The saying "good wine starts in the vineyard" was once again proven to be true.
This time around, with a 100% care, we are expecting a much  better result for vintage 2017. Already things are looking good.

Politically, we went to the federal polls again and the incumbent government was returned with a much reduced but still a one seat majority and a hostile senate despite their cynically changing voting procedures in a effort to thwart such an occurrence. So the dithering, indecision. inertia, factional infighting and back flipping will continue for another three years. Sometimes you have to wonder about the IQ of the electorate. But then again, look what happened across the Pacific. Unbelievable!
But, despite all this, life goes on in our quiet piece of paradise on the south coast of NSW.
So 2017 sees plans already made for a USA trip and a tentative one on the drawing board for a week or so in Tasmania.
Other than that, life will be beach sitting, fishing, grape tending, yoga/meditation, quilting and farm duties.
To all my readers, have a successful, prosperous and happy New Year.