By Fergal Gleeson*
About 50 years ago a man and woman put sticks in the ground in remotest Western Australia. Their neighbours weren’t sure what they were up to. They were planting some of the first commercial vines in Margaret River. Their names were Diana Madeline and Kevin John Cullen. Today their daughter Vanya Cullen is the Chief winemaker and Managing Director of Cullen Wines, one of Australia’s leading boutique wineries. Two of the finest wines Vanya creates each year are named in their honour Diana Madeline Cabernet and Kevin John Chardonnay.
When I asked Vanya what was the must try wine from the range? “All of them!! They are all made with the same care and attention without chemical use, with a connection to nature and with the highest quality intentions. So it comes down to what style you like. If I had to pick I would say Kevin John and Diana Madeline 2015”
Vanya has a strong sense of being a custodian. From acknowledging the Wardandi people on the label, to certified biodynamic viticulture through to running a naturally powered carbon neutral winery. Why biodynamic? “It’s really important to have a sense of the land in your wines which is what biodynamic wines do, however it is really important to have quality as your first intention. Then they become the best quality expression of place, unique and beautiful.”
The 2015 Kevin John is one of the loveliest Chardonnays I’ve tasted. There’s a real harmony between the white peach fruit, zippy fresh acid and the use of oak. It’s quite pure and paired back compared to some Margaret River Chardonnays. The grapes are harvested from 39 year old vines and they contribute to a classy and complex wine that’s very enjoyable to drink. Rating 4.5/5.
The Diana Madeline has complex dark berry smells. It will benefit from decanting for a few hours. Then you’ll enjoy the integration of the sweet fruit and the tarry, leafy tannins to finish. It’s 87% Cabernet, 11% Merlot with Malbec and Cab Franc making up the rest of this medium bodied wine. One of the joys of Margaret River Cabernet is it’s drinkability in it’s youth, but this wine has been created to last 30 plus years. To sense check how I good I thought the Diana was I tried another Cab Merlot that had a slew of gold medals on the label. It didn’t come close to the Cullen wine in terms of intensity, power or drinking pleasure. Diana Madeline delivers this with just 13% alcohol. Rating 5/5.
These aren’t just great in Margaret River terms, they are world class wines. We all want to make our parents proud. Vanya has done much more than this. Wine simply doesn’t get much better!
2015 Kevin John Chardonnay RRP $115 – available from April 2017
2015 Diana Madeline Cabernet Sauvignon RRP $125- available from July 2017
In May, Cullen Wines are holding a number of New Release dinners across the country, where Vanya will be present to discuss the latest releases, particularly the flagship wines. The Brisbane event, both Melbourne events and the Sydney event at Quay are sold out. There are some tickets still available for the Sydney event at the Park Hyatt and the Perth event at Bib & Tucker. You can find out more by calling (08) 9755 5277 or at cullenwines.com.au
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*Finalist- New Wine Writer of the Year 2016- WCA /Gourmet Traveller WINE