Celebrating 50 Years of Cullen Wines

This year Cullen Wines, named The Real Review’s Top Winery of Australia 2020, celebrates its 50th year of sustainable wine growing in Western Australia’s famous Margaret River region. First established in 1971 by Dr Kevin and Diana Cullen, the winery has built an outstanding reputation for biodynamic wines that receive great acclaim.

Di and Kevin’s youngest daughter Vanya, celebrated 30 years at the winemaking helm in 2019, and in the same year received double ‘Winemaker of the Year’ honours at both the Australian Women in Wine Awards and the Halliday Wine Companion Awards. During her tenure, she has worked tirelessly to develop the winery, first introducing organic farming in 1998 and then, in 2004, becoming a fully certified biodynamic estate.

True to its philosophy of ‘Quality, Integrity and Sustainability’, Cullen is the only carbon positive winery in the region, sequestering more carbon than they emit. All wines produced here are sourced from grapes grown on the Cullen and adjoining Mangan Vineyards in Wilyabrup, a sub-region of Margaret River. Of the winemaking, Vanya says “In the winery the wines really make themselves. We don’t add yeast or acid, and as a result the wines are the purest expressions of place.”

David Gleave MW recalls: “On my first visit to Cullen, just over 20 years ago, Di opened a bottle of 1983 Cabernet-Merlot for dinner.  She explained that she had kept quite a bit of that vintage as it had been slow to sell.  ‘It was the first vintage we added Merlot to the blend,’ she explained.  ‘As a result, people thought it was a cheap wine, as it was a blend rather than a varietal.’ The wine, at almost 20 years of age, was outstanding.  I felt grateful to the people who had turned their noses up at this modest blend (sold at $7.95 a bottle when it was released, I seem to remember Di saying), for their pursuit of what was then fashionable ensured there was some for me to taste two decades later. I remember, a few years ago, Vanya tasting the 2013 Diana Madeleine with Jancis Robinson in London.  When the wine was poured into her glass, Jancis raised it to her nose and said: ‘It’s what you want Margaux to be.’ When Jancis published her note, she concluded: ‘Dry finish and very neat and confident. The opposite of brash.’ Just like Di.”

Cullen has produced a video to mark their 50th anniversary, which can be viewed here.

The wines:

Cullen `Diana Madeline` Wilyabrup 2018 

James Suckling, JamesSuckling.com – 99 points

Diana Madeline is Cullen’s flagship Bordeaux blend and is named after the matriarch of the Cullen family. Together with her husband, they planted the first Cabernet Sauvignon in Wilyabrup. 2018 produced small yields, creating a wine with elegance, balance and power. Named one of the top Wines of the Year 2020 by both James Suckling and Decanter, James Suckling noted: ‘This is a superb edition of this revered, cabernet-based blend with such complete, seamless and elegant feel, yet there’s such depth of flavour, too. Aromas of fresh redcurrants, red and violet flowers, subtle spice, fresh earth, paper bark, fresh-picked thyme and sage, red berries and some cedary notes. The palate is stunning and has a brand of elegance with power that is found in only the greatest wines. Pristine mulberries, red plums, blueberries and red cherries sail through layers of fine tannin, into an unwaveringly long and vibrant finish. An exceptionally concentrated and convincing Diana Madeline release, this is one of their finest. A blend of 79% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot, 6% cabernet franc and 5% malbec. Delicious now, but his will bloom from 2028.’

`Kevin John` Wilyabrup Chardonnay 2018

James Suckling, JamesSuckling.com – 98 points  

The flagship Kevin John, named after a pioneer of the Margaret River wine region. All the Chardonnay grapes were grown in three separate blocks in Cullen's own vineyards where the vines are more than 30 years old, having been planted in 1976 and 1988. James Suckling noted: ‘This has such a complex, pristine nose with wet stones, lemon curd and sliced and grilled peaches, as well as fresh apricots and grilled hazelnuts. It is brimming with life. The palate is so perfectly measured and smoothly fleshy with a succulent core of such juicy, rich peaches and grilled lemons. It unfolds long and graceful into the finish. Brilliant chardonnay here.’

Stock is available but limited – please contact your Sales representative to confirm availability.​

`Cullen Vineyard` Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2017

James Halliday, Halliday Wine Companion – 95 points

This blend always contains a greater proportion of Sauvignon Blanc than Semillon, which reflects the outstanding qualities of the fruit produced by the former variety on the Cullen Vineyard. Picked at optimal ripeness with cool harvest conditions, resulting in elegant wines that display beautiful fruit purity. James Halliday said: ‘A 79/21% blend, wild-fermented, 45% of the sauvignon blanc matured in oak (7% new). It is the Sauvignon Blanc that gives the wine its richness, in turn due to the Cullen Vineyard source. Tropical fruits are the drivers, guava and lychee joined by citrus. Complex yet refreshing.’

`Mangan Vineyard` Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2017

Jancis Robinson MW, JancisRobinson.com – 17.5/20

The Mangan Vineyard is located adjacent to the Cullen vineyard in Wilyabrup and with different soils and topography, it produces wines that are quite different to those grown on the Cullen vineyard. With a blend of 57% Sauvignon Blanc, 38% Semillon and 5% Verdelho, Jancis Robinson MW noted: ‘Concentrated nose. Gloriously broad and complete.’

`Red Moon` Mangan Vineyard Wilyabrup Malbec/Petit Verdot/Merlot 2017

James Halliday, Halliday Wine Companion – 95 points

This wine takes its name from the 'Red Moon' which occurs during a total lunar eclipse when the light filtering through the Earth’s atmosphere dapples the moon in red light. Made from a carefully selected blend of Malbec and Petit Verdot grown on the Mangan Vineyard, which has been shown to be ideally suited to nurturing these grape varieties.  Noted as offering special value by James Halliday, he said ‘it's a delectably juicy red berry wine with minimal interference from tannins, but will be no pushover as it ages.'

Margaret River Late Harvest Chenin Blanc 2019/2020

A delicious dessert wine that should gain further complexity with age. Capturing the beautiful natural acidity of Chenin Blanc, grapes were hand picked on the last day of harvest in March, before being fermented with native yeast and chilled to finish with 120g/l of residual sugar.