Moss Wood Ribbon Vale 2019 Merlot – Andrew Caillard, Wine – The Vintage Journal

Medium deep crimson. Attractive musky dark plum aromas with hazelnut, praline notes. Generous, minerally and vigorous with saturated dark plum, mulberry, hazelnut, vanilla flavours, fine chalky al dente textures and long fresh integrated mineral acidity. Not powerful but graceful with lovely fruit complexity and vinosity. A cedary/ chalky tannin plume at the finish with seductive plummy, cassis fruits. A lovely medium bodied claret style which will build up complexity and richness with age. Drink 2023 – 2035 93% Merlot 7% Cabernet Franc.

95 Points

Rating: Stars
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Moss Wood Ribbon Vale 2019 Merlot – Gary Walsh, The Wine Front

Olive leaf, cedar, mint, nutty with black and red fruit. It’s savoury, quite leafy, with a slight honey flavour in with the mixed berry fruit, light grainy tannin, a bit of oak bobbing up, and an olive laced finish of solid length. A more savoury expression of Merlot, perhaps a bit lacking in mid-palate and richness, but a nice wine all the same.

Published May 2022

91 Points

Rating: Stars
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Moss Wood 2021 Semillon – Andrew Caillard, Vintage Journal

Pale medium colour. Lovely intense tropical fruit, guava, lemon curd aromas. Concentrated tropical fruit, lemon curd, grapefruit flavours, fine slinky textures, lovely mid palate viscosity and fresh indelible acidity. Finishes crisp with fennel/ aniseed notes. Ripe, generous and minerally; the complete alter ego to Hunter Valley Semillon. Drink now but should keep for a while.

94 Points

Rating: Stars
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Moss Wood Ribbon Vale 2019 Merlot – Erin Larkin,

This is supple and lithe; layers of raspberry and cocoa, licorice and clove. In the mouth there is saltbush and bay leaf, and it’s beautiful. The structure is fine, it doesn’t have that slippery, formless shape that can so afflict merlot from Margaret River. Nay – this is Château Lafleur-like in its subtle framework and enduring line. Lovely.

Published 12 May 2022

95 Points

Rating: Stars
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Moss Wood 2021 Semillon – Erin Larkin,

Powerful, dense and almost muscular, this cool-vintage iteration of semillon shows a tight core of apple and lime fruit, wrapped in layers of lemongrass, wisps of jalapeño, coriander root and apple skins. The top notes stray onto the exotic-spice spectrum, with fresh nutmeg, saffron and even za’atar. All this to say, a unique, restrained and precise expression, although a further year in bottle will likely assist in settling some of the early friskiness it has right now.

Published 12 May 2022

95 Points

Rating: Stars
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Moss Wood Dinner at Kailis Bros Leederville – October 31st, 2019

Kailis Bros Leederville is organising a Moss Wood dinner on Thursday 31st October 2019.

The dinner will feature the following wines, matched with 6 courses of locally sourced seafood:

Moss Wood Ribbon Vale 2018 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon
Moss Wood 2018 Semillon
Moss Wood 2018 Chardonnay
Moss Wood 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon
Moss Wood Ribbon Vale 2017 Merlot

Kailis Bros – 101 Oxford Street, Leederville WA
Thursday 31st October 2019 at 7pm

Rating: Stars
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Moss Wood 2020 Ribbon Vale Elsa, Moss Wood 2019 Ribbon Vale Merlot, Moss Wood 2019 Ribbon Vale Cabernet Sauvignon – James Halliday wine review, The Weekend Australian Magazine

It was love at first sight when I travelled to Margaret River 40 years ago to research the region for a book published by University of Queensland Press. Elements of its unique landscape-giant marri, karri and blackbutt gums, ancient grass trees, wildflowers of every kind that change with the season, and small streams that find their way to the eponymous river – come together to create a sense of calm and suspended time. Except, that is, on the days when far-distant storm cells create swells for surfers, or during the annual battle between countless thousands of silvereyes and winemakers waiting for their crops to ripen. If the gum trees don’t flower on time the or in sufficient amount, the entire region is covered by nets.

Moss Wood is one of the greatest cabernet sauvignon producers of the region, and it has long been my belief that it is primarily terroir, not so much its vinification practices, that gives these cabernets their special character. I have tasting notes for all of them dating back to 1973 and there is a lexicon of words such as softness, succulence and balance that stand out.

