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Margaret River semillon hits mark – Celebrating western hero – John Lewis, Newcastle Herald

Semillon brings the Hunter Valley great international renown but it’s not a noted variety in Western Australia’s Margaret River. Sure Margaret River semillon-sauvignon blends have wide popularity, but cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay are the area’s poster children. To Clare and Keith Mugford, however, semillon is the “unsung hero” that has been pivotal in their Moss Wood operation in the northern Wilyabrup sub-region. At a time when Margaret River has been marking the 50th anniversary of the 1967 planting of its first vineyard at Vasse Felix, Moss Wood has enjoyed the distinctionof being the area’s second vineyard – established in 1969 by Busselton medico Dr Bill Pannell and his wife Sandra. With the recent release of the Moss Wood 2017 Margaret River Semillon, Clare and Keith have highlighted the 40th birthday of the marque and its impact on them. In their early Moss Wood plantings, the Pannells couldn’t get chardonnay cuttings and in 1972 they defied the conventional wisdom favouring riesling and put in semillon. In 1976 the vines produced a tiny batch of wine that was oak barrel-fermented, but didn’t please the Pannells. They refused to sell the wine but allowed experienced tasters to sample it. Among them was them was the WA Governor, Sir Wallace Kyle, who was so impressed he persuaded the Pannells to supply the wine for a 1977 Silver Jubilee tour Government House dinner for the Queen. It was the only wine of that style and was quickly replaced from the 1977 vintage to the present by semillon made in classic Hunter unoaked manner. That 1977 wine was to have a profound impact on avid surfer and McLaren Valebred Roseworthy College winemaking student Keith Mugford. As a final-year student in 1978 Keith was introduced to the wine at a dinner with two colleagues from Western Australia. Keith, who as a student had done vintages in the Hunter with Tullochs and in the Barossa with Orlando, was much impressed and after his 1979 graduation eagerly accepted the Pannells’ offer of a job as Moss Wood winemaker and viticulturist. When the Pannells retired in 1984 after 15 years running a winery and meeting the demands of family and a busy medical practice, they sold the business to 26-yearold Keith and his wife Clare. Today the couple say semillon is close to their hearts. “It grows like a weed, ripens reliably and produces wines that are lively and vibrant in their youth, but cellarfor decades – a true unsung hero,” the Mugfords say.

March 14th, 2018