The release of Cullen's 2021 vintage marked 50 years of winemaking at this famous Wilyabrup estate, in Western Australia's Margaret River. Cullen was founded by Diana and Dr Kevin Cullen, but their daughter Vanya took over winemaking in 1983 and is practically synonymous with the estate.
Vanya named her two most prestigious wines after her mum and dad, and it is these that we offer to you today: 2021 Diana Madeline, scores 96+ points from The Wine Advocate, and 2022 Kevin John Chardonnay scores 97+! The two vintages also coincide with what would have been the 100th birthdays of their namesakes. Vanya is one of the world's great winemakers and the fact that she has chosen to name these wines after her mum and dad points to the care and love that goes into the winemaking.
2021 'Diana Madeline' is a Bordeaux blend. Vanya's mother helped plant Cullen's first rows of Cabernet Sauvignon herself, in 1971. The final blend of the 2021 is 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec. The wine is aged for 15 months in 50% new oak puncheons, of around 500 litres.
The 2021 growing season was marked by heavy rain and wildlife pressure (birds). Harvest was impacted by staff restrictions due to the ongoing pandemic. The lower yields ensured that the fruit was picked at optimum ripeness. The grapes for this wine were hand harvested on the biodynamic fruit and flower days across 5 picks from the middle of March to a super Moon Flower day two weeks later, including, according to Cullen, "a Moon opposite Saturn fruit day harvest"!
Tasting the 2021, we found it beautifully balanced, with the kind of elegant, polished tannins we would expect from the better cru classé estates and a fine line of minerality running through it. At just 13.5% abv, only the ripeness of the fruit points obviously to the wine's origin. It's delicious now, but can also see it drinking well far beyond 2039, the window given by The Wine Advocate's Erin Larkin.
The 2022 Kevin John Chardonnay was harvested from 3 separate blocks of ungrafted chardonnay vines, planted in 1976 and 1988. Hand Harvested around the biodynamic calendar over 8 different harvest times across February, the grapes were fermented in 50% new oak puncheons, then left to mature for a further 6 months.
The chardonnay saw some battonage during fermentation, which comes through on the palate as a nutty richness, balanced by a streak of lime-like acidity and salinity that impressed us enormously. The abv is again 13.5%, so the impression of power and intensity here is all from the flavour and structure of the wine. Despite this power, it still has a freshness and energy, which we attribute to the use of biodynamic principals in the vineyard and winery.
These wines are usually found on lists in rarified restaurants and are highly sought-after. Both are available in extremely limited quantities, so let us know as soon as possible if you would like to secure some for your collection.
Offered in bond, immediately available, E&OE.
|RED||2021||Cullen Estate - Diana Madeline||75cl||£475 per case of 6||Cullen Estate
2021 / / 75cl
£475 per case of 6
Tasting Notes"The 2021 Diana Madeline is composed of Cabernet Sauvignon (91%), Merlot (4%), Cabernet Franc (3%) and Malbec (2%). The only other time since the first 1995 vintage of this wine (formerly labeled as the Cabernet Merlot) that the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon has crested 90% or higher was the 2016 vintage, which saw 93% Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2021 vintage in Margaret River was an interesting one, with several climate curveballs thrown at viticulturists during key times during the harvest season. Here, the fruit was handpicked on biodynamic fruit and flower days across five picks from the middle of March to the Super Moon flower day two weeks later. The wine was matured in French oak for 15 months (50% new). This 2021 is a lean, mineral rendition of the Diana Madeline, with bay leaf, rose petals, cassis, bramble and black tea forming layers that settle in the mouth. The tannins are grippy and very fine, causing one to chew slightly as one drinks. This is ethereal, as these wines often are, yet with line and length that belies its pretty curves and textures. The perfect, ideal apogee for this wine's drinking window is in the future. Get it while you can. 2024-2039. 96+ points." Erin Larkin, Apr '23
|WHITE||2022||Cullen Estate - Kevin John Chardonnay||75cl||£495 per case of 6||Cullen Estate
Kevin John Chardonnay
2022 / / 75cl
£495 per case of 6
Tasting Notes"The Chardonnays I have tasted so far from the 2022 vintage in Margaret River remind me of the 2014s, in their soft acidity and primal, almost unbound fruit power. Here, the 2022 Kevin John Chardonnay leads with crushed nuts, salted yellow peach, red apple skins, preserved citrus rind, yuzu, green tea and saltbush, before tumbling into the flavors in the mouth. Toffee apple, nuts, curry leaf and saffron. Concentrated, piercing and intense. The acid envelops the tongue and holds it hostage, while the fruit explodes with power. The Gingin clone is on show here. The wine trails to a soft, juicy finish. It is lingering, very good, excellent, even better after a gentle decant and served in a big Burgundy glass. 13.5% alcohol, sealed under screw cap. 2023 - 2037. 97+ points." Erin Larkin, Wine Advocate, Jul '23