2008 Cullen Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot, Margaret River - Langton’s Classification – Exceptional - Great Wine Estate of Western Australia - Release date – Around July 2010
Cullen is one of the greatest small wineries of the world. Although it was only established in the early 1970s, it has had a huge impact on winemaking philosophy in Australia. Cullen Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot is regarded as a benchmark style, a first growth Margaret River Cabernet with a distinguished bloodline of vintages. Its short history is inextricably linked to development of the modern Australian wine industry. It has made astonishing advances over the last 15 years particularly in vineyard management and winery practices. Science lead winemaking philosophies have gradually morphed into a meaningful art-form and genuine philosophy of sustainability. Vanya Cullen has become the high priestess of the biodynamic wine movement and a foil to the world of corporate wine. It’s almost as if a religious conversion has taken place. There is definitely something going on here. The wines strike a distinctive chord evoking a strong scent of place and individual voice. There is an energy, airy freshness, sapidity and effortless natural structure in the wines. It’s what makes the Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot so intriguing and appealing. It is infuriatingly difficult to pin down or explain yet it possesses such a unique presence.
Not many people will know about Trevor Kent, the quietly spoken, incredibly thoughtful and engaging winemaker at Cullen. (Kent retired in 2017 after 21 years at Cullen.) He is the man who put many of the fine ideas and innovations into practice. I would say that he is probably one of the great unsung winemakers of his generation. Vanya Cullen and Trevor Kent created an extraordinary synergy. It’s a powerful, if not magical combination of wits and skills. It’s hard not to be drawn by such luminosity of thinking, the abundantly healthy glow of the vineyards and the tonality, holism and clarity of the wines. The 2008 Cabernets are delicate and perfumed with pure cassis/ plum/ star anise aromas with touches of sage, sweet plummy/ blackcurrant flavours, savoury new oak and fine crisp lacy tannins. The merlot shows some black cherry/ redcurrant fruit, plenty of buoyancy and chocolaty structure. Cabernet Franc will add mulberry/ floral aromatics and stiff brush of tannins. The Petit Verdot will bring raspberry/ red fruit notes and juiciness on the palate. As Trevor Kent says; “If fine wine is a religion, you have to believe.” This vintage will surely attract more than its fair share of disciples.
Andrew Caillard MW
Located three hours south of Perth, Margaret River is Western Australia’s most prestigious wine-growing region. Serious vineyard development began only in the late 1960’s following the publication of a report by John Gladstones in 1965 stating that the area had a similar climate to Pomerol or St Emilion, with low frost risk, plenty of sunshine and equable temperatures within the growing season promoting even ripening. Margaret River’s climate is warm and maritime, with some cooling influence provided by southeast trade winds. The soils derive from granitic and a gneissic rock over which laterite has formed. The region can be divided in three sub-regions: the cooler south between Yallingup and Karridale with predominantly lateritic gravelly loamy sands and sandy loams; the warm and sunnier Willyabrup in the centre with predominantly gravelly loams, but some gritty sandy loams and granitic gravels; and Margaret River in the north with similar soils, but slightly cooler temperatures. This is entirely consistent with style; the wines from Willyabrup being more generous than the highly structured wines of the north and the elegant styles of the south. Margaret River is best known for high quality Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blends and top notch Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends. Over the years, the region has established an astonishing reputation illustrating a consistency in quality and a strongly focused winemaking culture.
CullenIn 1966 Diana and Dr Kevin Cullen planted a trial 0.4 ha vineyard on their sheep and cattle property at Willyabrup in the Margaret River. A new vineyard was planted in 1971 with further plantings made over the subsequent decades. Winemaker and environmentalist Vanya Cullen, a strong believer in biodynamic viticulture, has harnessed the rhythms of the cosmos, earth’s energy and vitality to "achieve greater individuality of site through working with nature rather than against it". Meticulous attention to vineyard management results in fruit of exceptional intensity, concentration, tannin ripeness and acid balance. The “quest for quality, integrity and sustainability” is also reflected in the carbon neutral and naturally powered winery where sound winemaking techniques and skills are married with empathy for vineyard character.