Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon. The icon. A blue-chip Australian red with a history of glory spanning back decades to the beginning of Margaret River wine.
Or at least that’s the pitch. Whereas I have a mercurial relationship with the Cabernet Sauvignon – as you can see in recent reviews. It’s not an issue with Moss Wood either – the bold Chardonnay and surprising Semillon can be delicious. It’s just that the Cabernet doesn’t always do it for me.
Further, this year there’s a twist – for mine, the 2017 Moss Wood Amy’s (a Cabernet blend) outclasses the ’16 Cabernet Sauvignon. Again.
The appeal of Amy’s over the big dog-red is about freshness. It’s a lovely, vibrant Cab blend, the vitality a counterpoint to the slightly stodgy straight Cabernet. Energy versus impact. Leaf vs oak.
It’s a fascinating circumstance that you regularly see in Margaret River, where the second label wine is more appealing than the super cuvee. You only need to wander across the road from Moss Wood to Woodlands, for example, and taste the Margaret versus the oak-dense Cabernet Sauvignon to see the joy of extra energy rather than raw power.
Of course, that’s a broad generalisation (and I like the Woodlands Cab too), but it plays out so often that worth talking about. Bigger isn’t always better…
Meanwhile, I tasted this collection of newish release Moss Wood wines with Hugh & Tristan Mugford, the next generation of Mugford’s running Moss Wood. The pair are now putting their own stamp on the house style, with an evolution of style showing through already.
Moss Wood Amy’s 2017
79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 7% Malbec and 4% Petit Verdot all from the Glenmmore Vineyard. No new oak. Strong release. Leafiness, black and mulberry fruit, the palate both ripe but with a lift of mint too, the palate structured, bone dry, angular but regal. Classy, dry, almost southern Margs with its leafiness but well put together. This is the entry-level wine? Well played. Best drinking: Now to fifteen years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14%, $39. Would I buy it? I’d have a bottle.
Moss Wood Chardonnay 2018
Hugh Mugford thinks that ‘we’re out on our own making ripe Chardonnay in Margaret River’ with this style eclipsed by modern lean styles. I’d argue both have a place, and consumers love this style. Matured in 56% new French oak and it shows – nutty and creamy with an oak signature on nose and palate. Sexy oak and the fruit carries it well, however, so hard to knock the styles. By contrast, the acidity is grippy and firm. Old school oak, but the acidity isn’t. A pretty handy combination and great intensity. Maybe too much oak? Real impact and lusciousness in this style though. Best drinking: Next year to five years plus. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $78. Would I buy it? A glass.
Moss Wood Ribbon Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc. This Ribbon Vale feels closer in DNA to the estate Cab than the fragrant Amy’s. But I feel that ’17 is a stronger vintage which explains a bit. This has more width, more texture, more oak but it’s not as defined. Leafy but with a thicker middle. It’s quite a regal wine too, with a structure more at home in Bordeaux than typically seen in Australia. Quality, if not ready yet. In time this may be the pick of the wines. Best drinking: Wait 2 years and then drink for fifteen plus. 18/20, 93/100+. 13.5%, $70. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Surprisingly meaty and quite forward, there’s trademark weight and oak/fruit richness but also this curious lack of vitality. High-quality chocolatey oak, excellent tannins, there’s plenty to like in this powerful red. Yet I still came away a little underwhelmed – that oak robs it of some detail, and I can’t escape that meaty edge and alcohol warmth. Best drinking: Now to fifteen years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $120. Would I buy it? No.