Moss Wood’s New Whites

By Fergal Gleeson

The Moss Wood Team at Vintage time

I caught with Hugh Mugford, Assistant Winemaker and Viticuluralist at Moss Wood and had a chat with him about Moss Wood’s new releases of white wines.

First some background – Moss Wood are one of Margaret River’s founding wineries along with Vasse Felix, Cullen Wines and Cape Mentelle.

Production remains small and is focussed on premium wine making. All of their releases are single vineyard expressions from one of their three vineyards – Moss Wood, Ribbon Vale and Glenmore.

They are recognised as one of the region’s finest producers.

Moss Wood owners and winemakers Clare and Keith Mugford

Fergal: Most Semillon from Margaret River is blended with Sauvignon Blanc. Why do Moss Wood make a single varietal Semillon and how would you describe the style?

Hugh: Semillon was planted at Moss Wood in 1973, and has been made as a straight varietal at Moss Wood ever since.

When Semillon is grown in appropriate conditions and full flavour ripeness is achieved, we feel that it has enough fruit intensity and complexity to be made as a single varietal and doesn’t require the addition of any other blending varieties.

When made well, Semillon offers youthful characters of fig, honey and quince and with age (15 years+) these characters become more complex, with a kerosene and toasted honey note on the nose and a golden.

All of the above has led us to the belief that Semillon is a perfectly capable single varietal.

Harvest starts early at Moss Wood

Fergal: Ribbon Vale Elsa is a relatively new take on Sauvignon Blanc for Moss Wood. How do you make Elsa and why did you make the changes?

Hugh: The Ribbon Vale Elsa was a project born out of our desire to make a style of Sauvignon Blanc that showed greater flavour and complexity than your everyday, easy-drinking Sauvingon Blanc.

In this pursuit, we tried a number of wines from Sancerre and Pouilly Fume to get an understanding of what the best examples of Sauvignon Blanc looked like.

From each of these we took a number of ideas and in the end settled on a few viticultural and winemaking technical adjustments that we could make in order to make this new wine stand out.

This involved picking the fruit slightly riper (~12.5 Baume) than we previously had to allow greater flavour ripeness and fruit intensity. Once in the winery we inoculated for primary and Malolactic fermentation (MLF) in French Oak barriques to promote richer texture and mouthfeel. At the completion of MLF, the wine was then racked and returned to French oak barrels for a further 9 months.

The key changes in style being riper fruit, barrel fermentation, full MLF and barrel ageing, leading to a more rounded, intense and complex wine than we have made before.  

Fergal Moss Wood Chardonnay is your flagship white wine. What should drinkers expect from the 2020?

Hugh: Aside from a hail storm in October 2019 which significantly reduced yields, the 2020 growing season was a very good one for Chardonnay at Moss Wood.

The mild to warm conditions meant that the small crop achieved full ripeness about 2 weeks earlier than average, and upon receival in the winery was in extremely good condition.

Given the favourable growing conditions, the wine itself displays classic Moss Wood Chardonnay characters of marmalade, cashews, peaches and limes.

The 2020 Moss Wood Chardonnay is a release that we’re extremely happy with and hope that the consumers will be too!

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