John Rozentals’ wine review

Vanya Cullen … has taken over leadership of one of Australia’s greatest vineyards and wineries.

Vanya Cullen … has taken over leadership of one of Australia’s greatest vineyards and wineries.

I’m not old enough to remember the publication of John Gladstones’ seminal research papers in the mid-1960s, but I am old enough to remember the stir caused in Australian by the release of the first Margaret River wines a decade or so later.

Gladstones was one of the first to apply heat summation, until then largely a Californian climatic concept, to Australia and reckoned that Margaret River and places around Mt Barker a few hours drive to the east, both areas in the extreme south-west of Western Australia, were ideal for producing great cool-climate wines.

Among those first Margaret River wineries was Cullen, set up at Willyabrup by Dr Keith Cullen and his wife Diana Madeline.

The dry reds, made principally from cabernet sauvignon, and dry white made from chardonnay were stunning eye-openers — fine and elegant wines with delicate and intense flavour, and also with considerable cellaring potential.

It’s hard to believe that the beginning of these areas came more than 50 years ago, although it isn’t difficult to assess their impact on a rapidly expanding Australian wine industry.

These days the Cullen winemaking mantle is in the very capable hands of daughter Vanya, who has taken to her job with great panache and further build on the reputation of one of Australia’s finest brands, including its very worthy biodynamic credentials.


Cullen Wines 2016 Diana Madeline: Blended from 93 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 5 per cent merlot, and 1 per cent each of malbec and petit verdot, this dry red rightly claims a place as a Cullen flagship. It’s a great red wine, elegant and dominated by the flavours of dark fruits and spices, overlaid with beautiful oak. The winemaker suggests 30 years of maturation potential. I’d say at least that.


Coopers Session Ale: This beer quickly rose to be a favourite when available in keg draught form. Now one of the world’s great breweries, Coopers, has released it in bottles and cans. It’s a refreshing summer-style beer, with hints of tropical fruit in the bouquet and lashing of aromatic hops. Yes, I can definitely sense as session coming on.


Rum Dos Maderas (two woods) Bodegas Rum PX5+5: The base material for this excellent, smooth, richly flavoured rum comes from Guyana and Barbados, in the West Indies. It was matured there for five years and has subsequently been aged in used sherry barrels in Spain for another five years. A lovely drink with not a hint of sharpness. Mix it with water if you’d like to break down the strength a bit, but please, please, don’t go near it with cola.