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Cullen Diana Madeline 2017

Cullen Diana Madeline 2017

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"The medium-bodied 2017 Diana Madeline is 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec. It spent 18 months in 40% new oak. Hints of violets and cocoa accent cassis and blueberry fruit on the nose, while raspberries emerge on the palate. The fine, silky texture continues onto the long finish, ending with some drying tannins. Give this a few years in the cellar and drink it over the next 15 years. Drink: 2022-2035. 94 points

A visit to Cullen Wines and tasting with Vanya Cullen is always one of the highlights of a trip to Margaret River. The recipient of multiple "winemaker of the year" awards in 2019, she celebrated her 30th year as chief winemaker at her family's winery and is one of Australia's leading proponents of biodynamics. The winery is one of the few to make their own biodynamic preparations, and it has an extensive compost program that generates 70 tonnes of compost each year. The compost, she said, has meant the soil's moisture-holding capacity now measures 50% greater than it did six years ago. The climate has changed subtly, she said, with the winters growing warmer and the summers cooler over the years. "It's made Chardonnay more viticulturally challenging," she said, as earlier dates for bud burst exposes the vines to greater risk of frost, wind and hail. In 2019, 60% of the Chardonnay crop was lost to frost. Regarding other recent vintages, "I love the minerality of the '17s, but '18 is much more consistent across the board," she said. Cullen has been one of the leading proponents of a geographic indication for Wilyabrup, the central portion of Margaret River where the winery is located. Provisionally approved in November 2019, it's likely to appear on labels going forward. It actually shows up—albeit with a different spelling—on the label of the 1977 Cabernet Sauvignon that we tasted as part of a small vertical. I've included notes on those back vintages of Cabernet and Chardonnay as part of this issue."

Joe Czerwinski, Wine Advocate (01/20)