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Western Australia: Old World-Style Reds and Whites
July 20, 2021

By: Josh Raynolds

https://vinous.com/articles/western-australia-old-world-style-reds-and-whites-jul-2021

Cullen Wines

“Cullen is one of a small handful of Australian producers whose wines have been actively traded across the world for more than five decades. Founded by Diana and Kevin Cullen in 1966, with the first releases in 1971, the winery’s reputation really took off when the Cullen’s daughter, Vanya, took charge of winemaking and management in 1989. By 1998 the vineyards had all been converted to organic farming and since 2003 biodynamic practices are the rule. All of the Cullen wines are built for aging, especially at the upper level. The Diana Madeline bottling has long been one of Australia’s iconic red wines, while the Chardonnay Kevin John is becoming one of the Country’s most collectible whites. It’s difficult to overstate the importance and influence of the Cullen family and their winery to Australia’s wine industry.”

97 pts 2018 Diana Madeline

Glass-staining violet. Highly perfumed, spice- and mineral-accented red and blue fruit, exotic spice, potpourri and incense aromas show superb clarity and pick up hints of woodsmoke, cured tobacco and vanilla with aeration. Sweet, seamless and incisive on the palate, offering intense blueberry, cherry liqueur, spicecake and candied rose flavors and a hint of cracked pepper. Deepens steadily through the extremely persistent finish, which features youthfully gripping tannins and resonating floral and blue fruit notes. 50% new French oak.

97 pts 2015 Cullen Vanya Cabernet Sauvignon

Bright ruby-red. Vibrant, finely chiseled red berry, cherry, floral and exotic spice aromas take on mineral and musky earth nuances with air. Lithe, impeccably balanced and focused in the mouth, offering sappy, penetrating red fruit, floral pastille and spicecake flavors that turn sweeter and steadily deepen with air, with no loss of energy. Shows superb clarity, definition and floral-driven thrust on a strikingly long, seamless finish that leaves juicy cherry and red berry notes behind. This graceful wine was fermented in clay amphoras and aged for just five months in French oak barrels, two-thirds of them new.

96 pts 2017 Cullen Diana Madeline

Deep, bright-hued purple. Expansive aromas of dark berry preserves, cherry pit, incense, black pepper, candied rose and spicecake, along with hints of pipe tobacco and vanilla that emerge as the wine opens up. Seamless and broad on the palate, offering wonderfully concentrated yet lively smoke-tinged black and blue fruit, floral pastille and spicecake flavors lifted by a bright mineral flourish. Shows outstanding energy and sharp delineation on the strikingly long, floral- and mineral-accented finish, which is given shape by dusty, fine-grained tannins. There’s 40% new French oak here and it plays in superb harmony with the wine’s pure, expressive fruit.

96 pts 2018 Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay

Brilliant straw. Intensely perfumed, mineral-accented aromas of fresh citrus and orchard fruits, nectarine, toasted brioche and pungent flowers, along with a hint of fennel that builds with air. Shows fine delineation and depth, offering vibrant orange, Anjou pear, sweet butter and vanilla flavors that open up slowly on the back half. Densely packed yet lithe and precise, displaying strong, spicy thrust on an impressively long finish that features lingering floral, iodine and mineral flourishes.

96 pts 2016 Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay

Limpid yellow-gold. Intense honeydew, Meyer lemon, pear, iodine and toasted brioche on the deeply perfumed, mineral-driven nose. Juicy and expansive in the mouth, offering densely packed yet lively orchard and citrus fruit, vanilla and sweet butter flavors and a bright suggestion of spicy ginger. Shows fantastic energy, sharp delineation and juicy cut on the endless, penetrating finish, which features a sexy floral nuance and resonating minerality.

96 pts 2015 Cullen Diana Madeline

Inky, bright-rimmed ruby. Powerful, mineral-accented cassis and blackberry scents are complicated by suggestions of roasted coffee, incense, potpourri and pipe tobacco. Broad and fleshy on the palate, offering alluringly sweet cherry, dark berry liqueur and floral pastille flavors that slowly tighten up on the back half. Becomes more energetic with air. The cherry, floral and spice notes return on the strikingly long, gently tannic and penetrating finish. Two-thirds of the oak here, all of it French, was new.

