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Tuesday 15 February 2022

The Australian wine classic that remains a bargain

Australian wine lovers have become accustomed to paying serious prices for cellar-worthy icon red wine releases.

Star new-release wines from labels including Penfolds, Henschke and Torbreck can set you back $800 a bottle and are full-throttle towards the $1000 mark.

And prices for top Bordeaux, Burgundies and Barolos are often beyond the wallets of mere mortals.

That's what makes the Cullen Diana Madeline from Margaret River in Western Australia quite remarkable.

This organic and biodynamic icon from a winery that last year celebrated its 50th anniversary is one of Australia's most loved red wines but still sells for only $150.

For many that still makes it a "special occasion" wine but for aficionados, and those with a bit of credit on their cards, it is a super buy.

The Diana Madeline was released last weekend to mark what would have been Cullen co-founder Diana Madeline Cullen's 99th birthday on February 11.

I love the combination of bright dark fruit, savoury notes and ferrous hints in a wine that will cellar well but also offers immediate enjoyment. An impressive 97.5/1000 for me.

The 2020 vintage was a hot, dry one in Margaret River. producing low yields and wines that were generally aromatic, balanced and pretty. The Diana Madeline is elegant and beguiling.

The blend is largely cabernet sauvignon with smidgens of merlot, cabernet franc and malbec, which gives a Bordeaux-like refinement with mulberry, cranberry and salted caramel notes on the palate.

It is a vivid wine with an eminently sensible 13% alcohol level. The 50% new French oak is already well integrated and plays second fiddle to the quality dark and fragrant fruit. 

Closed tanks, open fermenters, barrels and amphora were all used in the fermentation process, and the period of skin contact time lasted from  10 to 99 days depending on the batch of wine. There were zero additions of yeast, acid, or malolactic acid - adding to the purity. 

Vanya Cullen says this can be drunk now, or cellared for up 50 years.



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