Wines 101: #8 Cullen, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot

Leaves and berries as notes in a typical Cabernet-Merlot blended wine

Continuing our Wines 101 exploration of Australia our next purchase was a Cullen, Margaret River, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, 2016. Our previous post described the Margaret River area so we won’t repeat it here.

The bottle was opened at an evening tasting with friends at our home in The Cotswolds, we had a charcuterie table spread of cured hams from France and Spain, various salami sausage made from pork, venison and duck, a range of French cheeses, and two types of rilettes. We had other wines we were tasting too, a Premier Cru Pommard, A Grand Cru Chablis, and a Sauvignon St Bris. We were exploring the food-wine balancing process of Tim Hanni using salt and lemon juice after exploring our Vinotype profiles, but more of this in another post. First a general overview of the wine, the Cullen Estate and their philosophy:

The Wine

“This wine was produced on a certified Biodynamic, Carbon Neutral and naturally powered estate. This outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot from the 2017 vintage displays densely flavoured ripe dark fruits complemented by discrete fine-grained tannins. It was matured in French oak barrels for 6 months, of which 30% were new.”

  • Colour: Excellent medium red with a purple edge.
  • Bouquet: Dark fruits complemented by leafy notes.
  • Palate: Medium bodied with fine tannins, lifted with gentle earthy notes. Lovely ripe plums, cassis and mulberry showing throughout the finish.
  • Cellar: Up to 15 years.

Cullen and biodynamics

Put simply, biodynamic viticulture is a philosophy combining the maintenance of sustainable soil fertility and the recognition of the link between plant growth and the rhythms of the cosmos. It is a method of farming that treats the vineyard as a living system, which interacts with the environment to build a healthy living soil that helps to nourish the vines and general environment.

1. Soil fertility

Biodynamics relies on a series of preparations based on mineral, plant and animal substances rather than the traditional potentially toxic chemicals and sprays. In the Cullen Vineyards, this involves firstly the enhancement of the soil structure through the addition of homeopathic preparations, specially prepared composts and various fish and other emulsions and also the use of nitrogen-enhancing cover crops. The resulting increase in humus in the soil leads to greater microbial activity and improved aeration and retention of moisture around the roots of the vines.

2. Rhythms of the cosmos

Moon rhythms strongly influence life on earth life. As tides rise and fall in a pulsing rhythm, so does the sap of plants and all other liquids including those within the earth’s mantle. Viticultural practices are conducted according to these moon rhythms. The position of the moon in relation to the planets is also critical. The time of great anticipation is the 48 hours leading up to when the moon (whose forces bring in calcium processes) and Saturn (whose forces bring in silica processes) are in opposition – the optimal time to plant.

3. Difference between organic and biodynamic

Organic farming is based on the health of the soil. It promotes biological activity, which converts plant and animal residue into stable humus. This in turn increases the soil’s ability to retain moisture and provide a reserve of nutrients. Biodynamics builds on organic farming, working on the energetic level as well as the physical level to make all organic processes work more efficiently and effectively. Biodynamic preparations include naturally occurring matter, rather than the traditional potentially toxic chemicals and sprays.

Our tasting

Bottle of Cullen Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot with leaf and cassis notes

Mike enjoyed this wine a lot, his Vinotype is “Sensitive” and he prefers bold and flavoursome reds, oaked and based on Tempranillo especially. Adding salt or lemon to the foods did not alter his experience one iota. Gail also enjoyed it, Merlot is one of her favourite grapes/wines, though adding salt and lemon subtracted from her experience. She is a “Hypersensitive” Vinotype and has a preference for smoother wines such as Merlot, Pinot Grigio and even Rose.

In my own case I am also a “Sensitive” Vinotype but, unlike Mike, am happy to explore a range of wine types, though my preference is for lighter wines such as Pinot Noir and Gamay. To my taste this was a well balanced wine with acidity, tannin and alcohol level all playing a part. Loads of dark red fruit and a definite Cassis aroma. This wine would almost certainly age but I wouldn’t personally put it in my Investment category, though it deserves a place in Premium (a special occasion wine).


Categories: New World, Wine, Wine 101

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2 replies

  1. An interesting post with concise information on biodynamic farming, and that charcuterie sounds divine! I’ve just discovered that a friend of mine is researching perception and genetics in taste, specifically for wine and olive oil, at the university of Naples. So it looks as though I’ve got another person to talk with about Tim Hanni’s book!

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