95 pts 2019 Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay

Translucent, green-hued gold. An expansive, mineral-driven bouquet evokes fresh citrus and orchard fruits, iodine, buttered toast and chamomile. Shows impressive depth and fine definition to the vibrant tangerine, Anjou pear, sweet butter and tarragon flavors, which tighten up slowly through the back half. Powerful yet graceful in style, displaying sharp focus and mineral thrust on an impressively long, chewy finish that features lingering floral and orange pith notes.

95 pts 2017 Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay

Pale gold. Powerful aromas of fresh peach, pear nectar and jasmine, along with suggestions of vanillin oak, saffron and smoky minerals. Fleshy and seamless in texture, showing superb depth as well as energy to the juicy orchard and pit fruit flavors. Finishes silky, tightly focused and impressively long, with repeating vanilla and mineral notes and a bracing suggestion of bitter lemon pith.

95 pts 2015 Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay

Shimmering straw-gold. Highly perfumed, mineral- and spice-accented aromas of fresh pear, peach nectar, vanilla, iodine and jasmine; a smoky nuance builds in the glass. Sappy, seamless and energetic on the palate, offering intense orchard and pit fruit flavors braced by dusty mineral and orange pith flourishes. Clings impressively on the mineral-driven finish, which leaves toasty lees, vanilla and ripe citrus fruit notes behind. This wine saw 75% new French oak.

95 pts 2016 Cullen Diana Madeline

Saturated ruby. A highly perfumed bouquet evokes fresh dark berries, incense and candied flowers, and a toasty oak nuance builds in the glass. Sappy and penetrating on the palate, offering vibrant bitter cherry, mocha and black currant flavors accented by a peppery note. Concentrated but lithe as well, delivering impressive finishing power on a long, floral- and spice-accented finish framed by polished tannins.

93 pts 2020 Cullen Amber

Bronze-hued orange. A wildly complex bouquet evokes dried peach, pear skin, botanical herbs, honey and pungent flowers. Chewy and focused on the palate, offering orchard and pit fruit nectar, beeswax, fennel pollen, chamomile and toasted nut flavors that show a hint of salinity and a core of juicy acidity. Fleshes out with air and finishes very long and subtly smoky, with the floral, herb and pit fruit notes lingering. As with most orange wines, this one will be divisive. Fermented on its skins for 10 days in a combination of standard and open-top fermenters and clay amphoras, and then aged for three months in neutral French oak casks; 12.8% alcohol.

93 pts 2016 Cullen Ephraim Clarke

Light, bright yellow. Smoky, oak-spiced aromas of lemon curd, pear nectar and honey take on a floral nuance as the wine opens up. Sappy, penetrating orchard and citrus fruit flavors show fine detail and building succulent herb, vanilla and smoky mineral accents. Finishes impressively long and smooth, leaving echoing pear and floral notes behind.

93 pts 2018 Cullen Cabernet Merlot

Deep violet. Cherry pit, blackberry, woodsmoke, succulent herbs, pipe tobacco and a sexy vanilla nuance on the nose. Chewy, palate-coating red and blue fruit flavors show a deft blend of power and energy. An exotic floral pastille flourish develops with air and carries through the impressively long, youthfully tannic finish, which features hints of sweet dark berries, mocha and baking spices.

93 pts 2017 Cullen Cabernet Merlot

Opaque ruby. Lively and focused on the perfumed nose, displaying fresh cherry and cassis scents along with hints of candied rose, licorice and tobacco. Juicy and energetic on the palate, offering appealingly sweet red and dark fruit flavors and exotic spice and mocha flourishes. Shows taut structure but no hard edges, and finishes very long and precise, with smooth tannins framing repeating cherry and floral notes.

92 pts 2017 Cullen Ephraim Clarke

Pale yellow. Expansive, smoke-tinged aromas of pear nectar, lemon curd and melon are joined by chalky mineral, vanilla and floral notes that emerge with air. Ripe citrus and pit fruit flavors are given lift by an undercurrent of smoky minerality, and a deeper honey nuance builds on the back half. Well-concentrated and seamless in texture, finishing with sharp clarity and repeating florality.

