In early 1965 Kevin and Diana started considering other uses for their land and they came up with the idea of lupins. They decided to get in touch with Dr John Gladstones whom they had known for some time, who was at the time senior lecturer at the University of Western Australia and had studied lupins in his post graduate research.
More recently however, Dr Gladstones had put considerable work and research into his 1965 paper titled ‘The climate and soils of southwestern Australia in relation to vine growing’, which was closely followed by his 1966 paper titled ‘Soil and climate of the Margaret River – Busselton area; their suitability for wine grape production’, where he identified the Margaret River region as having similar characteristics to the best wine regions in the world.
At the invitation of Kevin and Diana, Dr Gladstones visited their property in Wilyabrup in the spring of 1965, when his first paper was not yet printed. According to Diana, Dr Gladstones upon seeing their land said “Oh, you’re mad growing cattle and sheep, why don’t you grow grapes?” Diana and Kevin had thought about this idea since 1956, but this was the push they needed to go ahead and were quick to spring into action. In July of 1966 Kevin rallied support for a local meeting of interested parties in Busselton, inviting Bill Jamieson from the Agricultural Department to attend and Dr John Gladstones to speak. With Kevin’s encouragement and enthusiasm, this initial meeting garnered a good deal of support, with over 100 people in attendance.
DR KEVIN JOHN CULLEN
Despite Kevin’s strong work commitment to the Busselton Community, he and Diana were keen to undertake a test planting with the vine cuttings they had requested from the Swan River Research Station. In 1966, they initiated and coordinated the planting of the first vines in collaboration with friends and colleagues. Unfortunately however, whilst Kevin and Di were away, due to a misunderstanding, these fledgling vines were sprayed with a poison and subsequently pulled out of the ground without their knowledge.
In 1971 Kevin and Diana again undertook vine planting, this time on their own land in Wilyabrup, where the current vineyard still operates today. In 1995, the adjacent Mangan Vineyard was planted and farmed biodynamically by the Cullen Estate. The two estates contribute exclusively to the Cullen vintages every year.
In 2005, the iconic Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot was elevated to the top Langton’s classification category of ‘Exceptional’ – reserved for just 11 Australian wines. The Kevin John Chardonnay 2007 was awarded the World’s Best Chardonnay at the 2010 Decanter World Wine Awards. In 2011, the Diana Madeline 2009 received awards for Jeremy Oliver’s Wine of the Year, Nick Stock’s Best Cabernet Merlot blend and Ray Jordan’s Best Cabernet Merlot. In 2014, The Diana Madeline 2012 received James Halliday’s award for Best Cabernet Blend, James Halliday Wine Companion 2015
Committed to biodynamic viticulture, Cullen Wines has evolved into an iconic winery that has always been focused on quality, integrity and sustainability at all levels of the business.
A little known fact about the Cullen family is that their association with wine in Western Australia dates back to the 1880’s, when Kevin Cullen’s grandfather, Ephraim Mayo Clarke (1846 – 1921), purchased a small business and plot of land in Bunbury, Western Australia, where he started a store and winery.
He successfully produced the highly popular ‘Punchbowl’ wine which he sold through the family shop and as far afield as the WA Goldfields. Kevin’s mother Elvie and her nine siblings all worked at the winery. When Ephraim died, it passed into the hands of his only tee-totalling son, who left the vines unattended. They eventually went into decline and the land was sold.
Kevin Cullen grew up in Western Australia and studied medicine at the University of Western Australia, where he became the first recipient of a Doctorate of Medicine. He was an outstanding student and in 1941 was invited to Melbourne University to continue his medical studies. It was here that he met the enigmatic young Diana Adams. Diana was studying Physiotherapy and was at the top of her class and a popular student.
They were married in 1946 and moved to Tasmania where Diana’s family was well known and featured regularly in Hobart’s social pages. Soon after they were married, Kevin’s father Pat, who was living in Bunbury Western Australia and working as a doctor himself, sent word to Kevin that a doctor was desperately needed in Busselton. In 1947 Kevin moved to Busselton to become their local doctor and it wasn’t long before Diana joined him to work as a physiotherapist.
Their family quickly grew with the addition of Rick, Shel, Stewart, Digby, Ariane and finally Vanya.
DIANA MADELINE CULLEN
Vanya Cullen has been winemaking at her family’s Wilyabrup estate since 1983.
She was appointed to Chief Winemaker in 1989 and Managing Director in 1999. During that time she has been rigorously experimenting in the vineyard (especially with soil and trellis management) and in the winery all the while looking to give her wines greater complexity. Her palate has been honed by judging throughout Australia and overseas, and by her continuous pursuit of a thorough knowledge of the wines of the world.
