Grapevine Archive for Cullen

Mon 28 Nov 2011

Margaret River Bushfire

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McHenry Hohnen view of Margaret River bushfire, Western Australia

View from the winery at McHenry Hohnen

Last week a bushfire burnt through the coastal areas west of Margaret River. The fire is now contained but it destroyed 32 houses and nine holiday chalets with damage to a further 22 homes. Fortunately there was no human cost. The fire was a result of prescribed burns by government agencies which were reignited by very strong northerly winds. The agencies do this in order to reduce fuel loads and provide protection for summer months to local seaside communities.

I have been in touch with a number of The Wine Society’s key suppliers. Moss Wood’s Keith Mugford says “We have been very fortunate and so far we been spared by the weather.  The fires started about 10k south of us and the wind direction blew the flames and smoke away from us.  Most vineyards seem to have been missed.”

McHenry-Hohnen were less fortunate with some damage to 2 hectares of chardonnay in their Burnside vineyard. Winemaker Ryan Walsh explains: “All okay in lives and buildings here just a little chardonnay gone from this year…..There is no long term loss in vines, the loss will only be taken for this coming vintage 2012. The Sauvignon Blanc from Burnside is untouched and looking very good for the coming 2012 vintage. Freya and I live approximately 2km North East from the Burnside vineyard and were evacuated Wednesday to Friday as a precautionary measure. We have now returned. The house is fine.” And Vanya Cullen by text “We r ok, fires are in the south, we r in north, but it is sad.”

Pierre Mansour
Buyer for Australia

Categories : Australia
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Thu 26 May 2011

What it means to be green….

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Cullen in Margaret River: one of The Wine Society's suppliers whose wines were tasted at Monty Waldin's masterclass

This was the title of the masterclass hosted by Wine Australia and presented by Monty Waldin at the London International Wine Trade Fair last week. Monty is not just a leading authority on green issues with several books published on the subject but has also ‘walked the talk’ having made his own wine biodynamically in the Roussillon – the focus of a Channel 4 documentary, Château Monty, broadcast in 2008.

Fresh from his first trip to Australia, Waldin was upbeat about how organic and biodynamic viticulture could be just what Australia needs right now. Australia hasn’t had it easy in the last couple of years with problems of overproduction, challenging vintage conditions and the rising cost of exports.

A greener approach to farming, argues Waldin, could be the way forward for Australian wine. ‘Organic and biodynamics naturally reduce yields increasing quality and giving better flavours in the wine. Producing wines with a better expression of regionality has to be the aim of the Australian wine industry.’

Interestingly, for a nation that otherwise is very aware of environmental issues, Australia has been slow to adopt organic and biodynamic viticulture. Leaders of biodynamism in Oz have, according to Monty, been doctrinal rather than inspirational.

Ironically though, young winemakers are now bringing back knowledge of biodynamics from Europe having seen it in action at many illustrious, blue-chip estates. ‘Australians are great pragmatists,’ says Monty, ‘Once they see that something works, they’ll be convinced that this is the right way to go.’

And what about the wines? We were shown 11 wines, including wines from established Wine Society suppliers Cullen and McHenry-Hohnen in Margaret River and Wirra Wirra in the McLaren Vale – suppliers of our own-label chardonnay. All had an inherent freshness about them, ‘wines to buoy you up not pull you down’, in Monty’s words.

2011 has been yet another challenging year for many in Australia with more rain at vintage time than anyone can remember in south east Australia. There have been issues with rot and mildew. Growers have found that organic grapes have fared better with thicker skins and greater resilience to rot. Paradoxically, a year which might have sounded the death knell to organics could actually be its springboard.

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Wed 30 Mar 2011

Beautiful Grapes

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Margaret River is in full harvest swing and I’m at Cullen Wines, a pioneer of this great cabernet sauvignon region.

Vanya Cullen

Vanya Cullen

I was struck by the intensely-coloured, almost fluorescent bloom of Vanya Cullen’s cabernet grapes (which will go into her best wine, “Diana Madeline”, due to be harvested any day soon).

Cabernet grapes at Cullen

I hope the above photo does justice to what must be one of the healthiest vineyards in the area, proof that biodynamics works.

Grape sorting at Cullen

Grape sorting

Vanya, not one to oversell, reckons 2011 may be her finest vintage ever. The grapes certainly tasted delicious: pure, fruity and with perfectly ripe pips. For the wine, well, we’ll all just have to wait three years once Vanya has worked her winemaking magic.

Pierre Mansour
Australia Buyer

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