The MossWood 2019 RibbonVale Elsa is a harmony of fine fruit and judicious oak. It shines lime green-tinted straw and has passionfruit scents and gooseberry front-palate. The middle shows quince, preserved lemon, honeydew melon and subtle cashew oak and the finish slatey acid.  Drinkwith: sushi. Ageing: six years

Thanks to a “Three Musketeers” of younger generation winemakers, Keith and Clare Mugford’s Moss Wood winery has introduced its first new product in seven years. Now added to the Margaret River operation’s ever-immaculate portfolio is a $76-a-bottle French oak-matured Ribbon Vale vineyard sauvignon blanc named in honour ofClare’s late mother Elsa Montgomery. It’s a terrific wine, arguably the equal of Cloudy Bay Te Koko Marlborough wines that sweep away my usual lack of enthusiasm for sauvignon blanc. Keith Mugford tells me it’s not the first straight sauvignon blanc produced at Moss Wood. One experimental wine was made in 2000, but it was replaced from 2001 on by the highly successful Ribbon Vale sauvignon blanc-semillon blends. Keith says the 2019 Ribbon Vale Elsa aims to show the nuanced and complex aspects of sauvignon blanc seen in its traditional homes of France’s Bordeaux, Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. Elsa was prompted by Moss Wood assistant winemaker Alex Coultas and Keith and Clare’s two Adelaide University-graduate winemaker sons Tristan, 30, and Hugh, 27. Dubbed the Three Musketeers, they were persuaded by their time at trade shows and customer tastings to do something different with sauvignon blanc. Elsa’s creation at the 2019 vintaqe came with infinite care. Fruit was hand-picked, sorted and crushed and the juice was given multiple yeast primary fermentation for five days. It was then racked off to 228-litre French oak barrels, 10 per cent of which were new. To determine how long it should stay in oak, the wine was tasted monthly – finally being bottled after 10 months in wood. Keith Mugford concedes that Elsa’s $76 price is a great departure from the global “Sauvalanche” of reasonable-priced New Zealand wines of consistent quality and style. It was an exploration of the potential of sauvignon blanc from Ribbon Vale and in no way in competition with the “cheap, cheerful and at times industrial” Kiwi sauvignon blancs. Moss Wood’s last new product, the botrytis semillon-sauvignon blanc was released in 2013, adding to a lineup of wines from the Ribbon Vale vineyard bought by the Mugfords in 2000 and the neighbouring original Moss Wood vineyard planted in 1969 by Busselton medico Bill Pannell and owned by the Mugfords since 1985. As well as the Elsa, Ribbon Vale provides grapes for cabernet sauvignon, merlot, sauvignon-semillon and botrytis semillon-sauvignon blanc releases. The original Wilyabrup vineyard provides the Estate range cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, pinot noir and semillon wines.

5.5 stars out of 6

 

Published April 8th, 2020

Rating: Stars
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A compelling rendition of the variety; the gloriously expressed bouquet shows cassis, dark plum, olive and spicy oak characters with a lovely violet overtone. It’s impressively weighted and dense on the palate, offering terrific fruit intensity and power, while remaining refined and classically structured by fine chalky tannins. Built for the long haul. At its best: 2023 to 2042.

Published March 2020.

97 Points

Rating: Stars
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Exquisitely composed and expressed, the wine shows Granny Smith apple, lemon pith, white flesh nectarine and lime peel characters with a hint of oatmeal complexity. The palate is superbly weighted and concentrated with outstanding definition and purity as well as delicate complexity, brilliantly structured by firm acidity. This is undeniably premier league sauvignon blanc offering stunning precision and a great degree of elegance.

At its best: 2021 to 2030.

March 2020.

95 Points

Rating: Stars
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Marked by notes of ripe cherries, red-skinned plums and hints of cassis, the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon was being bottled the day of my visit, so I tasted it from tank. It’s medium to full-bodied, with silky tannins and a long, long finish. While previous vintages showed more oak influence, this (and the 2018 and 2019) show a more nuanced touch and barely noticeable cedar and vanilla shadings.

93 – 95 points – “An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. In short, these are terrific wines.”

