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Women in Wine — Vanya Cullen

Vanya Cullen
CEO & Chief Winemaker
Cullen Wines, Margaret River

To mark International Women’s Day 2018, Langton’s spoke to five leading women in the wine industry. Vanya Cullen is dedicated to growing grapes and making wines of the highest possible quality. She is internationally known as a champion of biodynamic viticulture.

Vanya was Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine’s Winemaker of the Year in 2000 and in 2008 became the first Australian to be named Woman of the Year by European trade publication The Drinks Business.

Cullen's flagship Diana Madeline – Langton’s Classified ‘Exceptional’ and named after Vanya’s mother – is arguably Australia’s leading Cabernet-based blend.

Women in Wine Vanya Cullen, Cullen CEO & Winemaker

Vanya Cullen, Cullen CEO & Winemaker

What do you say to those who dismiss biodynamics as mumbo-jumbo?

Share a glass of Diana Madeline or Kevin John!


Seriously, can you summarise your views on biodynamics and ‘natural’ wine making?

It’s really important to have a sense of the land in your wines, which is what biodynamic wines do. Natural wines push the limits and have a more expressive nature and taste. But in both cases it’s really important to have quality as your first intention so that ‘biodynamic’ and ‘natural’ are not just excuses for bad wine. Then they become the best quality expression of place -- unique and beautiful.


What’s the must-try wine from your range?

All of them! They are all made with the same care and attention, without chemical use, and with connection to nature and with the highest quality intentions. So it comes down to what style you like. If I had to pick I would say Kevin John (Chardonnay) and Diana Madeline (Cabernet blend).

...and the most underappreciated?

Definitely the Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blends. I believe and always have that they are the dark horses of our portfolio. Always have thought that, especially with bottle age!

Does gender have anything to do with winemaking?
No, it’s more about feeling and heartspace. Quality wine is hard work. You have to love it, male or female, and have vision -- a clear idea of where you are headed. I am lucky to have had my mother as a mentor. Still miss her every harvest (and dad too).

Do you have an overall guiding principle or philosophy?
Patience and faith in the earth’s ability to make great wine. Let the heart of the land speak in the wine rather than the mind of the winemaker. In other words: hands off the wine and more about the winegrowing. Mum used to always say: ‘quality, not quantity’, and I’ve added ‘sustainability’ to that. 

Mum used to always say: ‘quality, not quantity’, and I’ve added ‘sustainability’ to that.

Was your mother a particular inspiration?

Yes, of course. We worked together for 25 years before she passed – that’s when I named the Diana Madeline in her honour. And her mother was a suffragette, so that’s three generations of strong women!

Women in Wine Vanya Cullen, Cullen CEO & Winemaker

Vanya Cullen, Cullen CEO & Winemaker

Are there other women in wine who have inspired you?

Anne-Claude Leflaive (of Burgundy’s biodynamic Domaine Leflaive, who died in 2015) is one big one! And (British wine writer and critic) Jancis Robinson.


Describe Cullen Wines today…

An uplifting experience of great wine connected with nature. Certified biodynamic, carbon neutral, naturally powered, family-owned and making some of Australia’s great wines, sustainably, from grapes grown only in (the Margaret River sub-district of) Wilyabrup.

Discover the wines from Cullen, including the Langton's Classified Diana Madeline, here.



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