Margaret River winemakers step up as autumn sets in

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Tom ZaunmayrAugusta Margaret River Times
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VideoThe pickers have finished their work and now it is over to the wine makers of the Margaret River region to produce the goods. We visited Fraser Gallop Estate and Moss Wood Wines in Wilyabrup to see how vintage 2019 was tracking

On a chilly morning in Wilyabrup, light filters through a thick red, green and yellow canopy. In the distance mist slowly rises over rows of vines as a golden morning glow settles in.

Autumn has set in on Fraser Gallop Estate and the claret ash trees lining the driveway have become a colourful feature. It’s a vivid reminder for the winery of something more beautiful to come.

As the leaves turn red, the vintage is ready to put to bed.

Winemaker Clive Otto said after a busy week finishing picking before the rains set in, it was a good feeling seeing all the fruit in the tank.

“We are putting a lot of wines to oak right now,” he said. “From there it is just a matter of putting them to bed and in 18 months time pulling them out of oak to start blending them for bottling.”

Dario Sirotti, Ellin Tritt, Clive Otto and Liz Hatherley from Fraser Gallop Estate.
Camera IconDario Sirotti, Ellin Tritt, Clive Otto and Liz Hatherley from Fraser Gallop Estate. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr.

Mr Otto said despite the late start to the season, he was happy with the flavours and colours in this year’s grapes.

“The chardonnay came in with beautiful, pristine citrus fruits and stone fruits,” he said. “A little bit of rain just before the semillon was harvested might have caused a couple of issues, but the wine looks great in the tank.

“We got all the cabernet in before the last rains, and colours were fantastic.

“The wines will be nice and dark with great tannins.”

Four kilometres down the road at Moss Wood Winery, there’s even more reason to celebrate this year.

September marks 50 years since vines were first planted in the soil here.

Clare and Keith Mugford have held stewardship at the winery for about 40 years.

Keith & Clare Mugford, happy among the 50-year-old vines at Moss Wood. Pic: Tom Zaunmayr.
Camera IconKeith & Clare Mugford, happy among the 50-year-old vines at Moss Wood. Pic: Tom Zaunmayr. Credit: The West Australian

“Wine production in Margaret River is generally of a very high standard — internationally reputed now — which is really exciting to be a part of,” Mr Mugford said.

“Moss Wood has been around the district a long time and where we are standing, this section of vineyard has produced a couple of really special wines which helped get the reputation of Margaret River and Moss Wood going.”

The Mugfords’ picking crew finished up last Sunday. Yields are down but quality has been “tremendous”.

“We have had quite a few issues with frost in the spring and significant trouble with birds during the growing season,” Mr Mugford said.

“Plus we have had such a mild summer that it has been quite late, but quality-wise, it is very exciting.

“We have full maturity in each variety, fruit characteristics are very good, the reds have lovely complexity and really concentrated tannins, so stylistically a fantastic year but we have had to be patient.”

Clare Mugford said presiding over Moss Wood’s historic vines made her feel an old, but the couple were happy to consider themselves part of the Margaret River furniture.

“These old vines have grown and now have a significant number of vintages under their belt,” she said.

Whites from this year’s vintage can be expected to hit shop shelves by the end of 2019. Chardonnay releases should begin in early 2020, but those seeking reds will have to wait at least two years.

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