Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cullen vs. Moss Wood

By chance, I had an opportunity to taste recent releases by Cullen and Moss Wood within three days. As it happened, these wines were a very similar line-up, so I thought I might put short reviews side by side. One thing to point out is that in a couple of cases, the Cullen wines are released a year younger, but all the vintages represented are pretty good.

1) Semillon

The 2011 Cullen Sauvignon Blanc Semillon was no doubt picked very young. It tastes almost like grape juice. The wine is very fresh and clean (86 points). The 2011 Moss Wood Semillon is richer, with a focus on texture and a mineral finish. This style is more Barossa than Hunter Valley (88 points). Both wines would not be my picks of this variety.

2) Chardonnay

The 2010 Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay tastes of a complex set of fruits: citrus, peach and passion fruit are prominent. The wine is quite fruity and I am missing the structure of earlier vintages (89 points). The 2009 Moss Wood Chardonnay is a step up in the Chardonnay stakes for this producer. The flavour is similar to the Cullen, but with more weight. 40% new oak adds creaminess to the wine, but it is well balanced with sufficient acidity on the finish (92 points).

3) Cabernet/Merlot

The second Cabernet label of both producers is disappointing. In previous years, some provided great value for money. The  2010 Cullen Cabernet Merlot is fruity, with a short finish (85 points). The 2010 Moss Wood Amy's Cabernet Blend includes 20% of Petit Verdot. As a result, the wine is quite inky, fruit forward, with a flat mouthfeel and a short finish (86 points).

4) Cabernet Sauvignon

I reviewed the 2010 Cullen Diana Madeline in detail on 11 June, no need to repeat this here. For the 2009 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon, it is early days yet. Blackcurrant flavours dominate. There is mulberry and some attractive spice. This wine is much more extracted than the Cullen. Some reviewers may find this too much, but I like the rich fruit and ripe tannins in this wine. Will it be an all time great, as claimed by Keith Mugford? I am not going there, yet, but I will enjoy reviewing the wine again in a few years time (94 points).

Cullen and Moss Wood are the pinnacle of Margaret River wines (add Leeuwin Chardonnay). On this basis, these tastings were a little disappointing. Only the flagship wines were really good, without being classics, in my view. You make a clear choice between producers. Cullen is about freshness and linearity, Moss Wood about fruit concentration and weight.

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