Tasting the wines of Cullen in Australia’s Margaret River

xIn the early 1960’s detailed climatic studies revealed that Margaret River’s winegrowing climate was similar to that of Bordeaux, particularly Pomerol. Diana and Kevin Cullen seized on these conclusions in 1966, when they planted a trial acre of vines on their sheep and cattle farm. Its success led to planting 18 more acres in 1971. Cullen remains in family hands, and is now farmed biodynamically, with all fruit sourced from its own Cullen Estate and Mangan vineyards. Diana Cullen went on to become one of Australia’s most respected winemakers, though today her daughter, Vanya, is Chief Winemaker. Vanya’s experience overseas has included stints at Mondavi in California and Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy. Sustainability is a key word in Cullen’s established, dry-farmed vineyards, which were certified organic in 2003, and biodynamic one year later.

The wines

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Cullen Margaret River White 2007
A blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay and Verdelho, this is fresh and leafy, with little herbal and grassy notes to apple fruit. The palate has just a hint of sweetness, with a real tropical ripeness to the fruit, bursting onto the palate. Plenty of pithy acidity to finish too. 90/100.

Cullen ‘Mangan Vineyard’ Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Lovely leafy and grassy character. Full of vibrancy and life. A smoky, flinty background is lovely and there’s plenty of tropical fruit. Riven with acidity on the palate, with terrific, clean, lean lemon zest fruit and finish, that burgeoning sweet fruit just held in check. 91/100

Cullen ‘Kevin John’ Chardonnay 2006
Sweet, nutty, fudgy oak aromas meld with heightened tropical fruit notes of pineapple and guava. The palate has a lean, pure, cool and understated core of fruit that slices through the oak meaning this is fresh and vital. Lovely cut and thrust here. 92/100

Cullen ‘Diana Madeline’ Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2006
Juicy cherry and plum fruit dominate, with lovely depth and sweet ripeness. Charry oak hints are well integrated and in the background. The palate is beautifully mellow, with smooth, creamy fruit and a fine tannin background. Absolutely à pointe stuff. 92/100

Cullen Mangan 2006
A Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, again that sweet, ripe fruit dominates. There’s a more cedary, briary note perhaps, but lovely fruit. On the palate a striking edge of acidity and tannin to this wine. Very lip-smacking and bold, the fruit staying ripe and focused, with a blue/black density. Long and impressive. 92/100

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