A True Wine History – Reviews of Moss Wood 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon, Moss Wood Ribbon Vale 2022 Elsa, Moss Wood 2021 Amy’s – James Halliday, The Weekend Australian Magazine
Margaret River: a true wine history
Any account of the history of winemaking in Margaret River must acknowledge the true father of the region: Dr John Gladstones AM, a scientist of awesome intelligence. Much of his working life as an agronomist was devoted to lupins, a significant source of fodder for cattle. Central to this was unravelling climate, soils and their interaction. The 1960s witnessed the stirrings of viniculture (sic) across Australia after decades of somnolence, a spark that was lit by Max Lake in the Hunter Valley when he established Lake’s Folly in 1963. In 1965 and 1966, Gladstones wrote two scientific papers. The first covered the climate and soils of southwest Australia, and was followed with a paper focusing on the Margaret River-Busselton area. These lit a flame that has burnt bright for 55 years.
At that time, Margaret River was an unprepossessing region, sparsely populated, its beaches the chief appeal to tourists. The three doctors who conducted the early viticultural developments were Tom Cullity (Vasse Felix, 1967), Bill Pannell (Moss Wood, 1969) and Kevin Cullen (Cullen Wines, 1971). They had professional careers and family lives, and were driven men who had to work extraordinarily long hours. In typical Australian fashion they shared knowledge gained the hard way and by 1973, had laid the path for another seven wineries, most notably Cape Mentelle and Leeuwin Estate. Today there are more than 180 regional wineries here. The three doctors (and their wineries) rank first among equals. Not all varieties and wines can be so classified. Few would challenge cabernet sauvignon’s right to be ranked first, but Margaret River’s greatest cabernets are different to each other in the way they disseminate their character.
Denis Horgan established Leeuwin Estate in 1973, and planted a magic block of soil with chardonnay. I have long described this as Australia’s greatest example of the variety. Margaret River is a many-splendoured place.
Moss Wood 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon
It takes only a split second for this wine to establish its greatness in the pantheon of cabernet sauvignons grown around the world, pulsating with sweet fruits and a velvety mouthfeel. This is a cabernet sauvignon to melt a pinot noir addict’s heart.
Drink to 2050
Ribbon Vale 2022 Elsa
Sauvignon blanc (94 per cent) and semillon (6 per cent), fermentation was initiated in stainless steel, then transferred to French barriques (6 per cent new) to complete fermentation and full mlf; matured in barrel for nine months. It is a wine that takes no prisoners. Margaret River’s dominance is absolute in its texture and structure.
Drink to 2032
Moss wood 2021 Amy’s
A 68/20/7/5 per cent blend of estate-grown cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec and petit verdot, its colour is bright, fresh crimson, the bouquet fragrant, and the palate is already complete and balanced. It is purpose-built for consumption over the next three or four years, but if for any reason it’s left unopened for 10 years it will still be fresh.
Drink to 2029
Printed on The Weekend Australian Magazine, June 17-18, 2023