“Vanya’s contribution to the evolution of wine at Cullen Wines is detail, and a push to unite still further the wine with the land on which it’s grown.” So wrote Victoria Moore of London’s Daily Telegraph in her recent article entitled The soul of Western Australia in a cosmic Cabernet. Moving onto a new release of Diana Madeline, the point is as apt as ever. The wine as expression of the Cullen vineyard encapsulates that quest for greatness in wine that is embarked upon by grower and drinker alike: the interwoven threads of time, place and person that result in a unique, irreplicable and fascinating tapestry.
The other point here is that Vanya’s contribution is itself evolving, so that every season is an unmissable sequel. To speak of classics – and the combination of Cullen, Wilyabrup and Bordeaux grapes is as pure a classic as you’ll find – is to conjure up too fixed an image. This relationship is too fluid, too dynamic, to be summed up that way. As Victoria Moore has it: “Cullen wines have something. An elegant classicism, yes, but also soul.”
In that same piece, Vanya herself conveys the notion of a cycle that still allows for the marvellous mystique of the denouement. “It’s such a beautiful thing: giving to the land and then at the harvest you get back.” 2016 in Margaret River was another year where Mother Nature repaid the gracious grower in full. And now, after a little time to mellow, fill out and fill in that detail, it’s time for you to reap what this nature-loving wonder woman of Wilyabrup has sown.
The growing season for 2016 Diana Madeline was favourable with good spring rains and warm conditions. After three vintages of tiny yields we are delighted with this vintage giving us a wine of elegance, brilliant colour and purity of fruit. All the classic Cullen Vineyard Wilyabrup flavours are there: cassis, violets, chocolate and ironstone. – Vanya Cullen
2016 Cullen Diana Madeline RRP $140
Vineyard: 100% Cullen Vineyard.
Varieties: 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 1% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot.
Harvest: 18th February to 9th March 2016.
Oak: Aged for 14 months in barriques of which 67% were new.
Colour: Deep crimson hue with magenta edges.
Bouquet: Fantastic complexity and vitality with layers of dark fruits enhanced by gorgeous leafy notes.
Palate: Elegant and fruit driven, silky palate delivering dark fruit notes and some chocolate bitterness. There is a lovely touch of spice melting into the fruit. A wine to watch as it unfolds, and to be enjoyed over the next decades.
A Cabernet-dominant (93%) blend, matured for 14 months in French barriques (67% new). Fluid grace, elegance personified, no compromise. Extraordinary attention to detail. From the Wilyabrup district, the heart of the Margaret River cabernet blends.12.5% alc; screwcap; 98 points. James Halliday, Weekend Australian July 2018
Very deep, bright purple/red colour leads into a sweetly ripe, rich berry and violet bouquet which is fruit-driven, vibrant and fresh. Blueberries and herbs. Wonderfully elegant and piercingly intense. An outstanding wine. 97 points. Huon Hooke, The Real Review November 2017
Here’s a sleek wine of exquisite perfume and balance that treads lightly, but surely through the palate. Dances, even. There’s a quiet storm of graphite tannin, red and black fruits, a distinct pencil and mineral thing going on, clean fresh acidity, and a wonderfully long finish. It’s painting with water colours, to borrow a phrase, but gee it makes a beautiful picture. It’s rare to find a Cabernet with this level of poise and control. Yet again, Cullen is leading the pack. 96 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front March 2018
Spicy, intense with a polished texture and some balsam notes. Not nearly ready. Put it away! 18/20 Jancis Robinson, jancisrobinson.com November 2017
2015 Cullen Vanya Cabernet Sauvignon RRP $550
The colour is not very dark but is a very bright and deep purple/red. The bouquet speaks of violets and mixed berries; oak is barely evident. The tannins are very fine and the wine is subtle, elegant, and beautifully balanced. Wonderful cedary complexity. Elegance personified. It’s all about the purity of the fruit. A beautiful wine. 98 points. Huon Hooke, The Real Review
A wine of immense presence yet understatement and finesse. Succulence in texture, fine, powdery tannins reaching impossibly long in the palate, a deep stain of black berries and bayleaf – sounds familiar but it’s the way it’s packed so impossibly finely into its neat, filigree frame where the magic is. There’s a plume of fine perfume, spiced, gently woody, dark in fruit and lifted on undergrowth and peppery spice character. So much charm here. And quiet power. And precision in the way it hits the mouth tight, building in grip, lingering with mouthwatering readiness. Elegance in wine can be ephemeral as concept or definition, but here’s one for Encyclopaedia Britannica. Outstanding. 97+ points. Mike Bennie, The Wine Front
2016 Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay RRP $135
Mid-yellow, bright colour. The bouquet seems forward and overt but is very rich and complex, loaded with smoky, toasty, buttery oak, fruit and lees complexities, the palate full-bodied and rich, multi-layered and long. A tour de force. It seems bigger and more forward than usual for this label, but it is immediately satisfying. The longer the wine is in the glass and the more you taste, the more details are perceived. 97 points. Huon Hooke, The Real Review
It evokes a certain reverence. I don’t mean by the label, or the status, but by the taste of it in the glass. It’s such a gorgeous thing; nothing quite beguiles like the fruits of nature. Peaches, rich with sunshine; grapefruit, all pulp and gravity; the cool of lime; the flush of sweet spices; a beach littered with nuts and sweet biscuits and flint. It’s Margaret River Chardonnay and it never shies from it; why would it? It’s flavoursome. It’s silky and succulent, sunny, seductive. You just kind of swoon your way from one glass to the next. Quality is prime. 96 points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front