Harvey Steiman is editor-at-large for Wine Spectator magazine. He recently visited Margaret River and discusses his Cullen Wines experience.
Historically vineyards on the north side, in Australia’s Wilyabrup subregion, have had the edge on Cabernet in Margaret River. Cullen‘s Diana Madeline bottling is the acknowledged star, the result of Vanya Cullen’s dedication to biodynamic viticulture on a remarkable site in the heart of the subregion. That bottling is always a mix that includes Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
I didn’t pass up a rare chance to taste a 1982 Cabernet blend, which displayed the same sort of tannins and smoky overtones to cherry flavors as more recent bottlings. Elegant and long, it was expressive with espresso and dark chocolate overtones, earthy notes and impressive persistence.
The 2007 Diana Madeline bottling weaves mineral notes through red berries at the core, pushing through the tannins. Both the 2013 and 2014, recently bottled, wrap swarms of fine tannins around the core flavors, more savory in 2014 and beautifully shaded with black raspberry and spice.
“The vineyard is getting louder in the wine,” Cullen muses, crediting her recent use of “biodynamic” barrels, selected from trees taken according to the biodynamic calendar. “The yields are smaller, too, but I think the barrels have brought about a purer expression of place.”
The newest wine at Cullen is labeled Vanya, which breaks away from the Diana Madeline style of blending with other varieties. “It’s my chance to make a varietal,” Cullen smiles. Tannins seem less imposing, red fruit more prominent, with floral overtones. “This is everything we’ve been working toward in terms of varietal Cabernet,” she allows. At $350 per bottle, it should, and does.
Excepts from an article titled ‘Margaret River’s Cabernet Kings’ posted March 4, 2016 on winespectator.com