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Vanya Cullen has taken her cabernet merlot into the top echelon of Australian Cabernet through dogged determination, curiosity and superb technical skills. The exemplary vineyard site is planted on ancient granitic soils in the central Willyabrup sub-region of Margaret River. Cullen has adopted the principles of biodynamic viticulture to “achieve greater individuality of site through working with nature rather than against it”. This estate style is about freshness and complexity, structure and suppleness. The wines have pronounced cassis and cedar aromas with fine beautifully ripe tannins. Earthy, anise, gamy aromas and flavours develop with age. Diane Madeline Cabernet Merlot is named in memory of Di Cullen who established the winery and vineyard with her husband in 1966 and is pure bottled philosophy.
Top Vintages 2010, 2008, 2004, 2002, 2001,1999,1998,1997,1996,1995,1994
2000 replicated 1999 with a series of cyclones (Steve, Norman and Olga), though the results were not so fortunate. Yields were minuscule but the wine was more impressive than it had the right to be, if more for younger drinking. In contrast, 2001 was the driest season in 126 years, but it led to “one of the most brilliant harvests... for ripening”. The negative was Marri – the local name for the red gums. The conditions led to poor flowering in the gums, which led to increased bird damage in the vineyards.
The blend was restricted to 75% Cabernet, 25% Merlot, both of which yielded just above 2.5 tonnes/acre, with harvesting throughout March. 14% alcohol. The wine spent 18 months in oak, with 40% of that new.