Saturday, July 4, 2009

Cullen - 2007 Releases

When you are about to taste the wines of one of Australia's most highly acclaimed wineries from one of the best vintages recorded, expectations are very high. And the tasting did not disappoint, although it left me somewhat uneasy in some respects. Let us look at the individual wines first.

The 2007 Kevin John Chardonnay produced the weirdest Australian Chardonnay tasting experience I can remember. It had a very strong aroma and actually smelled of pot, I kid you not. Many flavours of grass, earth, dung etc. You could not help but sense that the biodynamics applied at Cullen have had a major influence here and that the soil components have jumped straight into the glass. The flavours were more traditional: citrus dominated, but also grapefruit. The wine seemed a bit easy and straight forward (somebody said: like lemon juice), but the wine had a very impressive and long finish. This wine clearly needs more time.

Then came the two mid-priced reds. The 2007 Cullen Mangan and the 2007 Cullen Cabernet Merlot. The Mangan is a predominant Malbec/Petit Verdot blend. The wine has violet colour, a blackcurrant flavour, and is quite spicy and tannic. There is strong varietal expression, but a slightly harsh mouthfeel. The Cabernet/Merlot is the smoother wine, good, but not exceptional fruit expression: a nice, easy drinking style.

On to the main event: The 2007 Cullen Diana Madeline. This wine is the biggest Cabernet/Merlot I can recall coming from Cullen ( it includes also small percentages of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot). The colour is very black and the tannins are strong, but fine grained. The flavours are very deep and complex: predominantly blackcurrant, but also mulberry and coffee. The wine fills out nicely through the Merlot component and has a very long, powerful finish. This wine is way too young to be enjoyed now, but I predict a very long life ahead, maybe 30 years. It is a sensational achievement.

Overall, the 2007 vintage may just deliver what it promised. Here is my issue: the biodynamics are increasingly showing an influence: the wines are more full flavoured than before, and in an effort to produce elegant wines, there is a risk that too much edgyness is shaved off the wines. Are they too polished? (I am talking about the reds here) . However, this is just a question. I remain very impressed with Vanya Cullen's wines.

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