Cullen Wines is a certified biodynamic, carbon neutral and naturally powered estate, with a philosophy summed up in three simple words: ‘Quality, Integrity and Sustainability’. Celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2021, it is one of the oldest and most awarded family wineries in Western Australia’s famous Margaret River region. First established in 1971 by Dr Kevin and Diana Cullen, the winery has built an impressive reputation for biodynamic wines over the years.
Di and Kevin’s youngest daughter Vanya, who has worked at the winery since 1983, became Chief Winemaker in 1989 and Managing Director in 1999. She has worked tirelessly to develop the winery over this time, first introducing organic farming in 1998 and then, in 2004, saw it classified as a fully certified biodynamic estate. In 2000, she was named the Qantas/The Wine Magazine Winemaker of the Year, becoming the first Western Australian, and the first woman, to do so.
In 2019, celebrating 30 years at the helm, Vanya received double Winemaker of the Year honours at both the Australian Women in Wine Awards and the Halliday Wine Companion Awards. In July 2021, I was one of a lucky handful of tasters to hook up with Vanya Cullen in London via zoom to taste through an exciting selection of the winery’s current releases.
Cullen Wines Mangan Vineyard Margaret River Sauvignon / Semillon 2019, 12.4% Abv.
Wonderfully subtle, complex aromatics with delicate notes of white peach, green apple, green nettles, white pepper and cut grass underpinned by a fabulous slatey minerality. Palate is bright and crystalline, tart and fresh with a lemon / lime acidity, and a racy palate of white citrus, lime peel and lemon grass. An electric wine!
(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Cullen Wines Cullen Vineyard Margaret River Sauvignon / Semillon 2017, 12.4% Abv.
A cooler vintage, the aromatics show a lovely melange of fruit salad and subtle oak notes leading to hints of wet slate white flowers and subtle petrichor notes with just the slightest nuance of wet grass. Cool and racy, there is a fine line of acidity that is balanced by layers of white peach, green apple and tangy yellow citrus. Zesty, pithy and wonderfully cool climate in style with purity and linearity.
(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Cullen Wines Amber Wilyabrup Semillon / Sauvignon Blanc 2020, 13% Abv.
A complex aromatic profile with layers of vermouth spices, chalk board duster, peach stone fruits, green tea, jasmine and bitter orange. Certainly fresh, bright and pure with plenty of skin contact phenolic spice (10 days in 300L amphorae and tank). On the palate the acids are mellow and tangy, the yellow orchard fruits cool and soft textured with a fine dusty mineral grip. A lovely characterful wine that is seductively exotic with its bitters and negroni-style finish. The perfect gourmet wine selection.
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Cullen Wines Kevin John Wilyabrup Chardonnay 2019, 13.5% Abv.
Yields were reduced in 2019 due to frosts but the rest of the growing season was kind yielding high quality fruit. The wine saw 100% malolactic fermentation and spent eight months in 30% new French oak puncheons and barriques. The aromatics are dusty and spicy, lifted and citrusy with plenty of white flowers, orange blossom, green pear and tangerine cordial. The palate is cool and bright showing a real sweet and sour tangy acidity, massive orange and tangerine fruit concentration with real intensity and expansive depth. Plenty of lime peel, honeysuckle, fig, toffee apple and sweet vanilla pod spice.
(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Cullen Wines Red Moon Mangan Vineyard Wilyabrup Malbec / Petit Verdot 2018, 13% Abv.
Fermented with natural yeasts, 57% of the wine was matured for five months in seasoned French oak barriques with the balance in stainless steel, being bottle without fining. The nose is deep and broody with plenty of black chai tea, delicate notes of spearmint and black currant and subtle hints of black plum and pomegranate. The palate is plush and lush, filled with plummy, sappy, mulberry and black berry fruits, juicy black cherry acids, finishing with a long, mellow, pithy fine-grained mineral tannin finish.
(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Cullen Wines Mangan East Block Margaret River Malbec / Petit Verdot 2019, 13.5% Abv.
Made from grapes harvested from the prime sections of the Mangan vineyard, fruit was destemmed, basket pressed and vinified to accentuate the fruit flavours of the grapes, before being aged for five months in 45% new French oak barrels. The aromatics are richer, deeper and broader with vibrant notes of sappy plum, mulberries, melted chocolate and a melange of black forest berry fruits. The acids are crunchy and the palate loaded with mocha laced black currant, spicy plum, mulberry and hints of bramble berries. Fine structure, impressive density and a long, spicy bitter chocolate finish.
(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Cullen Wines Diana Madeline Wilyabrup Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot 2019, 13.5% Abv.
A premier selection of fruit, the grapes were naturally fermented before being basket pressed to barrel where the wine was matured for 15 months in oak of which 45% was new French oak. The aromatics show lovely black berry and red cherry fruits, raspberry herbal tea, hedgerow spice and a fine, leafy vanilla pod complexity. The palate is intense and concentrated, tangy, vibrant and fresh, with a wonderfully lithe textural elegance, an effortlessly classical mouthfeel and a long, suave, powdery tannin grip finish. Very smart in its youth, sure to be even greater with cellar age.
(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Cullen Wines Margaret River Late Harvest Chenin Blanc 2020, 8.3% Abv.
A cool pale light lemon yellow colour in the glass, the aromatics are expressive and pure but also wonderfully subtle with notes of my yellow citrus pastille, pear purée, passion fruit cordial and green mango hints. The palate is soft, cool and very elegant with a very genteel nature, a soft creamy mouthfeel, supple tangy acids balanced by pure sweet green and yellow orchard fruit and baked apple concentration. Very accessible and smart.
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
(The UK importer of Cullen Wines is Liberty Wines)
2 thoughts on “Cullen Wines 50th Anniversary Tasting on 29th July 2021 with Vanya Cullen…”
Wow – especially at Kevin John, which sounds magic. But is it worth the £100 price tag?
Along with Sorrenberg from Beachworth and Giaconda also from Beachworth, it’s got to be up there with the top Aussie Chardonnays. So never going to be cheap. Fully priced let us say.
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