The MossWood 2019 RibbonVale 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 RibbonVale vineyard was bought by the Mugfords in 2000

Rating: Stars
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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.


Blue ribbon cabernet . . .

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 [from Moss Wood] 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.

Rating: Stars
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This is getting just ridiculous. From the time the heavyweights of WA wine started to reveal their wines from the 2018 vintage, it has been a cavalcade of one great wine after another. . . .

Now, I have another problem, albeit it a good one. Moss Wood have just released their 2018 cabernet sauvignon. And, oh, here’s a shock, it is without doubt one of their greatest – dare I suggest, it might be their greatest.

Read on for that pronouncement.

Winemaker Keith Mugford reckons that 2018 was just about perfect.

“If you couldn’t make a decent wine from this vintage, you only have yourself to blame,” he said.

In some ways, the 2018 is the style of Moss Wood that caused slightly

negative comments on the earliest Moss Woods, suggesting the wines were nice but wouldn’t last. Well, weren’t they seriously off the mark? You see, Moss Wood is subtle, refined, understated and almost pretty.

The 2018 is so exquisitely perfumed, almost in the vein of a Margaux, and beautifully poised and refined with an effortless length and power all expressed with that typical Moss Wood polish.

After sipping my Moss Wood tasting bottle, I took it with me to try with friends later. And it was spectacular, even better on the second day. I reckon if it were possible, I would be enjoying it even more in 40-years time.

It is classic Moss Wood that ranks with their best. Is it their best? Yes.

As I suspected in anticipation, a great wine from a great vintage. This is a glorious statement from one of the great estates in Margaret River. Classical medium weight in that understated Moss Wood way. Perfectly integrated oak and fine, chalky tannins for support. Leafy cabernet notes on the nose with a touch of light bay leaf and brick dust. The minerally edge  to the palate holds the line through to the very long finish. The length on the palate is extraordinary.

(Best drinking: Now 2050)


Published April 2021

99 Points

Rating: Stars
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Can a cabernet be any finer, better structured and more engaging? This gloriously composed wine shows crème de cassis, spicy oak, subtle cigar, game and rich floral aromas on the nose, leading to an immensely concentrated palate offering exceptional depth and drive. Offering waves of refined texture and delicious flavours, classically structured by loads of fine tannins, finishing seductively long and gratifying. At its best: 2028 to 2058.

100 Points

Rating: Stars
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Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2018. A wine of profound greatness in the form of absolute completeness. ⁠
The nose erupts with a core of deep cassis and black liquorice, blueberry and violet highs beautifully balanced by deep savoury notes of bay, dried black olive, peppermint, and leather. The palate’s all out next level as layers of rich dark fruit reveal woody herbs, oregano, bay, cedar and tobacco, tannins are woven throughout masterfully to compliment the relentlessly long finish. It’s a benchmark Moss Wood, the best I’ve tried without question.

Rating: Stars
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Classic tale: An Australian legend

The latest vintage of this top-flight Margaret River red is one of their best. A blend of cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot and cabernet franc, it shows lovely concentrated blackcurrant and mulberry fruit on the nose and long, complex palate with a touch of violets and restrained oak, finishing with long, fine tannins. It’s so balanced that, if you wanted, you could enjoy it now with rack of lamb but it deserves another decade in the cellar to really hit its straps. It’s worth becoming a Moss Wood member to get your hands on this beauty.

Rating: Stars
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The first boutique winery in Australia was Lake’s Folly in the Hunter Valley. Naturally, its wines quickly became ‘must-have’s’ for those few early wine-obsessed drinkers, who helped drive the transformation in the industry from ‘fortified dominant’ and ‘big producers only’ to what we enjoy today. There were others. Stuart Anderson’s Balgownie Estate was a winery where winelovers lucky enough to be on the mailing list would plead for a bottle or two. So too, Mount Mary. Virgin Hills, anyone? From the West, nothing personified ‘cult’ like Moss Wood.

