Cullen Wines, and Australian Chardonnays, beat the Burgundies
November 28, 2015
by James Halliday
Cullen Wines’ 30th annual International Chardonnay Tasting, held in Margaret River, had a serendipitous send-off from the queen bee of English wine writers, Jancis Robinson MW, in the Financial Times.
In a lengthy article on the quality of modern Australian Chardonnays, Robinson wrote: “I am finding more life, interest and value in the best of the new generation of Australian chardonnays than I am in the great bulk of white burgundies.” Andrew Jefford, another gifted UK writer, with a deep understanding of the great wines of France but a hitherto jaundiced view of Australian wines, had previously opined that the best Australian chardonnays can “compete effortlessly” with Grand Cru white Burgundies.
The Australian perspective from sommeliers, wine shows and wine writers is that Chardonnay has emerged from its 1990s blues and is in a singularly happy place. There is another column in why this change has happened, so for now I shall simply come back to the Cullen tasting.
There were 11 wines from Western Australia (nine from Margaret River), four from eastern Australia, four from the US and five very distinguished wines from Burgundy. The tasting was blind, the wines presented in three brackets of eight, and we knew the identities of the 24 combatants. The order was not revealed until the last experts had delivered their thoughts. There was no tally of preferences or points from the 100 tasters, so I can only give my ratings of a tasting of quite wonderful wines (other than two execrable Californian wines). My top 10 had seven wines from Australia, two from France and one from California.
My top three? Cullen first, Coche-Dury Meursault second, and Kistler Vineyards Sonoma Valley (a bolt from the blue) third. To put the icing on the cake, I also tasted the inaugural super-cuvée 2012 Cullen Vanya Cabernet Sauvignon, released this month.