92 pts 2015 Cullen Mangan Vineyard

Shimmering ruby. Smoke-accented cassis, cherry and pipe tobacco aromas, plus hints of rose pastille and dark chocolate in the background. Gently sweet and focused in the mouth, offering juicy dark berry, bitter cherry and licorice flavors and a spicy touch of cracked pepper. Shows very good focus and energy and finishes long and taut, with dusty tannins and lingering smokiness.

91 pts 2018 Cullen Red Moon

Dark ruby. Ripe cherry and blackberry aromas show very good clarity and take on an enlivening suggestion of cracked pepper with air. Plush and seamless on the palate, offering juicy black and blue fruit, candied lavender and spicecake flavors and a hint of smokiness. Finishes broad and fleshy, with repeating spiciness, well-judged tannins and strong persistence.

91 pts Cullen 2018 Dancing in the Sun

Limpid yellow-gold. Spice-tinged orchard and pit fruits on the nose, plus floral and honey notes in the background. Silky, seamless and open-knit, offering juicy white peach, pear and Mayer lemon flavors and a touch of succulent herbs. Closes supple and long, with repeating floral and pit fruit notes.

Leeuwin Estate

“Tricia and Denis Horgan established the iconic Leeuwin Estate in 1973, making it one of Margaret River’s pioneering producers and, for decades now, one of Australia’s most respected. The Art Series bottlings, especially the Chardonnay, are long-time collectibles in the national market and beyond, having developed a solid reputation for age-worthiness. With over 120 hectares of vines, Leeuwin is a major player in the region and enjoying world-wide distribution, making them among the easiest high-end Margaret River wines to source. The Art Series Riesling delivers outstanding value, as does the Shiraz, which shows a distinctly cool and restrained character, quite unlike the Australian stereotype.”

96 pts 2018 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay

Translucent yellow. Powerful, mineral-accented nectarine, orange, pear nectar, iodine and pungent flowers on the intensely perfumed nose. Smooth, chewy and dry in the mouth, offering wonderfully concentrated yet vibrant orchard and pit fruit flavors complemented by suggestions of fennel, sweet butter, saffron and candied lemon peel. Shows superb definition and finishes minerally, smoky and extremely long, with lingering citrus and pit fruit notes and a touch of smokiness.

96 pts 2017 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay

Shimmering straw-yellow. Vibrant, mineral-accented aromas of white peach, pear, honeydew melon and Meyer lemon, along with a bright floral overtone. Juicy and densely packed, conveying a suave blend of richness and vivacity to the mineral-drenched citrus and orchard fruit and floral flavors. Takes on smoky lees, sweet butter and iodine notes with air and shows superb clarity on the strikingly long finish, which echoes the mineral and floral notes.

96 pts 2014 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay

Limpid yellow-gold. A suave, highly perfumed bouquet evokes fresh pear, peach and melon, along with suggestions of lemon pith, vanilla, honey and chalky minerals. Stains the palate with intense, oak-spiced orchard and citrus fruit flavors that pick up anise and floral nuances with aeration. Shows serious depth but comes off lithe and graceful, with a silky texture and a touch of back-end smokiness. The strikingly long finish emphatically echoes the mineral and floral notes and leaves a hint of buttered toast behind.

95 pts 2016 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay

Pale yellow-gold. Mineral-accented white peach, orange, pear, saffron and white flowers on the intensely perfumed nose. Fleshy and dry on the palate, offering concentrated orchard and pit fruit, chamomile and buttered toast flavors complemented by suggestions of tarragon and candied lemon peel. Shows excellent depth and precision, finishing minerally and impressively long, with lingering citrus and pit fruit notes.

95 pts 2015 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay

Brilliant straw-yellow. Sexy, mineral-accented orchard and pit fruit aromas show outstanding delineation and pick up sexy floral and dusty mineral qualities with aeration. Sappy, penetrating and pure, offering palate-staining white peach, Meyer lemon and pear nectar flavors that deliver a compelling blend of power and delicacy. Finishes with outstanding tenacity and resonating florality, leaving mineral-tinged pear and peach notes behind, eventually.

