• Roger Jones: the enduring appeal of Margaret River’s Moss Wood

    Roving contributing editor Roger Jones has an audience with Keith and Clare Mugford from Moss Wood, focussing not only on their aged fine wines from Margaret River in Western Australia but also discussing the Semillon Gris mutation of Semillon and whether it affects the wines. With Moss Wood celebrating its 50th anniversary next year and Keith also marking 40 years as head winemaker, this was a perfect occasion to consider the enduring appeal of the wines and how they age.

    Roving contributing editor Roger Jones has an audience with Keith and Clare Mugford from Moss Wood, focussing not only on their aged fine wines from Margaret River in Western Australia but also discussing the Semillon Gris mutation of Semillon and whether it affects the wines. With Moss Wood celebrating its 50th anniversary next year and Keith also marking 40 years as head winemaker, this was a perfect occasion to consider the enduring appeal of the wines and how they age.

    mm By November 22, 2018

    This special tasting includes a flight of Semillon and Chardonnay dating back to 1993, Cabernet Sauvignon dating back to 1996 plus Moss Wood Pinot Noir.

    On the day that The Buyer published one of my articles on Tyrrell’s and the specific Semillon grape where I reported that Semillon Gris, the mutation of aged Semillon, although rife in South Africa was rarely seen outside South Africa, and especially not in Australia, Chris Tyrrell said he was aware of the process but certainly had not seen it in either the Hunter or other regions of Australia. However, Keith Mugford said; “Yes we do get sporadic Semillon Gris shooting up in our vineyards in Margaret River”, which was a bit of a pain as I was proudly showing him my article denying this!  

    So how does this affect the Semillon wine?

    Clearly in South Africa, Chris and Andrea Mullineux think that it is so important that they pick the Gris grapes specifically to make their finest wines, where Keith noted that he balanced them in with his normal Semillon grapes. To me Moss Wood Semillon has always been much more akin to a South African Semillon as opposed to the distinct, but perfectly good, Hunter Valley Semillon, this reason could be in Moss Wood’s use of the Semillon Gris.

    Moss Wood
    Keith and Clare Mugford from Moss Wood with Roger Jones (l), Cabotte, London, November 2018

    Going through a vertical of Moss Wood Semillon back to 1993 there were many highlights with the 2017 showcasing a lovely brightness, this in its 40th birthday, highlighting the Pannells’ (the original owners of Moss Wood) decision to follow Dr Gladstone’s advice that Margaret River was ideal for Bordeaux varieties and not Riesling which was so common in those days. The Pannells had produced a barrel-fermented Semillon in 1976, but were not happy with it, and from 1977 all Semillon was produced in a similar style to The Hunter Valley with no oak, however the 1976 Semillon, not commercially released, was served to Queen Elizabeth II in 1977 on her Silver Jubilee visit to Western Australia.

    The 1977 Moss Wood Semillon was the first wine that Keith Mugford had tried from the estate and, later that year, he took up a job there… the rest as they say is history. This certainly cements the importance of Semillon to Keith and Clare Mugford, despite them being world famous for their Cabernet Sauvignon.

    Highlights of the Semillon flight

    Moss Wood

    Moss Wood Semillon 2017

    Fresh ripe nose, citrus aromas, soft delicate acacia honey. Lots of limes, lychees and sweet ripe figs on the palate, full flavour, carried by the fresh acidity, recognised as a great vintage.

    Moss Wood Semillon 2014

    Vibrant, flinty and exciting, quite lively with a lovely freshness, textured, pink grapefruit, honey, layered with underlying freshness.

    Moss Wood Semillon 2007

    Nutty, guava, slightly more tropical, evolved well and drinking nicely, this was perfectly matched to a Sea Bream Carpaccio later with lunch. The freshness of the fish lifted the wine to another level and showcased how good these Semillons are with vibrant seafood dishes.

    Moss Wood Semillon 1993

    Great evolvement on the colour, quite a deep intense aroma, layers of complex flavours, still has a brightness that carries the deeper flavours, this was under cork, would have been interesting to try it under stelvin.

    Highlights of the Moss Wood Chardonnay flight 

    Moss Wood

    Australia is certainly back on top with Chardonnay and Margaret River excels in the luxurious style, offering one of the best value Chardonnays from this region.

    Moss WoodChardonnays tasted were from 2017 to 1993, the 2017 highlighting the excellence of Moss Wood with James Halliday giving it pretty much a perfect score. It was refined and pretty seamless whereas the 2016 was a bigger style exuberant in its youth. The 2007 was very Burgundian in style, nutty, delicate pineapple, flinty, white stone fruit, drinking so well whilst the 2006, a difficult vintage weather wise, was linear, very fine, pink grapefruit giving it freshness but leaves a lovely lingering flavour.

    And last but not least the Moss Wood 1993 Chardonnay. Well it may not be everyone’s style, but my word what an experience, this was intense in flavour and colour, the golden hue shining out of the glass, the aromas of ripe slightly bruised Provence stone fruit glowing on the palate, there was a freshness of acidity that brought a brightness to the tasting.

    And a flight of Moss Wood Pinot Noir

    Not a variety that jumps out when you name Moss Wood, but it was a delight to go through Pinots back to 1992, my highlights were 2009 and 2001 which both showed how well Moss Wood Pinot ages, whilst the 1992 showed a style deeper in intensity, although still light more like a fine Rioja, such as Vina Bosconia  from Lopez de Heredia, with meaty bacon under notes and bright, dried strawberry freshness.

    And finally the flight of Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon

    Moss Wood

    It must be over 30 years ago that I first tasted Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon, and have been collected these amazing wines ever since, this was for me the Cabernet Sauvignon that put Australia on the map, and is lauded by Froncofiles as well as Modernists. The tongue-in-cheek original label certainly showcased its pedigree and these continue to deliver excellence, they were also one of the first serious players to put their top wines under stelvin – ensuring perfection every time.

    The 1996 under cork served at the tasting was slightly dusty, but luckily I had tried a 1996 compared to a 1995 a client had purchased in our restaurant a few weeks ago to see the sheer purity, brightness and complexity of these wines with over 30 years age.

    Moss WoodThe 1999, under stelvin, was a beautiful seamless wine with great freshness, cherry aromas on the nose, bilberries, redcurrants and cedar wood, balanced with that freshness, with a touch of silky chocolate on the finish. The 2015, however, is a marvel, a light toasty cedar wood nose, blackberry and cherry announce themselves with aplomb, then there is an expensive, silky, complex wine that is fighting to come out. This will age for decades – a stunning wine.

    The Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 retails before discount at £59 per bottle inc VAT however there is the Moss Wood Ribbon Vale Cabernet Sauvignon from £29 and the exceptional value and quality Moss Wood Amy’s sourced from the Glenmore Vineyard, owned by ex-Moss Wood winemaker Ian Bell, with a blend of Cab, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec at £13.50 a bottle.

    Moss WoodThe Tasting was hosted at the Cabotte restaurant in the City, where they produced a fabulous menu to match to the wines. Jeroboams are the importers of Moss Wood.

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