Enter Keith and Clare Mugford, who had worked with founders Bill and Sandra Pannell from 1979 to 1984, and thereafter leased the property until moving to full ownership in 1985. Keith sees himself and Clare as custodians of an asset that will live for 100 years, so they have carefully considered all changes. The first (in 1995) was to mature their cabernets in oak for two years, and push the release date out 12 months. This increased the already intense pressure from would-be purchasers of the wines, but added a patina to the mouth-feel. The other change was to buy the Ribbon Vale vineyard, 1.6km south of Moss Wood. There was no doubt it helped assuage first up demand, but the quality of the wine soon emptied the shopping basket



A 90/10% blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon, barrel fermented and matured for 9 months in French barriques. The move away from the clear juice to slightly cloudy has moved this into big boy’s territory, full-bodied if you will, but none the worse for that. 14% alc, screw cap

 95 points, drink to 2027



A beguiling bouquet, its aroma glittering so rapidly it’s hard to keep up with them. Better to allow the wine to have its head and leave you to revel in the gloriously supple array of red and black fruits, the tannins translucent. 13.5% alc, screwcap

96 points, drink to 2043



91% cabernet sauvignon, and 3% each of cabernet franc, merlot and malbec, 28 months in French barriques. The texture and structure are such that the drink-to dates have little meaning. Flavours of olive tapenade, crushed bay leaves and blackcurrant fruits, oak and tannin beholders rather than participants. 14% alc, screwcap

96 points, drink to 2044


Printed on The Weekend Australian Magazine, Saturday March 5th 2022

Rating: Stars
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How is Australian wine facing up to the major crises of 2020/21? –

Australia has had comparatively few human casualties from Covid but the financial impact has been immense. The loss of international cellar door trade plus the tariffs imposed by China – as an indirect result of the pandemic – have been keenly felt. Add to this the bushfires and floods and you understand why the Australian Grape and Wine Authority says as many as 30% of the country’s 2,600 wineries could go under. Justin Keay talks to three family-run wine estates to see how they are faring and what they are doing to plan for an uncertain future in the week when Wine Australia launches its new CONNECT digital platform to help bring its producers closer together with wine buyers around the world.

“This growing diversity – regional, stylistic and philosophical – is, of course, why Australian wine today is such a different proposition from a few years ago,” writes Justin Keay.
This is an existential time for the world’s wine industry, with the fall in global trade, the ravages wrought by Covid 19, and the collapse in the on-trade in wealthy nations all having a major impact. Individual countries have had additional crosses to bear: Lebanon’s collapse into economic chaos, with the Lira losing 90% of its value in less than a year, is devastating a heavily import-dependent industry (everything from bottles, corks and labels upwards) whilst South Africa’s off/on alcohol sales and export bans has destroyed producer’s revenue stream there.

But what of Australia, such a long way from the fulcrum of the crises battering the world?

Despite localised lockdowns, the Lucky Country has had a ‘good pandemic’, whilst years of investment in an economy that until last year enjoyed over 20 years of unbroken GDP growth, has generally left its wine industry in buoyant health. Clever producers have consolidated market share at entry level (think Yellowtail and McGuigan) whilst higher-end winemakers have been eschewing oak for fresher and more expressive styles reflecting local conditions and soil. Defining itself by growing regionality and moving away from the French varieties that were once almost ubiquitous here, Australian wine is rightly getting more critical acclaim than ever before.

Yet 2020 was rough. With Australia arguably more impacted by climate change than any other country, producers have had to deal with drought, fire damage and smoke – Wine Australia reckons almost 5% of the national grape crop in 2019-20 was lost this way after the devastating bushfires – and now flood, with Hunter Valley just one of many regions finding itself underwater this month.

And despite the admirable low number of human casualties, Covid 19 has in fact impacted heavily, with restrictions and the absence of tourists hitting cellar door sales hard: last April the Australian Grape and Wine Authority said as many as 30% of the country’s 2600 wineries could go under.

And then there’s the impact of Australia’s grim diplomatic face-off with China, resulting from Canberra’s suggestion there should be a proper international investigation into the origins of the pandemic and its protests at China’s suppression of human rights in Hong Kong and amongst the Uighur Muslims. Beijing’s subsequent tariffs increase the price of a typical Australian bottle in China and Hong Kong by over 200% – potentially devastating given that China was the industry’s biggest export market, accounting for 37% of the total, or $800m. Big names like Penfolds are worst hit but all producers will be struggling to compensate even if they didn’t sell to China, as they fight off increased competition from those who did.

So as 2021 gets underway, what’s the mood? How do producers – particularly the smaller ones – see the future? And do they think international consumer perceptions of Australian wine are changing? I spoke to three premium family-run wineries in three different states to get an idea.

(. . .)

Moss Wood in West Australia’s Margaret River

Almost 3000 kilometres further west, in Margaret River, West Australia, Keith Mugford, owner and winemaker at Moss Wood – the second winery in this region – is also pretty phlegmatic about climate change. A bigger worry has been the potential loss of sales because of the new Chinese tariffs.

“Despite being there since 2006, our sales have only been small, for all sorts of price and strategic reasons. Hong Kong is more frustrating. Our sales there go back to the 1980s. It’s been a good market for us and disappointing the future is now so uncertain,” he says, adding that he will “be happy to pick up the threads” if things improve.

He says the British market has been Moss Wood’s biggest and most reliable since exports started back in 1985.

Keith Mugford
“It seems British consumers enjoy our wines and we always try to be consistent with style and quality. I hope we can continue this and retain as many existing customers as possible but also promote effectively and introduce new customers to our individual vineyard wines,” he says, adding that Moss Wood is moving towards minimal intervention and further reducing environmental impact.

So is Australian wine changing?

