Cullen is one of the original pioneers of Western Australia’s top wine region, Margaret River and the name is synonymous with small-winery excellence. In the 1960s Kevin and Diana Cullen, owners of a sheep and cattle farm at Willyabrup, planted a trial acre of vines here on the advice of scientists, whose studies indicated that Margaret River had some very special qualities for grape-growing. The encouraging results of the trial led to the planting of a further 18 acres in 1971, making the Cullen vineyards some of the oldest in the region. First to be planted were cabernet sauvignon and riesling, followed by sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, semillon, merlot, pinot noir and cabernet franc. While Kevin Cullen supervised the vineyard activities, Diana Cullen became one of Australia’s first female winemakers and was in sole charge until 1986, when she was joined by her daughter Vanya.
Cullen has since evolved into a top-quality estate, specialising in premium wines from single vineyard sites, where yields are kept extremely low. Today, Vanya Cullen is firmly in charge and has established the estate in the top tier of the Australian fine wine scene. In 2000, Vanya became the first woman to receive the accolade of Australian Winemaker of The Year and is admired by her peers for her remarkable tasting abilities. Under Vanya’s guidance, there have been significant developments and improvements in the vineyard, where a rigorously sustainable approach is now followed. Biodynamic practices have also been introduced and Cullen was the first vineyard and winery in Australia to be certified as carbon neutral.
In 2005, Vanya Cullen’s top wine and arguably Margaret River’s ‘first growth’, Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot was elevated to the ‘exceptional’ category in the prestigious Langton’s classification of Australian wines, making it one of the most highly sought after and prized Australian wines on the market. The Cullen wine style, in essence, is one of refinement, elegance and ageworthiness. The Society has a strong relationship with Cullen, and has sourced Exhibition-label wine from this estate.