Cullen Margaret River Kevin John Chardonnay 2020  £96.71

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Cullen Wines is a certified biodynamic, carbon-neutral and naturally powered estate, with their philosophy summed up in three simple words; ‘Quality, Integrity and Sustainability’. It is one of the oldest and most awarded family wineries in Wilyabrup, in Western Australia’s famous Margaret River region. First established in 1971 by Dr Kevin and Diana Cullen and now run by their daughter Vanya, the winery has built an outstanding reputation for fine certified biodynamic wines that receive critical national and international acclaim. In 2019, celebrating 30 years at the helm, Vanya received double Winemaker of the Year honours at both the Australian Women in Wine Awards and the Halliday Wine Companion Awards.

This wine was named after Kevin John Cullen, a pioneer of the Margaret River wine region. Together with his wife Diana, they planted the first Cabernet Sauvignon in Wilyabrup. All the Chardonnay grapes were grown in three separate blocks in Cullen's own vineyards where the vines are more than 30 years old, having been planted in 1976 and 1988. Aspect is mostly level or southerly. Winemaker Vanya feels that her conversion to biodynamic viticulture has given better fruit, the character of which she has preserved during the winemaking process.

2020 vintage was defined by dry conditions from the onset of budburst through to harvest in 2020. A lower than average rainfall in 2019, and hot dry weather conditions in January, February and March made for almost drought conditions for harvest 2020. Bunch numbers were about average, but low berry weights due to the dry conditions produced very low yields and wines which were balanced and pretty in nature.

The bunches were hand-harvested, whole-bunch, basket-pressed and the juice racked to barrel. Fermentation occurred with indigenous yeast. The wine underwent 100% natural malolactic conversion and spent a total of six months in French oak puncheons, of which 50% were new. The wine had no fining, filtration or cold stabilisation.

Straw in colour with green reflections. This incredibly perfumed wine has intriguing aromas of lime, vanilla, orange blossom, tropical fruits and mango. On the palate, concentrated fruit - lemon, lime, orange and mango. The length and minerality of the wine is carried through with a surge of fruit density and cleansing acidity. Persistent flavours linger, showing the concentration of the 2020 harvest being hot and dry.

James Halliday's Wine Companion - 98 Points - Gold

Hand-picked across 3 days according to the biodynamic calendar. Wild ferment, matured in French oak for 6 months (50% new), 100% mlf. 2020 was a fast and short vintage with heartbreakingly low yields in Margaret River, yet it produced wines of effortless grace and poise. This is most certainly one of those. Like a rhythmic pulse of flavour in the mouth ... steady, like a heartbeat. All elements are in harmony: fruit, acid, phenolics; they gently seesaw between each other, spooling out a seemingly never-ending trail of flavour. Breathtakingly beautiful, again.

Erin Larkin

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