Vanya Cullen makes some of Margaret River’s most iconic classic wines, but she also wanders creatively, with her Supernatural series embodying that spirit of adventure. Cullen’s rosé is an expression of all the red varieties in the vineyard viewed through a deep pink lens, fragrant, spicy and herbal, with a plump of richness cleaned up with a gentle grip working in concert with the acidity.
Made from all the red varieties at the biodynamic Cullen vineyard – cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec – this rosé is made by the saignée method. Lifted smoky notes of leafy cabernet with essence-like red and dark berries, blackcurrant leaf and freshly cut soft herbs. This is dialled up a little in colour, thumbing its nose at Provence-like paleness, and it does the same with the flavour, along with a pillowy slip of sweetness greeting the palate first up, then cleaning up with gentle tannin and mild but persuasive acidity.
Themes of this wine
The saignée method is where juice is drained from crushed red grapes prior to fermentation to increase the impact of tannins and colour when the grapes are macerated. It effectively concentrates that wine, while providing juice blushed with colour that can be made into rosé
An organic farming method created by Rudolph Steiner in the 1920s, biodynamics is a slightly mystical approach, employing elaborate organic ‘preparations’ to restore the natural balance of the soil and encourage microorganisms. It also observes the lunar cycle to prescribe actions in the vineyard and winery. Why some of it works is not clearly understood, but it is used by some of the world’s greatest producers.
The world’s most prolific wine grape, cabernet sauvignon has been planted in Australia since the first days of viticulture here. Today, its prime homes are arguably Margaret River and Coonawarra, but the Yarra Valley and even the Hunter Valley mount very convincing cases, too. Cassis or blackcurrant is one of cabernet sauvignon’s prime flavour profiles, though blackberry, mulberry and plum also feature. Notes of mint and capsicum (pyrazines) generally appear when less ripe, with a leafy varietal character persisting in most riper versions, though ultra-rich versions will tend to lose this and become more concentrated in a dark berry conserve-like way.
Associated primarily with Bordeaux, where it partners with cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot and malbec, cabernet franc reaches its greatest heights on the Right Bank of the Gironde estuary. There it goes to making some of the greatest and most expensive wines of Bordeaux – such as from St-Emilion and Pomerol – often in league with merlot, while on the warmer Left Bank, cabernet sauvignon is king. The Loire Valley is the other prime territory for cabernet franc, where it is mostly bottled unblended. Franc shares much of its profile with cabernet sauvignon, but franc tends to be less imposing, more fragrant with a less-pronounced tannin structure, and if pushed a little riper can be quite soft on the palate with pooling ripe fruit.
Merlot has developed a reputation as a grape that produces soft and gentle wines, but it is far more than that. Although it’s capable of making wines of great elegance and detail when bottled solo, merlot more often makes a major contribution to blends, buffering cabernet sauvignon’s sterner side, adding depth and filling out the palate with fruit. Merlot is the second-most widely planted grape in the world, and it’s the most planted in France, where it originates. Merlot is a grape of principal importance in Bordeaux, accompanying cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc in occupying the lion’s share of those famous blended wines.
Malbec is a French grape that has become much more synonymous with Argentina, where it dominates the country’s vineyards. In Australia, malbec is typically blended as a minor component, but with better vine material and new thinking, malbec’s personality is emerging from the shadows. With a generally dark fruit profile, plums, dark cherries and blackberries, malbec can range from the deeply fruited and ruggedly tannic to more supple and silky expressions – typically those from Argentina, where the vine material is quite different to everywhere else.