By Fergal Gleeson
“I like everything about vintage!” beams Keith Mugford, who has completed more than 40 vintages at Moss Wood. “It’s exciting! The winery is busy. There are lots more people around so the workplace environment is different.”
“It’s intellectually and physically stimulating but tiring. We try not to run more than 12 hour days. Because there are risks in fatigue but also in safety. When you are watching the weather every day you can also start to feel the pressure. People can get grumpy too!” he laughs.
I asked Keith how he knows when it’s time to pick.
“Well it’s partly technical. You take a sample of the grapes. Get the juice out and measure the sugar levels which is indicative of the alcohol levels. It’s also artistic in terms of the flavours perceivable in the grape juice and imagining what they will taste like in the finished wine.”
Winemakers often talk about the age of their vines. I asked Keith how vine age makes a difference to what you see in the bottle.
“Scientifically I’ve never seen a justification between the vine’s age and the quality of the wine,” Keith says.
“However my thinking is that the old vines have the best root systems and in an unirrigated vineyard like ours, this comprehensive root system withstands heat stress which we know effects quality. As vines get older they produce less crop but have bigger root systems, which protects them.”
Do vines ever get too old?
“Moss Wood turns 50 in September and some of the vines are showing their age, though the yields continue to be commercial,” he says. “Eventually the performance of old vines means that they are no longer viable and you must start again with those vines.”
“Theoretically for vines that’s somewhere between 60-70 years of age. Our Cabernet, Semillon and Pinot Noir vines are all going strong. The Chardonnay vines are not ageing as well. There is no hard and fast rule. You just observe the vines.”
Hand picking grapes is a tough physical job. I asked Keith who harvests their grapes.
“For many years backpackers on 417 visa made up a big part of the teams. For the last decade we have been employing former Afghan refugees, who are now Australian citizens, making a new life for themselves. They are from the Hazara tribe. They are a great bunch of people so friendly and respectful.”
The current releases by Moss Wood releases are impressive in quality. The winery has a substantial following and some of the range has already sold out from the winery, but is available in restaurants and from wine retailers. Some of my favourites include the Semillon 2018 , Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2018, Amy’s 2017 and their Pinot Noir 2016.
More at http://www.mosswood.com.au
From Your Margaret River Region Magazine