“Winemaking is now in the hands of Vanya Cullen, daughter of the founders; she is possessed of an extraordinarily good palate. It is impossible to single out any particular wine from the top echelon; all are superb.” – James Halliday
Over the past decade, Vanya has transformed her family firm from one of Margaret River’s best into one of the country’s premium boutique wineries. Cullen Wines while remaining family owned has since evolved making quality wine from a certified Biodynamic, Carbon Negative and naturally powered estate. Exemplary viticulture lies at the heart of her success but so, too, do care and thorough attention to detail in the winery.
“At the very top of the quality and ethical tree you might drink wine from the biodynamically certified vineyards of Cullen from Margaret River” – Tim White
Vanya Cullen was the winner of the 2000 Qantas/The Wine Magazine Winemaker of the year. She was the third recipient of this prize, the first Western Australian and the first woman to win the award. Vanya has judged at wine shows in every major city in Australia. In 2008, she was awarded the UK Drinks Business Magazine “Woman of the Year 2008” and in 2011 the “Green Personality of the Year” for her commitment to the wine industry and for demonstrating that you can operate a successful business while looking after the environment. In 2015 Vanya was inducted into the Australian Businesswomen’s Hall of Fame which honours and celebrates Australian female business owners who have been exemplary in their industries, are trailblazers and demonstrate inspiring and aspiring business journeys.
In 2019 Vanya was named the Australian Women in Wine Winemaker of the Year, received the ACO Chairman’s Award for her contribution towards organics in Australia, and in Halliday’s Wine Companion she was awarded for the best wine in the Cabernet and Family category with the 2017 Diana Madeline, as well as being named Halliday’s Winemaker of the Year; Australia’s most prestigious wine award.
2018 marked Vanya’s 35th year of winemaking at Cullen Wines, and 2019 was Vanya’s 30th anniversary of becoming Chief Winemaker at Cullen Wines.
Winemaking is now in the hands of Vanya Cullen, daughter of the founders; she is possessed of an extraordinarily good palate. It is impossible to single out any particular wine from the top echelon; all are superb. James Halliday
At the very top of the quality and ethical tree you might drink wine from the biodynamically certified vineyards of Cullen from Margaret River Tim White
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.
Since 1971 when the Cullen Estate was planted, chemical intervention was minimal and the family’s concern for the environment paramount.
In 1998 the change to total organic viticulture was made. Diana and Vanya went intuitively towards healing the soil by putting back what had been taken out. Organics is about soil health – drains were put in, cover crops, and composting resulted in A Grade Organic Certification in 2003 being gained by the Biological Farmers Association (BFA) of Australia.
In 2003, whilst attending a Biodynamic Conference, Vanya Cullen decided that Biodynamics would add further to the holistic and natural approach to both vineyard and winemaking. Later in 2004 the Cullen Vineyard became certified A Grade Biodynamic by the BFA of Australia and the Mangan Vineyard and Winery followed in 2008. We also farm a biodynamic vegetable garden, which supplements the organic and biodynamic produce in the Cullen Restaurant.
It is the aim of Cullen Wines to minimise the impact of our activities on the global environment. To compensate for our emissions created from vehicles, tractors, forklifts, LPG use and air travel, Cullen Wines engages the Carbon Neutral Men of Trees programme to measure, reduce and offset our climate change impacts.
Cullen Wines have been voluntarily offsetting their carbon emissions since 2006, buying credits almost exclusively for projects in WA which focus on pulling carbon emissions out of the atmosphere.
Over the past nine years, Cullen have been responsible for 3921 tonnes of CO2 offset through reforestation carbon sinks, and the planting of 1705 native trees and shrubs.
In 2010 they were featured in a Case Study by the Carbon Reduction Institute who said they had a ‘powerful case for demonstrating leadership to other wineries to take action to combat climate change’. Cullen Wines’ carbon offset program is managed internally by Production Manager Trevor Kent, who has done an outstanding job in maintaining the standard of Cullen’s Carbon Neutral status since 2006.
Cullen proudly display the logo of Perth-based company Carbon Neutral and are certified under the Carbon Neutral Pty Ltd methodology, which is held to the highest standard. Carbon Neutral conducts its assessment of Cullen’s GHG emissions inventory in accordance with the GHG Protocol as adopted under the Commonwealth government’s National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS).
These principles are consistent with those outlined under the Australian and International Standards including the GHG Protocol and AS ISO 14064: Greenhouse gases Part 1, 2 and 3. The latest project Cullen contributes its carbon offsets to is an Australian first.
