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A Rise to ‘Greatness’ & 98 Points

Western Australia, Margaret River’s Cullen Wines and Leeuwin Estate score big in Robert Parker Wine Advocate report

building behind trees and landscaping

Leeuwin Estate, run by the Horgan family since first planting in 1976

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay – 98 points; Cullen Wines Vanya Cabernet Sauvignon – 98 points*

With determination and enthusiasm, Robert Parker Wine Advocate reviewer Erin Larkin undertakes documenting the history and viticulture of Western Australia, and shines a light on the resulting product of local vignerons: thrilling Australian wines from Cullen and Leeuwin Estate.

The report, “Australia, Western Australia: Margaret River’s Rise to Greatness,” dated July 6, 2023, begins what promises to be continuing coverage of the exceptional, sustainable winemaking in the area, including two Old Bridge Cellars’-represented wineries: Cullen Wines and Leeuwin Estate.

Cabernet Sauvignon scored highly, and the commentary hints at even more: “The best [Cabernet Sauvignon wines] I believe will not only begin to reshape the face of premium Cabernet Sauvignon globally but will guide the astute drinkers and collectors to a more pleasurable and nuanced Cabernet existence.”

Leeuwin and Cullen Chardonnay also received high marks, and multi-decade perspective for Leeuwin’s Art Series Chardonnay.

Overall, the region found respect for its sustainable agriculture, “Responsible and astute agronomy rules the day,” writes Larkin.

*Score Report

2020 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay
98 pts
: “Tight and green in the glass, you get salted pear, white peach, nectarine, red apple skins, preserved citrus and crushed shell. The wine has minerality and tension within the confines of the opulent fruit. Staggering length, as usual.”

2021 Leeuwin Estate Prelude Vineyards Chardonnay
93+ pts: “You get almond meal, preserved citrus and graphite. It’s complex texturally yet still tight and linear. It’s very good—both fresh and satisfying, with lightness and density at once. Flavorsome, lithe and long.”

2019 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon
96+ pts: “Admirable fruit presence in the mouth. Here, the wine is elegant and fine, very aromatic. It’s an excellent wine and a clear statement about the direction and refinement of the Cabernet program at Leeuwin.”

2020 Leeuwin Estate Prelude Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
93 pts: “Juicy and bright on the nose. The vintage is responsible for the density of fruit flavor – very good … characterized by cassis, blueberry, salted licorice, summer raspberry and even a hint of star anise through the finish.”

2020 Cullen Wines Vanya
98 pts: “A difficult wine to explain, and you know, when a wine is difficult to explain, that you have something rather special in front of you. The shape and flow of this wine is the most pertinent feature. Silky, almost slippery tannins (textured like buffed, unpolished, unsealed concrete, like river stones, rounded, pebbly) bank a stream of unbroken and seamless red fruit. It is composed and calm, effortless and lithe. There are not many Cabernets, anywhere, that conform to this shape and behavior. This is concentrated and elegant, kind of unreal. It is exciting, of the earth, a land wine. It feels it. This was made with Wilyabrup fruit that was destemmed and fermented on skins for 13 weeks in terracotta amphorae, then was pressed to a single second fill biodynamic barrel. No additions. 261 bottles filled. 13% alcohol, sealed under screw cap. (I have now tasted this wine twice, and it is singular. I might never see it again, but I hope I do.)”

2022 Cullen Wines Kevin John Chardonnay
97+ pts: “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.”

2021 Cullen Wines Mangan Vineyard Red Moon
91 pts: “A blend of Malbec (38%), Petit Verdot (31%) and Merlot (31%). Deep, dark and impenetrable in the glass, it offers up aromas of cocoa, blood plum, mulberry, blackberry, violets, lavender and licorice. In the mouth, the wine is shaped by very firm tannins yet has lovely flow and movement in the folds of fruit.”