Named in homage to Vanya Cullen’s maternal grandmother, the newly minted ‘Grace Madeline’ is a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon from older vines. Cullen has given the fruit a bit of a luxury Bordeaux treatment with plenty of classy oak, but the vibrant lift of cut herbs and cassis leave the strongest impression, with a textual but brightly fresh palate following up.
The sauvignon in this has seen 75% new oak for three months, but the fruit swallows it without pause, with lifted notes of nettles, blackcurrants, soft herbs and a hint of lemongrass. There’s a savoury side to this, with a gentle but assertive grip to the palate and a milky barrel note adding complexity, gravelly minerals adding further dept through a long finish with pillowy texture wrapping around a bright acid spine.
Themes of this wine
If you’re after a wine region with a healthy dose of conspicuous glamour, then Margaret River has it all. Three hours south of Perth, ‘Margs’ is littered with iconic wineries, many with dazzling cellar doors and world-class restaurants. And then there’s the abundant sunshine, and the beaches – oh, those beaches… It’s a beautiful, beautiful place, and for a young wine region it’s very mature, with well-established paths to success built largely on the twin pillars of chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon (et al). Names like Cullen, Moss Wood, Woodlands, Leeuwin Estate and Vasse Felix feel like they’re etched in stone, but in the last little while, smaller players have been making their mark.
When you think of sauvignon blanc, it’s hard not to think of New Zealand almost immediately, and the pungently expressive examples from Marlborough. But sauvignon also contributes to some of France’s most noble wines – principally in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux – as well as a huge diversity of expressions in Australia, both bottled solo and in blends.
In league with sauvignon blanc and muscadelle, semillon is responsible for the dry whites of Bordeaux, as well as the great sweet wines of Sauternes, Barsac et al. In Australia, semillon found its own unique niche in the Hunter Valley, making low alcohol, super-bright and zippy wines that age for decades, while in Margaret River it is more often than not blended with sauvignon blanc to make the region’s signature aromatic white.