Mugford says Moss Wood has never been a “big oak” producer but reckons there have been wider changes, with Chardonnay made in a leaner, finer style, which he reckons consumers appreciate. With reds generally, and Shiraz in particular, he thinks the picture is more nuanced.

“The popularity of ripe Shiraz continues and there are still “big” wines being made. There are, however, an interesting range of wines which display much more restraint and elegance. Given the range of climates in which it’s grown, this is hardly a surprise. The Barossa Valley celebrates its ability to produce generous, fully-ripened wines, expressing the rich end of the Shiraz spectrum, while southern Victoria makes in a more elegant, complex style.”

This growing diversity – regional, stylistic and philosophical – is, of course, why Australian wine today is such a different proposition from a few years ago. An industry once defined by brands and standardisation has become something much more sophisticated, which is why it will ride out its current challenges and continue to evolve.

(. . .)

One of Margaret River’s earliest and most iconic producers, famed for its Cabernet Sauvignon but also great Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Semillon.

“We try to make wine which consistently presents the individual style of our vineyard and, at the same time, captures the essence of each new vintage”. (Keith Mugford)

Moss Wood 2019 Chardonnay

Youthful yes, but this has a wonderful depth of flavour and character I wasn’t expecting. Perfectly balanced, apple, pear and honeysuckle flavours supported by light oak. Destined to mature wonderfully, if you have the patience.

Moss Wood 2019 Amy’s

Baby sister to Moss Wood’s iconic Cabernet, this has been dubbed “Australia’s best value red” and you can taste why immediately: dry, deep dark cassis, great wood integration and long palate persistence make this a steal (. . .).

Moss Wood 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

Still very young, this is a remarkably layered and complex Cab, with red and dark berry flavours supported by soft oak and warm tannins. Very dark coloured and (. . .) well priced for such sophistication.

Moss Wood 2020 Semillon

The first wine I’ve tasted produced anywhere from that fateful year is actually a real cracker, with a light almost ethereal nose and palate which widens a few hours after opening to reveal green apple, pear and sherbet flavours. Very young obviously but the potential for real development here is considerable.

Moss Wood 2018 Pinot Noir

Light and well balanced, this is a fruit-driven wine with predominantly red fruit and a surprisingly rich middle palate supported by good oak and balanced tannins. Very distinctive Margaret River Pinot.

Rating: Stars
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Vintage news March 2021 – March 19th, 2021


At the time of writing, vintage 2021 has just got underway with our first pick of Pinot Noir on 1st March.  The season has been generally very good to us, if somewhat mild.  We had good rains right through spring but we avoided any serious problems with the weather.  Mother Nature was in a benign mood and spared us strong winds and hail, although there was one day where she flexed her muscles with the latter but allowed us to get through largely unscathed.  Let that be a warning to you appears to have been her message.

The lesson came on 6th February when a cyclone remnant delivered just over 80mm rain and we held our breath for a week or so while we waited to see if we developed any disease.  Coming fairly late in the season, as it did, meant the fruit on the early varieties was quite soft and so splitting was a risk.  In the end, our spray program worked and damage was minimal.  Some berries popped off in the Pinot Noir and there was some splitting in the Semillon, but that was the extent of things, so there were smiles all round.  In trying to explain our good fortune, it seems we’re helped by our gravelly soils, which allow the water to drain away fairly quickly, reducing uptake by the vines and also the humidity in the vineyard.

Aside from the above, it has been a very mild summer and so the vines have ripened slowly and we find ourselves waiting patiently for each one to mature.  Looking at recent seasons, the temperatures have been slightly warmer than 2017 but slightly cooler than 2018, so we are looking forward to good quality.

Rating: Stars
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Vintage news April 2021 – April 6th, 2021

As we noted in our recent newsletter, we’ve had a very mild season and the 2021 vintage kicked off for Moss Wood on 1st March with the Pinot Noir. Each variety is being picked around 7 to 10 days later than average and the slow ripening has given us a very leisurely time indeed. Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Chardonnay have all strolled through to ripeness and the winery has sped up for one or two days to process whichever was ripe and then stopped while we waited on the next. We’ve even had time to go to the beach on nice days!

Yields have been better than the last several years, with Sauvignon Blanc the best performer at a remarkable 14.2 tonnes/hectare, not bad for unirrigated vines and 40% above average. On the other hand, Semillon and Chardonnay were both less impressive, producing 5.87 t/ha and 3.6 t/ha respectively but at least showing improvement. The first pick of the Cabernet varieties was 6th April and suggest yields will be average, or slightly better, which is also great news.

Of course, with all vintages, it’s quality we worry about most and in 2021 the vines have achieved good flavour ripeness across all varieties. Given the conditions, we’re anticipating wines with vibrant fruit perfumes and they appear to be in the style of 2017 and 2018. If so, we’ll be delighted.

Finally, Mother Nature, as is her way, has decided to throw us one last challenge for the vintage by giving us a significant rain threat in 4 days’ time. All the best laid plans of mice and men have now been thrown out the window and we’re now

picking furiously to finish before this arrives. That’s the end of the beach days for a while.

Rating: Stars
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