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A drink with… Vanya Cullen

Sarah Ahmed talks to Vanya Cullen, Chief winemaker at Australia's Cullen vineyard in Margaret River, about her ongoing commitment to sustainability and biodynamics.

Fifty years ago, Margaret River pioneers Kevin and Di Cullen planted Cullen vineyard in Wilyabrup. Daughter Vanya Cullen became chief winemaker in 1989 and, strongly aligned with her parents’ values, has ensured that quality, integrity, sustainability underpins everything they do. Cullen Wines was certified organic in 2003 and biodynamic in 2004. It was Australia’s first winery to be certified carbon neutral in 2007 and, certified carbon positive since 2019, Cullen Wines sequesters more carbon than the entire business emits. 

‘In 1998, the vineyard was in decline. Dad [a doctor] had seen the effects of chemicals on farmers, so mum and I adopted organics, then biodynamics. We noticed a wonderful difference in vine health and grape quality. Our wines have become more individual – unique, purer expressions of site, with a thread of the land through them all.’

‘Biodynamics has super-charged our cover crops and soil microbiology, sequestering more carbon dioxide. Still, it was a surprise when soil studies from 2014-2019 revealed we’d sequestered more carbon than the whole business emits!’

Cullen Wines Six Seasons

‘Drawing on Australia’s indigenous culture, in our case the Wadandi peoples, our evolving six-season calendar acknowledges the strength and difference of our climate (see above). It revolves around what plants and animals are doing. Slowly, we are developing an understanding about what happens at different times of year with respect to all aspects of our business.’

‘With our Biodynamic Wine Room, we have complete integration. With five biodynamic kitchen gardens, our Biodynamic Tasting Plate and four-course set menu is 90% home-grown, so there is low waste.’

‘Caring for the earth and doing no harm in what we do has become a way of life for us.’

Cullen Wines to try

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