95 pts 2016 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon

Saturated ruby. Smoke- and spice-accented red and blue fruits, rose pastille, vanilla and cured tobacco on the highly expressive nose. Palate-staining flavors of ripe cherry, black currant and fruitcake are supported and sharpened by an undercurrent of smoky minerality. Puts on weight with air and finishes appealingly sweet and extremely long, displaying resonating cherry and floral notes and supple, slow-building tannins.

95 pts 2014 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon

Deep, youthfully bright ruby. Ripe cherry, cassis, pipe tobacco, candied rose and vanilla qualities on the intensely perfumed nose; a smoky mineral overtone lends urgency. Densely packed dark fruit liqueur, floral pastille and spicecake flavors are supported by a spine of zesty acidity that adds back-end lift and cut. Conveys a suave blend of depth and vivacity and finishes sweet and extremely persistent, with well-knit tannins and lingering cherry, woodsmoke and floral notes.

94 pts 2015 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon

Shimmering violet. Ripe dark berries, cured tobacco and candied flowers on the nose, plus a toasty oak nuance that builds in the glass. Sappy and penetrating on the palate, offering intense cherry-vanilla and black currant flavors accented by a peppery note. Concentrated but lithe as well, showing impressive finishing power, building spiciness and slowly developing tannins.

94 pts 2013 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon

Dark, bright-rimmed ruby. Highly expressive, oak-spiced cherry, black currant and floral pastille aromas are complemented by suggestions of vanilla and pipe tobacco. Smooth, seamless and penetrating on the palate, offering intense, mineral-accented bitter cherry, cassis and spicecake flavors and a sweetening vanilla note. Shows excellent focus and appealing sweetness on the long, energetic finish, which features repeating spiciness and harmonious, slow-building tannins.

93 pts 2018 Leeuwin Estate Prelude Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

Deep ruby. Spice-accented red and dark berry scents are complemented by succulent herb, tobacco and smoky mineral flourishes. Juicy, focused and appealingly sweet, offering sappy black raspberry and cherry cola flavors that take on licorice and vanilla notes with air. Closes very long and precise, with repeating cherry and herb notes and supple tannins that add frame and gentle grip.

92 pts 2019 Leeuwin Estate Prelude Vineyards Chardonnay

Bright straw-yellow. Fresh melon, tangerine, vanilla and a hint of ginger on the intensely perfumed nose. Juicy and tightly focused on the palate, offering Meyer lemon, honeydew, white peach, honeysuckle and sweet butter flavors accented by a smoky mineral nuance. Silky and focused on the impressively persistent finish, which leaves chalky mineral and floral notes behind.

92 pts 2018 Leeuwin Estate Prelude Vineyards Chardonnay

Pale yellow. Vibrant, mineral-driven citrus and orchard fruit aromas pick up floral and tarragon notes with air. Tangy and finely etched, offering Meyer lemon and pear flavors that deepen through the midpalate. Closes long and minerally, with lingering honeysuckle and pear skin notes.

92 pts 2017 Art Series Riesling

Brilliant straw. Pungent, mineral-accented citrus and orchard fruit and floral aromas take on a spicy ginger nuance as the wine opens up. Gently chewy and focused on the palate, offering energetic lemon pith, Bosc pear, bitter quinine and honeysuckle flavors that show fine definition and back-end lift. Closes very long and lively, with a resonating floral note and subtle spiciness.

92 pts 2016 Art Series Riesling

Pale yellow. Mineral-laced citrus zest, jasmine and peach aromas pick up subtle kerosene and ginger nuances with air. Dry and nervy on the palate, offering vibrant lime and quince flavors that deepen through the midpalate while maintaining energy. The peach and ginger notes repeat emphatically on a very long, focused finish that leaves a hint of bitter lime pith behind. I have long been impressed by this wine’s ability to reward patience.

92 pts 2016 Art Series Sauvignon Blanc

Light, bright yellow. Deep-pitched orange, pear nectar and chamomile scents take on succulent herb and lanolin notes with air. Concentrated and chewy in texture, offering sappy, oak-tinged citrus and orchard fruit and fennel flavors sharpened by a snap of juicy acidity. Smoothly plays power off delicacy and finishes very long and subtly smoky, leaving a sexy floral note behind.

