Premium Cabernets: April 2023

Premium Cabernets: April 2023

Barry Weinman: 16th April 2023

How good is Western Australian cabernet? The answer is truly awesome. The latest releases from the likes of Moss Wood, Cullen and Leeuwin Estate are some of the best wines released under these labels. But the West does not have it all its own way, with terrific wines being made across the country.

This tasting was a chance to look at some of WA’s best and compare them with a smattering of East Coast wines for comparison purposes.

The quality of the Gaia from Grosset and Penfolds Bin 389 reinforced that we really are the lucky country when it comes to high quality wine. Given that both these wines, along with the sensational Leeuwin Cabernet can be bought for under $100 makes them great value in my book.

For me though, the picks of the tasting were the 2020 Moss Wood and the 2019 Tom Cullity. Brilliant wines indeed!


Moss Wood – Wilyabrup – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2020. This is a spectacular wine. The redcurrant and blueberry fruit are the main feature, flooding the palate with ripe fruit. The very fine oak adds depth and contributes to the impressive texture though ultimately, the tannins (which are really fine) close down the fruit on the finish. This is a wine that is destined to have a very long future, yet it can be drunk with absolute joy now (try with a fine steak perhaps). 96 – 97pts – $150.

Vasse Felix – Tom Cullity – Cabernet/Malbec – 2019. Wow, wow, wow, this is deep, powerful and so impressive. The aromas and flavours have the typical berry and mint notes you would expect from Margaret River, but it is the layers of spice, coffee and chocolate that set this apart. The tannins and acid are firm, but fit very well within the package, given the sheer density of the fruit. So good now, but sure to develop well for a decade or two. 96pts – $200.

Xanadu – Reserve – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2019. Oh boy, here we go! This is a wine that, despite being only medium bodied, has incredible depth and intensity. So much power, so much fruit, yet it retains balance and approachability, supported by the very fine tannins and oak. Supple, elegant and a classic in the making. A Tardis of a wine as there is a lot more to this wine than you initially think. 45% new oak, 14% alc, the fruit for this primarily sourced from the Timber Creek and Victory Point vineyards. 96pts – $110.

Grosset – Gaia – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2020. This is quite a different style, reflecting its Clare Valley origins. The fruit is obviously high quality, but the acidity, fine tannins and texturing oak (45% new). serve to keep things subdued right now. Ultimately the fruit shines through, with great length of flavours, but this is a long term (20yr) prospect. From another drought year, only 200 dozen of this superb wine were produced. 96pt – $100.

Cullen – Diana Madeline – 2021. This is stylistically different to the other wines here, being tighter and less giving at this early stage. This does not, however, impact in any way on the quality of the wine. Lithe, fresh, elegant and refined, this is quite superb. 91% Cabernet, 50% new oak, 13,5% alc. 95-96pts – $160.

Leeuwin Estate – Art Series – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2019. Another super impressive, super impactful wine. The quality of fruit is what carries this wine to another level. That density of fruit makes it somewhat less approachable now, but the wine remains elegant throughout, with the berry fruit a feature, supported by gentle spice and texturing oak. Brilliant value for a premium Margaret River cabernet. 95 – 96pts – $98.

Moss Wood – Ribbon Vale – Cabernet Sauvignon – 2020. In comparison to the other wines here, this is something of a bargain. Cooler region fruit has been beautifully handled in the winery to produce a wine of intensity and impact. The elegant blackcurrant fruit is supported by spice (cloves) and cedar from the texturing oak. But it does need time. 91% Cabernet, 16% new oak, 14% alc. 94+pts – $76.

Penfolds – 389 – Cabernet/Shiraz – 2020. Dark, brooding and structure, the density of fruit here is a revelation. Power, intensity, but in a quite raw state right now. Just needs a few years to come together, but the results will be quite special. 95pts – $100.