This is a classic dry red from a winery that really needs no introduction, one of Australia’s premier producers of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, and perhaps the most consistent quality red winemaker in the country. We are talking about Cullen Wines in the northern half of Margaret River, in the South West corner of Western Australia. Cullen has become a reference point for Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in Margaret River, founded by the late Kevin and Diana Cullen, and now run by second generation and incredibly well-regarded Vanya Cullen. Vanya recently earned the Winemaker of the Year title in the 2020 Halliday Wine Companion and is a leading voice in organic and biodynamic farming in Australian viticultural circles. Vanya manages the entire Cullen vineyard along these principles, it is a beautiful place full of energy and life. We could fill pages with her knowledge on this subject, but it is best to reference the Cullen website for specific info.
We aren’t offering the cult ‘Diana Madeleine’ this week (though can source the recently released 2018 if you are interested), but rather the over-achieving Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot. This is also from the 2018 vintage and we have been hanging out for this release, as it is one of the strongest vintages in recent years in Margaret River (wedged in between the cooler years of 2017 and 2019). The warmth and evenness of the vintage has shown through in the Cullen reds, with incredible depth, balance and structure that appears effortless. The Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot has incredible colour, a black core with a bright purple/ ruby edge. The aromas are classic and lifted with blackberry, red currant, cedar and a distinct fresh green herb mix. The palate is immediately juicy and loaded with cassis and red licorice flavours, a slick and glossy mid palate and a crunchy, fresh structure with ripe Cabernet tannins framing the wine.
You will notice that Wilyabrup is mentioned on the label, in place of Margaret River. This is a recent change and is somewhat controversial in the region, as it is a smaller area within Margaret River that has a strong history of high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon. Winemakers like Vanya Cullen have been strong campaigners in having this area recognised as an official region. It really depends what side of the literal and metaphorical fence you sit on, though it can’t be argued that Wilyabrup is one of the worlds strongest areas for Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cullen is one of the reasons it enjoys this reputation.
Margaret River was first planted in 1967, and Cullen were a part of the initial groundswell. Their estate vineyard was planted in 1971 and has been farmed organically since its certification in 2013. Organics is all about enhancing soil health and biodiversity. They also farm along biodynamic principles and are a leader in this space on a global level. They craft Cabernet Sauvignon that is true to the region, a moderate climate, on alluvial gravel soils, with a massive coastal influence (some vineyards just a few kilometres from the Indian Ocean). These are fine Cabernets that are moderate in alcohol are elegant in style. This version is a pleasure to drink now but will age comfortably for ten years, as good Cabernet should be able to. With time it will become softer, with more cedar, smoke and tobacco flavours.
This is a great look at one of Australia’s best producers from a 10 out of 10 vintage. It is also a window into modern, fresh, elegant Cabernet Sauvignon and a wine that should get more people in to this variety. We hope you enjoy it.
Tom and Dan