Tasted recently over dinner at Rubyo's in Newtown (Sydney), this vertical tasting reminded, quite simply, why this wine is considered to be one of Australia's best (and we didn't even get started on the more recent vintages).
I won't ramble on too much about the winery, or the wine's history, for you can go to cullenwines.com.au for that. What I will say is that I wouldn't recommend drinking these before they are 10 years old (in my opinion at least).
The notes below are exactly as I wrote on the night (so please excuse the halting style & lack of flow) with the notes from the back label (and the rest) in italics. The older wines (pre 1999 I think) where decanted an hour earlier and then decanted back into the bottle. The rest where opened and drunk with only a 10 minute decant. Good to see no cork problems and so many 'good' bottles, particularly the 84.
Cullen Cabernet Merlot 1984
'65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc. 2 years in Nevers oak. Harvest 6-20.3.84. Bottled 26.2.86. pH 3.5. TA 6.5. Alc 13.5%.'
Obviously a great bottle. Excellent freshness for its 25 years. Big nose - definitely a ripe vintage. Slightly tawny edge to the colour, but appreciably red. Old leather, cassis, deep, Cabernet dominant nose. Graceful, peppery older Bordeaux blend nose, still fruit driven though. Rich & ripe palate that also tastes Cab dominant with excellent power, but with some heat on the finish. Choc bullets and kirsch. Smooth, but starting to deteriorate on the back end, with the acid starting to dominate. Drink now, but not tiring, its a very tasty old Cabernet. For its age this is a relative blinder, though it's probably just past it's peak. 17.5
Cullen Cabernet Merlot 1993
'The 93 vintage was cool and dry, producing a wine with more elegance & refinement than warmer vintages'. 21 months in French oak. Reserve wine made in this year. 13.0% alc
Slight bricking at the rim. Quite youthful nose, with age an overtone. I imagine this could have been slightly leafy in its youth, though this has been integrated back in with bottle age. Wet brick, cedar and distinctive cool climate Cab aromatics. Palate is cedary, resolving, medium bodied and long, with long tannins and highish acidity. Falls away just a tad, though tannins are still full and sprightly. Elegant power. Such a lovely expression of Cabernet! Great start. Drinking at its peak, but still lots of life here. 18.5
Cullen Cabernet Merlot 1994
Produced off the original Cabernet block (22yo at the time), this is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc . 22 months in oak. Reserve wine made this year. 13.5%
Tighter, riper & less expressive than the 93, with a single flow of ripe berries. Mono dimensional, hollow, volatile, but still richly proportioned, if slightly caramelised. Lacks the delineation of top vintages. Still some improvement to come here. 16.5
Cullen Cabernet Merlot 1995
'2nd vintage of warm weather & low yields. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 17 months in oak. 13.5%'
Getting lighter at the edge, but bright ruby red. Nice to see some varietal leafiness here. Really red fruited, almost Pinot like in its fruit expression. Open, meaty and pretty. Palate is lovely, quite resolved and medium weight, but such a classic expression of elegant red fruit. Really pure and long, with just a slight dip of alcohol heat. Quite a beautiful wine. Yum. Will live for many years yet, though its definitely on the plateau. 18.8
Cullen Cabernet Merlot 1996
75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc. 13.5%
Very youthful in colour, real purple edge here. Really rich, decadent nose, Violet Crumble & blackberries, with a lacquered, vanilla oak veneer. Sweet, powerful and raw palate. Very young & big, its just a bit brutish for real love (yet) and definitely in the sweeter, less herbaceous and riper mould. The tannins feel quite classic too. Lots of potential. 18++
Cullen Cabernet Merlot 1998
69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc. Warm weather and then cooled down, making the vintage stop and start. Grapes harvested after the rain were very high quality. 20% new, 35% 1yr old & 45% 2yr old oak for 18 months.'
Deep colour, colour thins out dramatically at the rim. Leaner, leafy, black pepper & spice on the nose. Mixed ripeness, with greenness underscoring it all. Chocolate oak in there too, though well integrated. Much lighter in colour - ruby red rather than deep red - next to the 99 & 96. Sappy, smoky palate is light & full of thin, sappy, just ripe fruit, edged with the more confected late picked fruit characters. Falls away towards the finish. Lesser wine, and the least impressive of the lineup. 15.5
Cullen Cabernet Merlot 1999
'Exceptionally good vintage for red wines, early summer was cool, with Cyclone Vance threatening the harvest. After this, nature turned on one of the most glorious Indian summers. 74% Cabernet, 20% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. First time for the Petit Verdot & hope to increase the percentage with time. 18 months in barriques. Bottling in Dec 2001. 14%'
Deep red, even purpley black in colour, with a big brooding, monstrously ripe nose. Just a twinge of mint & leaf to remind that this is from Margs and not the Barossa - its that big and generous on the nose. Tarry, licoricey. Palate is big & very ripe, with soft fruit and almost inconspicuous tannins. Very plump and luscious. Ripe, generous, fruit slut of a wine, with just a little alcohol on the finish. Will it get better? Not sure, probably just softer. Such a crowd pleaser of a wine regardless. 18.6
Cullen Cabernet Merlot 2000
65% Cabernet, 21% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Franc. First time with Malbec. 13.5%
Sweet, forward & quite oaky, open & slightly confected, if quite opulent nose. There is though a dullness, a one dimensional simplicity to the nose that marks this as a lesser wine. Palate is straighforward, open & rounded, easy drinking even. Not going to get much better for mine. 16.5
Cullen 'Diana Madeline' Cabernet Merlot 2001
75% Cabernet, 25% Merlot. 18 Months in oak, 40% new. First year as the 'Diana Madeline' Cabernet Merlot. 13.5%
Toasted nuts, vanilla and pan juices on the nose. This smelt 'different' to previous vintages. More modern, serious even. Red berries, plushness. Still unfurling. Palate is tight, warm and very long. Alcohol tastes like more than 13.5%. The most tannic wine in the whole lineup. Very dry & powerful. Could be a stunner, but a bit too bold at the moment. 18.3++
Chateau Guiraud 1995
Bronzed orange colour. Lemon tart, quince jam, fairy floss, but also with something vaguely gumball like. Palate is initially quite short with lime tart/custard apple & toffee & a cut of orange & lemon apricot, but lengthens out with custard through the finish. Finishes awkwardly with a slightly fat & dull expression of advancing flavours. Not to my taste & can't say its going anywhere good. 16.5
Pomerol's Chateau La Commanderie sold for â‚¬8m
10 hours ago