Moss Wood Ribbon Vale 2015 Merlot
9% Cabernet Franc.
|Median Harvest:||Merlot – 12/03/2015
Cabernet Franc – 04/03/2015
|Yield:||Merlot – 5.46 t/ha
Cabernet Franc – 5.79 t/ha
|Baume:||Merlot – 12.6⁰ Be
Cabernet Franc – 13.2⁰ Be
In the wine industry we have to be patient. To draw an analogy from cricket, winemaking is more Matt Renshaw than David Warner and very little happens quickly. It’s now more than 17 years since the Mugford family purchased Ribbon Vale vineyard, in March 2000. Although it was fully established and producing good wine, we were determined to put our own stamp on it. With the release of the 2015 red wines, of which we are very proud, we thought a review is timely.
Progress has been steady and each vintage has added to our understanding of the site and how it performs. Ribbon Vale is a unique environment and learning how this differs from Moss Wood has proven a fascinating exercise.
The two vineyards offer an insight into the French concept of “terroir”. The same people manage the two locations and their resulting wines, with identical techniques but the wines are not the same, despite there being barely more than one kilometre between them. They even have very similar soil types. However, Ribbon Vale is an elevated location, with aspects out to the south and west, is therefore cooler and ripens more slowly. Moss Wood looks out to the north and east, is more sheltered and commensurately warmer. We’re now getting the hang of what that means for ripening times and fruit flavours.
Improvement in the Ribbon Vale style have also been driven by upgrades we’ve made to the property. Most notable amongst these are the improvement of the trellising by the introduction of the Henry system and also the introduction of the Houghton Cabernet Sauvignon clone.
We must make special mention of Merlot. This is a variety with which we had little experience before 2000 and we freely admit we’ve been on a steep learning curve. It performs quite differently to its Bordeaux siblings, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, and needs a different management approach in both the vineyard and the winery. It shouldn’t be over-cropped and it definitely needs special attention during fermentation to tease out its colour and flavour.
How far have we come? Well, of course, it’s up to you, the customers, to make this judgement and we welcome your feedback. Nevertheless, our view from the inside is Ribbon Vale is finally delivering the style and quality we are aiming for. Can we give ourselves a pat on the back?
The colour is bright, deep brick red.
On the nose displays powerful black fruits of blackberry and mulberry, backed up by Merlot’s complex notes, with lots of mushroom, tar and earth.
The palate has immediate impact with intense dark fruit notes of cherry and blackberry filling the front and mid palate. Underneath is a firm structure of acidity and tannin, but both are in good balance, such that the texture is smooth, with no drying or bitter astringency. The finish combines classic Merlot style of soft charry oak and bitumous notes.
Moss Wood Ribbon Vale 2015 Merlot – David Bicknell, James Halliday Wine Companion
Moss Wood Ribbon Vale 2015 Merlot – James Suckling, jamessuckling.com
Moss Wood Ribbon Vale 2015 Merlot – The West Australian, Angus Hughson
Moss Wood Ribbon Vale 2015 Merlot – Bob Campbell, The Real Review
Moss Wood Ribbon Vale 2015 Merlot – Huon Hooke, The Real Review
Moss Wood Ribbon Vale 2015 Merlot – John Lewis, Newcastle Herald
Moss Wood Ribbon Vale 2015 Merlot – Fergal Gleeson, The Great Wine Blog
Ripening Time from Flowering to Harvest:
2015 Ribbon Vale Merlot – 118 days
2015 Ribbon Vale Cabernet Franc – 118 days
Before we get too carried away, we must acknowledge the sheer quality of the 2015 vintage. While we lay claim to being competent grapegrowers and winemakers, it’s all easy-peasy when Mother Nature serves us up a year like this, one that will likely to join the ranks of Margaret River’s finest.
All the numbers speak to the quality. During calendar year 2014 we had 1244mm of rain, around 25% above average, so our unirrigated vineyards were well watered. The temperatures during the growing season were consistently warm, without extreme heat. There were 33 hours when the temperature exceeded 33⁰C and the hottest day was only 37.3⁰C – the sort of conditions where the Bordeaux varieties move steadily to full flavour ripeness.
For all its greatness, 2015 had a down side – yield. Merlot produced 5.46 t/ha, down 33% and Cabernet Franc 5.79 t/ha, down 30%. Our best explanation for this lies with inclement conditions during flowering.
So, to the harvest. The Cabernet Franc came off on 4th March at 13.2⁰ Baume and the Merlot on 12th March at 12.6⁰ Baume ripeness.
Each batch was hand-picked, destemmed then transferred to small open tanks for fermentation and hand plunged 3 times per day for extraction of colour and flavour.
The Merlot was on skins for 15 days and Cabernet Franc for 14 days. After fermentation the Merlot was racked to barrels on 13th April 2015 and Cabernet Franc on 31st March 2015. All the barrels were 228 litre French oak and the Merlot received 9% new.
In December 2016 all the batches were racked to stainless steel for blending. After the Merlot was blended with 9% Cabernet Franc. The finished wine was returned to barrel.
On 21st August 2017 the wine was racked to stainless steel in preparation for bottling. Fining trials were carried out but none improve the wine, so it was then sterile filtered and bottled on 28th August 2017.
The quality of the 2015 vintage has ensured generous youthful fruit flavours that can be enjoyed now but it is a keeper and needs a minimum of 10 years cellaring to begin to show its bottle bouquet. For those with patience, it will reach full maturity around 2035.