Five wines: tasted blind
When wines of this pedigree are lined up alongside one another, it can be both thrilling and nerve-wracking. Thrilling for obvious reasons… the opportunity to go back and forth and pick out their differences with the understanding that the comparison (as odious as it is to compare wines to each other) will yield a clearer vision of each. As they say: context is everything. Nerve-wracking because 1) are these as good as I think they are? Because they’re pretty unbelievably good. And 2) Am I right to have a base-line of 19 points, and then only go UPWARDS from there? It is a testing and exciting proposition, especially once you’re SURE your points reflect the true ranking… what could they possibly be? Well… we have our suspicions of course… but no more than that.
The moral of this particular story, is that the two Cullen new releases are absolute superstars. They are tremendously good. Brilliant, in fact. And the 2018 vintage has been loaded with superstars, but these are right up there at the top. They have an energy and a life about them that is frankly awesome. And the structure, it bears the same hallmarks in each wine. Shaped like sets of stairs, they contain very clear and compact levels of flavour. The flavours ascend, pausing to display themselves at each step, risers of fruit, texture and spice carrying us up to each new level. A big, big yes.
As for the others… The beauty about seeing wines I’ve already seen before, but not knowing they’re here is that I can taste them without bias. Their scores here are not dissimilar to points given previously, and certainly the rank between 2017 and 2016 Art Series chards is spot on. The 2017, behind the 16, but only by a whisker. It also emphasises something else about the Art Series Chardonnay that I’ve been pondering for some time. They are released as 3 year old wines. The first year after release they morph and evolve so much – often the progression across a full 12 months is significant. Here we see the 2017, which just three months ago was tight, almost closed… and that is not the case with this wine. In this tasting, on this day, this wine is expressive, voluptuous almost, within the confines of the vintage characters. The 2016 remains susended in stasis, the texture glassy, polished and voluminous to the end.
The 2017 Moss Wood I tasted for the first time only last week and so it was fresh in my mind. It looked as silky, as pure and as fine as I thought it did the first time I saw it and sitting next to the Diana Madeline – a very different beast – it seemed so open, so pretty, and so delicate. But then the length of flavour starts to reveal itself from the mid-palate onwards and it glides into a new gear. As beguiling and as lovely as that wine is, I don’t think it’s going to show its best for some time yet. It is a wait wine.
Glass # 1
Leeuwin Estate 2017 Art Series Chardonnay
Power, fruit weight.
Savoury, salty, pithy, rich, full, complex, deeply pleasurable. Certainly new world but a Burgs GC vibe, through an Australian lens. Epic length of flavour, curry leaf, graphite, salt, gravel, kelp yes.
Glass # 2
Cullen 2018 Kevin John
Structure, salt, texture.
The same deep satisfaction of flavour on the palate – the region, if nothing else is likely the same. This plunges headlong into the depths of salted yellow peach, spice and texture. Harder, fuller and denser than the previous wine, more phenolics. Love the structure. Glorious. Gosh yes.
Glass # 3
Leeuwin Estate 2016 Art Series Chardonnay
Different acidity, much pointier, a polished wine: glistening almost. Laser focus. Equal in length and voluminous fruit to the wines above. Generous and rich, but glassy and fresh. The texture is very fine. Great length.
Glass # 4
Cullen 2018 Diana Madeline
Wow. The nose. It is the very picture of cabernet. Perfect, ripe, fresh, succulent cabernet. The palate has powdery fine tannins. Incredible density of fruit. The texture is standout, the layers of flavour and spice seem never-ending. Like carefully designed stairs leading upwards. Steps of flavour, with direction and focus. Very fine acid. Hard to imagine how this could be improved.
Moss Wood 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon
Totally different again. Berry fruits, fine purity, tremendous length. In comparison to the wine above it this looks silky, slippery: red berried and fine. The fine tannins are totally integrated. The oak is evident, it is there, but it is lovely and well suited to the fruit. The best of this is yet to come… that length is the answer.