I’VE BEEN reviewing Keith and Clare Mugford’s Moss Wood Margaret River wines for nigh on 20 years, during which time their cabernet sauvignons have consistently proved to be among Australia’s finest.
In 2004 I chose the 2001 vintage as my wine of the year, best red and best cabernet sauvignon. Keith Mugford, with 42 years at Moss Wood behind him, regarded that 2001 as his best – but now the new-release $ 152-a-bottle 2018 has made him uncertain.
“It’s a tough choice deciding which of the two is better. The mighty 2001 enjoyed a season where the average temperature was 19.4 degrees, the cabernet sauvignon took 126 days to ripen to 13.6 baume,” he said.
The 2018 took 128 days to ripen to 13.6 baume (pronounced bow-may) meaning the measurement of sugar content in wines grapes at harvest. If he was lucky enough to pick a perfect growing season, says Keith, he would select 2017-18 with its 25 millimetres of early February rain, benign flowering conditions, no disease and hungry silvereyes and parrots kept at bay by nets.
The 2018, reviewed below, is a superb red melding 92 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 4 per cent petit verdot and 4 per cent cabernet franc. Also among Moss Wood’s varieties in its 20-hectare plantings are chardonnay, malbec, merlot, pinot noir, semillon and sauvignon blanc.
In addition to my great regard for the cabernets, I’ve come to admire the Mugfords’ way with sauvignon blanc – not a variety I usually dote on. The $ 67-a-bottle French oak-matured Ribbon Vale Vineyard 2019 Elsa Sauvignon Blanc is in my estimation the equal of the New Zealand Cloudy Bay Te Koko Marlborough wines.
Apart from an experimental wine made in 2000, Moss Wood hadn’t put out a straight savvy blanc before, concentrating since 2001 on the highly popular Ribbon Vale sauvignon blanc-semillons.
Moss Wood was established in 1969 by Busselton medico Bill Pannell and his wife Sandra and has the distinction of being the Margaret River’s second vineyard after Vasse Felix – planted in 1967 by Perth cardiologist Tom Cullity and now owned by the Holmes a Court family.
McLaren Vale-bred, Roseworthy winemaking graduate Keith Mugford, who did student vintages in the Hunter with Tullochs and in the Barossa with Orlando, came on the scene in 1979 when the Pannells appointed him 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 Moss Wood to Keith and Clare.
Today the pair work alongside their Adelaide University-graduate winemaker sons Tristan, 30, and Hugh, 27, to maintain the uncompromising quality of Moss Wood wines.
WINE REVIEWS by John Lewis
A SIX-STAR CABERNET
THIS scrumptious Moss Wood 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon glows deep purple in the glass and brings forth berry pastille and forest floor scents, plush blackcurrant flavour on the front-palate and middle palate mulberry, Morello cherry, peppermint chocolate and vanillin oak. Spearminty tannins play at the finish. PRICE: $ 152. DRINK WITH: rib of beef with a minted béarnaise sauce. AGEING: 15 years. RATING: 6 stars.
BRING ON THE SQUID
THE Moss Wood 2019 Ribbon Vale Sauvignon Blanc Semillon is lime green-tinged straw and has lychee and herb scents and gooseberry front-palate flavour. Passionfruit, guava, gunmetal and sherbet show on the middle palate and slatey acid refreshes at the finish. The Wilyabrup sub-region Ribbon Vale vineyard was bought by the Mugfords in 2000. PRICE: $ 39. DRINK WITH: calamari. AGEING: six years. RATING: 4.5 stars.
VIVACIOUS PINOT NOIR
WITH 14% alcohol and bright ruby hues, the Moss Wood 2018 Pinot Noir has vibrant raspberry front-palate flavour and middle-palate pomegranate, quince jelly, mint and savoury oak. Dusty tannins show at the finish. It and today’s other wines are at mosswood.com.au/shop/ and at stockists listed on mosswood.com.au/stockists/. PRICE: $ 77. DRINK WITH: char-grilled tuna steaks. AGEING: nine years. RATING: 5 stars.
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