Across the road from the Cullen home vineyard, the Mangan Vineyard is a little younger, planted in 1995–97, and is farmed in the same meticulous biodynamic way as the rest of the estate. Malbec and petit verdot conspire to give this wine a darkly fruited, spicy yet floral and lithe profile, packed with complex fruit flavours stretched over a savoury canvas.
Malbec takes the lead here (82%), with petit verdot backing up (18%), with both varieties providing a darkly complex array of red and dark fruits, sultry spice and dusky florals. Dark plum, currants, mulberry, dried rose, violets, woodsy herbs and dark spices all sit in a complex package, marked by intensity but with an elegant composure. There is a supple intensity on the palate, but it’s wound up in a web of fine but assertive tannins, stretching the flavours long and savoury.
Themes of this wine
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.
One of the five principal red grapes of Bordeaux, petit verdot is typically employed in the lowest percentages in blends. It is a late ripener, and the latest of the Bordeaux quintet, often struggling to reach full maturity in its home region. When ripe, however, it has intense flavour, colour, tannin and acidity, making it a compelling blending component. That slow maturation cycle also makes it a good prospect in warmer zones, and it is planted in quite high concentration in Australia’s Riverland, even eclipsing the total plantings in France by a significant margin.
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.
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.