The day I rolled up to Moss Wood, the mobile bottling truck was also there. Having finished the 2018 Pinot Noir the day before, the crew was cranking out bottles of the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon. I managed a taste of the Cabernet from tank, so the 2018 Pinot Noir wasn’t available for tasting as a result. As readers of this report will see, I was still able to taste a few wines. Moss Wood was originally established in 1969, and the first plantings were made that same year by Bill and Sandra Pannell, among the region’s pioneers. Those original vines and some subsequent plantings continue to be the backbone of Moss Wood’s Cabernet Sauvignon. The current owners, Keith and Clare Mugford, purchased the property in 1985—Keith was the winemaker for the Pannells starting in 1979. As he said during my early November visit, “I’ve been here 40 years, and done 41 vintages.” In addition to his personal experience and a reasonable library cellar of older wines to refer back to, Mugford has had a weather station in the vineyard for the past 20 years. In case there was any doubt as to whether the preferred terminology should be “climate change” or “global warming,” he said, “Our vineyard is approximately two degrees Celsius cooler now than in 2012.” Among recent vintages, he prefers 2018. “It was a good year across all varieties,” he said. “Give me a warm year anytime. Seventeen and ’19 were cooler, so more work.” The Semillon is picked relatively early and made only in stainless steel, so it can be difficult to taste when young, but as a 2002 showed, it can age magnificently. All of the other wines see time in barrel as part of their maturation, but over the years, the amount of new oak seems to have been pared back across the board. The results are striking, well worth seeking out. The wines have an intrinsic sense of balance to them, which gives them the ability to age well across the board.

Published 9th Jan 2020

Rating: Stars
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Fermented and maturing in one-year-old barrels, the 2019 Elsa Sauvignon Blanc boasts scents of nectarine, vanilla and tangerine. It’s medium-bodied, crisp and refreshing, with more pronounced citrus notes on the lengthy finish.

The day I rolled up to Moss Wood, the mobile bottling truck was also there. Having finished the 2018 Pinot Noir the day before, the crew was cranking out bottles of the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon. I managed a taste of the Cabernet from tank, so the 2018 Pinot Noir wasn’t available for tasting as a result. As readers of this report will see, I was still able to taste a few wines. Moss Wood was originally established in 1969, and the first plantings were made that same year by Bill and Sandra Pannell, among the region’s pioneers. Those original vines and some subsequent plantings continue to be the backbone of Moss Wood’s Cabernet Sauvignon. The current owners, Keith and Clare Mugford, purchased the property in 1985—Keith was the winemaker for the Pannells starting in 1979. As he said during my early November visit, “I’ve been here 40 years, and done 41 vintages.” In addition to his personal experience and a reasonable library cellar of older wines to refer back to, Mugford has had a weather station in the vineyard for the past 20 years. In case there was any doubt as to whether the preferred terminology should be “climate change” or “global warming,” he said, “Our vineyard is approximately two degrees Celsius cooler now than in 2012.” Among recent vintages, he prefers 2018. “It was a good year across all varieties,” he said. “Give me a warm year anytime. Seventeen and ’19 were cooler, so more work.” The Semillon is picked relatively early and made only in stainless steel, so it can be difficult to taste when young, but as a 2002 showed, it can age magnificently. All of the other wines see time in barrel as part of their maturation, but over the years, the amount of new oak seems to have been pared back across the board. The results are striking, well worth seeking out. The wines have an intrinsic sense of balance to them, which gives them the ability to age well across the board.

 

Published 9th Jan 2020
(91 – 93)  – “An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. In short, these are terrific wines.”

93 Points

Rating: Stars
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This vineyard has been producing some mighty fine merlot of recent years. This is medium bodied with a floral rose petal aroma that is immediately appealing and alluring. The palate is so fine and elegantly balanced with chalky tannins and fine grained oak set off against the sweet succulent fruit. A most stylish wine that will benefit from cellaring.

93 Points

Rating: Stars
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Shows that Margaret River can make some pretty nifty pinot noir. This is light bodied but with some sustained power and inner palate grunt. Fine bony tannins and acid with light cherry and light raspberry fruit nuances. Has a slightly chewy tannin character with quality oak in support. This is a stylish pinot offering plenty.

92 Points

Rating: Stars
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The merlot from this vineyard has gone through a remarkable transition in recent years. Intense vineyard and winemaking management has resulted in softer more approachable tannins contributing to a series of excellent wines. Even in quite muscular years like this, the wine shows excellent flesh and suppleness while retaining structure and poise. A classy, expressive wine.

 

Published: November 2019

95 Points

Rating: Stars
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