92 pts 2016 Art Series Riesling

Pale yellow. Mineral-laced citrus zest, jasmine and peach aromas pick up subtle kerosene and ginger nuances with air. Dry and nervy on the palate, offering vibrant lime and quince flavors that deepen through the midpalate while maintaining energy. The peach and ginger notes repeat emphatically on a very long, focused finish that leaves a hint of bitter lime pith behind. I have long been impressed by this wine’s ability to reward patience.

92 pts 2015 Art Series Sauvignon Blanc

Pale yellow-gold. Ripe, mineral-accented citrus fruits, pineapple, honeysuckle and toasty lees on the deeply perfumed nose. Juicy orchard and tropical fruit flavors show impressive depth as well as definition, and a bracing jolt of bitter orange pith adds back-end cut. Smooth and minerally on the long, penetrating finish, which echoes the floral and lees notes.

91 pts 2020 Leeuwin Estate Siblings Sauvignon Blanc

Pale, green-tinged straw. Fresh citrus and orchard fruit scents are complemented by hints of bay leaf and fennel. Chewy and tightly focused on the palate, offering bitter lime zest, pear skin and quinine flavors and a deeper suggestion of honeydew melon. Finishes on a spicy note, with building florality and a late snap of chalky minerality.

91 pts 2018 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Riesling

Glistening straw-gold. Ripe citrus and pit fruits on the nose, with hints of succulent herbs and honey in the background. Plush and broad on entry, offering juicy nectarine, pear and orange flavors that firm up and turn drier with air. Finishes long and chewy, with repeating peachiness and a lingering suggestion of bitter quinine.

91 pts 2018 Leeuwin Estate Siblings Sauvignon Blanc Semillon

Brilliant straw. Meyer lemon, grapefruit pith and fig aromas show good clarity and take on chalky mineral and succulent herb overtones with aeration. Silky and focused on the palate, showing very good definition to the juicy, mineral-laced citrus fruit flavors. Puts on weight with air and finishes very long and lively, with lingering citrus fruit and herb qualities.

91 pts 2017 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Shiraz

Glass-staining ruby. Blackberry, cherry preserve, licorice and vanilla scents on the smoke-accented nose. Primary dark fruit, mocha and vanilla flavors show very good depth and pick up a spicy nuance with air. The vanilla and cherry notes return on the long, youthfully tannic finish that features a hint of salty olive. Give this one some time, as the oak component is definitely making its case now.

91 pts 2017 Leeuwin Estate Siblings Shiraz

Bright violet. Spice-accented dark berry preserve, licorice and spice aromas pick up a smoky flourish with air. Sappy and focused on the palate, offering penetrating bitter cherry and cassis flavors that deepen and turn sweeter with air. Dusty tannins lend shape to a very long, spicy finish that leaves intense black and blue fruit notes behind.

91 pts 2016 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Shiraz

Dark violet. Oak-accented black and blue fruit flavors are complemented by hints of woodsmoke, espresso and baking spices. Round and fleshy in the mouth, offering appealingly sweet blackberry and cherry-vanilla flavors that firm up on the back half. Closes long and smooth, with velvety tannins and repeating smoke and blue fruit notes.

91 pts 2016 Leeuwin Estate Siblings Shiraz

Vivid ruby. Sexy red and blue fruit, floral and exotic spice scents, along with a subtle touch of cola. Juicy and energetic on the palate, offering appealingly sweet black raspberry and boysenberry flavors that deepen steadily as the wine opens up. Velvety tannins lend shape and subtle grip to a long, blue-fruit-dominated finish that shows zero rough edges.

90 pts 2018 Leeuwin Estate Siblings Shiraz

Brilliant purple. Smoke-accented cherry, blackberry and lavender aromas show good clarity and pick up a spicy quality with air. Lush black and blue fruit flavors show good breadth and are complicated by an allspice nuance. Finishes on a youthfully tannic note, showing good energy and spicy cut.

90 pts 2015 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Shiraz

Deep, glistening ruby. An expansive bouquet evokes fresh dark berries and peppery spices, and hints of cola and vanilla emerge with aeration. Incisive, smoke-tinged black currant and bitter cherry flavors stretch out and become sweeter with air. Shows fine clarity, a repeating vanilla note and strong, spicy lift on the persistent finish, which is framed by harmonious tannins.