Cullen 2017s: Diana Madelaine & Kevin John Offer

“Yet again, Cullen is leading the pack.” Those were the prescient words with which Gary Walsh concluded his note on the previous vintage of Diana Madeline.
And that’s how it is. The Margaret River pack is an impressive one, globally celebrated for the quality of its Cabernet Sauvignon. The balance of ripe, layered Cabernet fruit and the structure that signals the grape’s nobility seem to come naturally to this region.
And yet there are degrees of excellence.
To realise a flawless sense of ripeness with freshness, so that the fruit truly sings, and to plumb engrossing depths of flavour while retaining exquisite poise – this takes an extra level of skill and intuition. It also entails the co-operation of nature. Vintage conditions play a part, yes, and they were once again favourable in the long, slow-ripening harvest of 2017. But the magic here is in the Cullen Vineyard, a site blessed like no other in Australia to have a devoted custodian so phenomenally in tune with it.
So this is what happens. “Fluid grace, elegance personified, no compromise. Extraordinary attention to detail,” is how James Halliday viewed the ‘16 rendition. “ Wonderfully elegant and piercingly intense. An outstanding wine,” was how Huon Hooke saw it.
Now it’s time to look at the latest edition of this mythical wine & the spellbinding 2017 Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay. And there’s Vanya Cullen, out in front again – and here’s your invitation to join her.

THE WINES

2017 Diana Madeline Cabernet Sauvignon RRP $142

THE VINTAGE
The length of the 2017 vintage gave the grapes time to develop aromatics and flavours not found in the shorter, warmer seasons. Diana Madeline Cullen always liked the cooler seasons for Cabernet Sauvignon, especially the 1982. The cooler vintages make wines of great elegance and longevity. The 1982 Cabernet Merlot (as it was known then) last day of harvest was the 22nd of April, versus the 12th of April for the 2017 vintage.
It’s a great tribute to the biodynamic farming, shining even in the unusual vintages.
Bright deep purple. Fantastic complexity and vibrancy with layers of dark fruits complemented by some herbal notes. Elegant and poised: silky palate delivering blueberry, currant notes and some cacao bitterness. Another fantastic vintage for our flagship and to be enjoyed over the next few decades. – Vanya Cullen

VINEYARD
100% Cullen Vineyard

VARIETIES
81% Cabernet Sauvignon; 10% Merlot; 6% Petit Verdot; 3% Malbec

OAK
Aged for 18 months in barriques of which 40% were new

REVIEW

REVIEW
Blackberry, blackcurrant, a little nougat oak, and plenty of violet perfume. Medium-bodied, cool and svelte, flows along beautifully, acidity is pitch-perfect, tannin fine but dense and toothsome, and the finish is so very long and composed. Tobacco savouries add complexity. It’s a wine of charm and grace, and such wonderful perfume. 96 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front February 2019

2017 Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay RRP $140
The Chardonnay grapes were hand harvested from the Cullen Vineyard on fruit and flower days between 8th February and 6th March. The fruit was whole bunch-pressed and fermented with wild yeast in different vessels: barriques, amphorae and ceramic egg. The wine underwent natural malolactic fermentation prior to receiving five months’ maturation in French oak, of which 30% was new.
Brilliant pale gold in colour. Perfumed with notes of pears, white flowers and citrus which are lifted by the barrel ageing. The palate is very fine and already complex, combining Anjou pear, white nectarine and some almond notes. Wonderfully balanced by the natural acid structure. – Vanya Cullen

SEASON
2017 turned out to be another great season for our vineyards and our 1976 Chardonnay vines produced some incredible fruit, with very low yields of 3.2 tonne/hectare. This is a wine defined by great purity, elegance and a fantastic acid backbone: a vintage destined for great ageing potential.

WINEMAKING
The Chardonnay grapes were hand harvested from the Cullen Vineyard on fruit and flower days between 8th February and 6th March. The fruit was whole bunch-pressed and fermented with wild yeast in different vessels: barriques, amphorae and ceramic egg. The wine underwent natural malolactic fermentation prior to receiving five months’ maturation in French oak, of which 30% was new.

I was lucky enough to get a few hours with Vanya Cullen on her property in mid-October, a fascinating exploration of culture, history, agriculture, spirituality and art, as always. I got a preview of this wine and ran a rule over some of the 2018 barrels alongside. I got to see the two new Vanya Cabernet wines too. So many outstanding wines to emerge. The shift to alternative vessels is giving the wines further levity and freshness, it feels. This wine sees about 30% new oak which is joined by both ceramic and amphora-matured Chardonnay. The wine is a result of vineyard selection, with fruit sourced from four blocks of Chardonnay. Vanya explained that there is no recipe for this wine, however, that it is always done on fruit selection from vine.
Finely wrought wine, lacy and pure, shows incredible acid line and a web of mineral, fruit and light savouriness surrounding. Drives with authority and precision across the palate, feels very pure, energetic and refreshing. An exceptional wine here, you get that from texture alone. Stellar release. 96 points. Mike Bennie, The Wine Front November 2018

Light, bright yellow hue, with a fresh and yet complex bouquet which is driven by refined fruit aromas, the oak and artefact very much in the background. The complexities are there but subtle and the wine is still very young and unevolved. Bright acidity is in perfect harmony with the wine; the palate is refined and taut, long and beautifully modulated. Great line and length. A superb Chardonnay, which is likely to offer even more if cellared for a year or two. 96 points. Huon Hooke, The Real Review November 2018

Oh gosh this is good Chardonnay. There is such precision and purity, yet it reveals complexity and layers that continue to emerge from the palate. The fruit is exceptional off these biodynamic vineyards, and then in the wines fermentation with wild yeasts and then a further five months in barriques and puncheons have played out with just the right touch. It’s a classy wine that captures vineyard and vintage to perfection. 98 points. Ray Jordan, The West Australian Wine Guide 2019