First taste, the finished article: Cullen Diana Madeline 2011 (Margaret River)

Cullen Diana Madeline Cabernet block - photo by Frances Andrijich

Cullen Diana Madeline Cabernet block – photo by Frances Andrijich

On Monday I wrote up the outstanding 2013 vintage of Mount Horrocks Cordon Cut Riesling – a stand out of last week’s Liberty portfolio tasting.

Like Cullen Diana Madeline 2011 from Margaret River, it didn’t feature in the importer’s Premium Australia tasting last September, or it would also have featured among my highlights.

This vintage of Cullen’s flagship wine has been much feted in Australia. I caught of a glimpse of why when I tasted youthful barrel components in July 2011 at a vertical tasting to celebrate the estate’s 40th birthday.

Below is my note on the finished article and, turning to the current vintage, Vanya Cullen reports they are scheduled to start harvest on Sunday – “the season has been good so far. Lots of rain and mild weather for the most part, although there have been a couple of bursts of heat.”

Cullen Diana Madeline 2011 (Margaret River)

Great drama and intensity of perfumed fruit, not to mention a seamless sheen of gossamer-fine tannins, is enviably achieved at just 12.5% degrees of alcohol by volume. Less is more and, for me, Vanya Cullen leads the march towards elegance among Australia’s Cabernet-focused producers. (Co)incidentally, other notable winemakers banging this drum belong to the fairer sex and include Sues Hodder (Wynns) and Bell (Bellwether) from Coonawarra and, from Margaret River, Virginia Wilcox (Vasse Felix).

The 2011 vintage of Diana Madeline comprises 80% Cabernet Sauvignon (particularly high in this year), 12% Merlot, 4% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot and spent 19 months in French barriques, of which 48% were new.  Exceptionally precocious fruit was harvested between 18 – 20 February and on 1,5 and 8 March which is saying something when, back in 2007 when I cellar-ratted at Cullen, the then earliest vintage on record finished on 17 March! Vanya Cullen tells me that, since then, they’ve finished the Cabernet pick by 10th March – “more compressed vintages” she says, “which I believe is what other biodynamic producers are finding – that harvest is earlier.” The wine is a deep, inky hue with an intense nose of ripe, perfumed cassis, plum and blueberry. A touch of balsamic lift too.

In the mouth, the fruit’s intensity, purity, levity and freshness is striking. Cullen attributes the relatively speedy natural ferment (from one to two months) and fruit purity to the super moon (the blue, or super moon, during the Cabernet harvest was closer to the earth than it had been for 600 years). Going through, it reveals notes of violets, cedar, tobacco. The finish is marked by a very long, persistent undertow of gravelly ironstone minerality – a signature note of this wine.

Unshowy, but runs deep. 12.5% £320/case of 6 at Eclectic Tastes.

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