These days, some have risen and fallen. Others have stayed the course. We have wineries like Wendouree, Giaconda, Torbreck, Cloudburst, Bindi, Clonakilla and others. Indeed, just what makes, and what is, a cult winery today might make a terrific topic. Over to you, editor?

Moss Wood. It might have been the famous 1982 and 1983 Cabernets from Cape Mentelle which really put Margaret River on the map, but the wines everyone wanted came from the tiny Moss Wood. It would be fair to say that it has had a few ups and downs over the years but in recent vintages, it has been right on its game, especially with its flagship Cabernet Sauvignon.

Put simply, if you love Cabernet, whether it be from Bordeaux, the Napa, Margaret River or anywhere, Moss Wood Cabs should be on your radar and in your cellar.

The latest, the 2018, continues its recent run of hot form. 92% cabernet sauvignon, 4% petit verdot and 4% cabernet franc, it comes from a year the Mugfords, the caretakers of this wonderful estate, claim is a cracker (well, my words but you know what I mean). To be honest, claims of a great year in Margaret River tend to fall on deaf ears. When isn’t it a great year there? The day a MR winemaker tells me they had a shocker, that is when I’ll listen.

One sniff of the black/purple liquid swirling in your glass and you know you are looking at a world class Cabernet. Blackfruits, mulberries, cedar, cigar box, coffee beans, dark chocolate. A wine with balance, intensity, elegance and astonishing length. The silkiest of tannins. A sweet core of floral notes and dark berries. The construction is immaculate but not in any way constraining. Sensational stuff.

Sure, at around $150 a bottle, it is not cheap but compare it with the big guns from the Napa or First and Second Growth Bordeaux, against which it sits comfortably, and this is a steal.

I looked at this last night and gave it 97. Today, it is an easy 98. Tomorrow? I’ll never know.

98 Points

Rating: Stars
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Moss Wood make some of Australia’s greatest Cabernet. For context, Moss Wood Cabernet is one of just 5 Cabernet or Cabernet blends on Langtons fine wine ‘Exceptional’ list which is based on price and demand at auction. The others are Penfolds Bin 707, Wynns Coonawarra John Riddoch, Cullen wines Diana Madeline and Mount Mary vineyard Quintet. 2018 was a fabulous vintage for Margaret River in both quality and quantity so (my) expectations were high! Moss Wood 2018 does not disappoint.

This is a rich, smooth and full-bodied expression. There’s complexity galore with freshness, bay leaf and leather woven through the blackcurrant fruit. Tannins are a key part of Cabernet and vintage after vintage the quality of the tannins in Moss Wood elevate above the crowd to make fascinating wines. Winemaker Keith Mugford with 40 + vintages under his belt has again crafted a wine that is both delicious and memorable. The house style is to make wines that are approachable in youth but prodigiously age-worthy.

Rating: 5 Stars
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Sometimes, a wine delivers something so great that it redefines your own definition of the word great itself. This is one of those times.

A beautiful purple ruby with a touch of blue and a powerfully perfumed nose that floods the room. Proud aromas of violets, black fruits, blueberry and dried fig are decorated by cocoa, licorice, dried olive, menthol, bay leaf and molasses. Earthy notes of venison, leather, charcoal, clay and graphite bring complexity to the fruit.
The palate is powerful and fulsome, finely layered and precise, exuding a confidence that comes only when the winemaking and vintage are at the highest level. Deeply fruity and seamlessly woven together with rich flavours that echo the nose, along with mocha, oregano and a drive of red berry acidity. Nicely integrated fine, firm tannins give great tension and a chew of texture that builds towards the tail that stretches over minutes, fading with symmetry and unison. What a triumph!

It’s everything you could possibly want from a Margaret River Cabernet, then some! An awesome release for team Moss Wood!! Yum, yum and yum.

Rating: Stars
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