Through Carbon Neutral, Cullen Wines’ offsets since July 2015 have been Gold Standard, supporting the recently accredited Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor Project, 400 kilometres north of Perth.
Not only is this the largest biodiverse reforestation carbon sink project in Australia, but recently it was awarded the prestigious Premium Gold Standard certification by the Geneva-based Gold Standard Foundation, becoming the only project in Australia to have done so.
Cullen follows the maxim that states that great wines are made in the vineyard.
Thus, prior to planting, extreme care is taken in choosing the best possible site. Fruit for all Cullen Wines is sourced exclusively from two vineyards, the Cullen Estate Vineyard and the Cullen Mangan Vineyard, both certified A Grade Biodynamic by the Biological Farmers Association (BFA) of Australia.
This fulfils the philosophies of quality, integrity and sustainability by having single vineyard sites grown using biodynamic techniques.
The soils at Cullen are old, granite and gravely sandy loam, overlaying lateritic subsoils. The vines are dry farmed, helping to ensure maximum fruit quality, and are both pruned and harvested by hand. Low yields enable the flavours of the grapes to develop fully.
Wine can only be as good as the grape, the role of the winemaker is to act as caretaker to the fruit FROM THE GROUND UP
The Cullen winemaking approach is about connecting and working with nature to make the best quality wines we can.
Vanya Cullen celebrated her 30th year as senior winemaker in 2019 and acknowledges it has been a love affair of nature, the earth, family, friends and great wine.
Cullen wine comes from the heart of the land rather than the mind of the winemaker. Our job is to be custodian to the land, to acknowledge the Wadandi people as the previous custodians with respect, and to look after the ancient Wilyabrup soils.
Certified biodynamic, we add 500 preparation to our soil to create microbiologically active, intelligent soil.
We harvest the grapes on auspicious planetary aspects, usually about the moon, and press them in the winery with no additions at all. This is the purest form of wine making with respect to place, on some of the oldest, most beautiful land.
Wilyabrup’s Mediterranean maritime climate makes it possible to do that year in, year out, and have consistent quality grapes.
Some try to tweak nature to make it perfect. Vanya knows nature is perfect already.
In line with Cullen Wines’ continued dedication to sustainability, they are constantly looking for ways to lessen their impact on the environment. Recycling wherever possible throughout the winery and restaurant is another area where significant impact has be made.
Sustainable packaging initiatives that have already been implemented include the introduction of carbon reduced bottles. In 2013, 72% of wine bottled at the winery was packaged in carbon reduced bottles. Cardboard packaging is now purchased locally to reduce transport distances. Waste is segregated to make use of local waste recycling programmes.
Cullen Wines aims to minimise the impact of our activities on our environment by adopting the Sustainable Packaging Guidelines and the AWRI Code of Good Manufacturing Practice for the Australian Grape and Wine Industry.
Cullen Wines are a voluntary signatory of the Australian Packaging Covenant, an initiative which encourages businesses to use more sustainable packaging, increase recycling rates and reduce packaging litter.
To qualify as a signatory, companies are required to maintain an Annual Report and Action Plan.
See the Cullen Wines Report here
See the Cullen Wines Action Plan here
WILYABRUP, HISTORY & HERITAGE
Cullen Wines respectfully acknowledges the Wardandi people, past and present, traditional custodians of the land on which our wines are grown.
Cullen Wines sits upon the ancient soils of Wilyabrup, the place of red ochre, the “sweet spot” of the Margaret River wine growing region.
Dr Kevin John Cullen and Diana Madeline Cullen were ready to plant lupins in 1965 when a good friend Dr John Gladstones advised against it. He’d just completed a study on wine growing and knew the Cullens had the land to make the best quality wines.
Dr Gladstones described Wilyabrup as being the sweet spot of the Margaret River region, most favourable for growing Cabernet Sauvignon. It benefits from cold winds from the south and warm winds from the north. Gladstones’ now-famous 1966 report compared our climate to that of Bordeaux, and many regard him as the founder of Margaret River’s wine region.
Kevin John Cullen called the first grape growers meeting in Busselton and initiated trials with the Minchins, Sue and Geoff Juniper and other families involved.
Cullen planted vines in 1971, and our two Wilyabrup vineyards are certified biodynamic and carbon negative.
Wilybrup is a region in its own right, with distinct flavours and climate, and in 1999 Cullen and Moss Wood held the first sub regional tasting to celebrate the history and future of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay grown here. They have evolved into international tastings where Wilyabrup wines are benchmarked against the world’s finest examples from Burgundy, New Zealand, USA, Australia and Margaret River.