Last week was a big one for the Australian wine industry. Distinguished Australian wine critic James Halliday announced the winners for the annual Halliday Wine Companion Awards, and Margaret River was once again a stand out wine region. Wilyabrup wineries Domaine Naturaliste took out the Best Value Winery award and Vanya Cullen from Cullen Wines went home with the title of Best Winemaker. Read on to discover what Halliday had to say about these exemplary Margaret River wineries and their passionate creators.
Taking out the Halliday Award for Best Value Winery, Domaine winemaker Bruce Dukes champions both quality and value when it comes to his Wilyabrup estate. With extensive experience in the wine industry and an agricultural science background, Dukes offers precision and dedication to his entire product range. Halliday was more than impressed.
“We come to Domaine Naturaliste and its winemaker, Bruce Dukes. Bruce’s beginnings in wine were in the University of Western Australia and a degree in agronomy, followed by a master’s degree from the University of California (Davis). Five years at the extraordinary Niebaum-Coppola in the Napa Valley gave him a perspective few wineries anywhere in the world could match.
He returned to Australia to become part of a Margaret River consultancy and contract winemaking business, where his skills became readily apparent. The facility was set up to handle small and large amounts of wine, and he was at home with both ends of the spectrum.
In 2012 he established Domaine Naturaliste while continuing his consultancy winemaking work, with wife Nancy and sons Oscar and Tim at his side. All but one of the 11 wines submitted for this Companion received the value rosette, the points ranging from 93 to 97. Anyone with even a mere interest in these wines shouldn’t hesitate; wines of this class and price won’t be around next year.”
The history of winemaking stretches far for Vanya Cullen, having worked on her family’s Wilyabrup estate since 1983. Under her management Cullen Wines has claimed its place as one of Australia’s best labels. James Halliday had plenty to say about this Margaret River treasure.
“Anyone with interest in wine will know the name Cullen, with the legendary Margaret River winery recognised as one of Australia’s best labels. Cullen red wine the Diana Madeline is a benchmark cabernet blend that’s loved by collectors everywhere, and the winery also focuses on chardonnay, each year hosting an International Chardonnay Tasting that people travel from all over to attend. This family winery has been helmed by Vanya Cullen for the past 30 years, during which time she has achieved certified biodynamic and carbon-neutral status for the brand and introduced several exciting wines.
Cullen has always been first among equals with its wines, but the Margaret River region is richly endowed with its percentage of 5-red-star wineries – to simply stay where you are is to imperil your very existence in this highly charged world. It’s one of the reasons for Vanya’s willingness to travel halfway around the globe if there’s an event that she believes will be of benefit to Cullen or the broader wine landscape. Her commitment to improving Cullen Wines while leaving the world a better place is reflected in the winery’s carbon-neutral and naturally powered status.
Vanya turns 60 this year, and many around the world will raise a glass to her and Cullen Wines.”