Wine review — Cullen, Yalumba & Katnook Estate

Cullen Diana Madeline Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 $90
In recent years we’ve seen this wine grow in quality and status under Vanya Cullen, daughter of the late Kevin and Diana Cullen. In recent cabernet tastings it’s consistently ranked amongst the best, distinguishing itself for perfect ripeness, intense flavour, fine tannins and elegant structure. So often cabernets from around the world disappoint with varying degrees of green flavours, hollow palates and hard, green tannins. Cullens avoids all of these shortcomings. With its limpid colour and fine structure, it’s no blockbuster. What it offers is fragrance, flavour intensity, a silky texture and complete harmony. It’s an exceptional wine to savour over the next few decades.

Yalumba Hand Picked Barossa Tempranillo Grenache Viognier 2005 $28
The Chateau Shanahan BS meter spun wildly. What mongrel breed could this be? What synergies might the marriage of Spain’s savoury, tannic tempranillo, France’s aromatic, soft grenache and white, syrupy, apricot-like viognier bring? What, at first glance, might have been strange bedfellows – a blend of winery leftovers, perhaps – turned out to be pure magic and all the more so because it was intentional, the varieties having been fermented together. It has an appealing floral aroma, slick, syrupy, fruity palate (with a telltale touch of apricot) and soft, persistent tannins. This is one of the rare reds that holds its own with very spicy food, thanks to the floral aroma and syrupy fruit.

Katnook Estate Coonawarra Chardonnay 2003 $26-$32
I don’t know whether or not Katnook intentionally holds its chardonnay back for late release.  But it tastes like it. The wine’s beautifully fresh but at the same time shows some of the richness of bottle age. It also lacks the heaviness that we used to see in older Australian chardonnays. That’s partly to do with more delicate fruit handling in conjunction with smarter oak fermentation and maturation. Together these have resulted in fresher, longer-lived chardonnays overall. And that’s been topped off by the introduction of screw caps. In Katnook, the result is a rich, fine-boned chardonnay with fresh, melon-like varietal character with the textural richness and nutty complexity derived from oak maturation.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2006 & 2007

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