West is best, point blanc
MARGARET River continues to make the majority of Australia's finest Semillon Sauvignon Blanc (SSB) blends.
Even though WA only has 4 per cent of the nation's semillon and 9 per cent of the nation's sauvignon blanc, the State continues to dominate the national reviews and capital city show circuit.
In James Halliday's recently released Australian Wine Companion '2016' Edition, the 2012 Cape Mentelle Wallcliffe and 2013 Fraser Gallop Parterre SSB are the two highest pointed wines on 97 points.
WA gained eight of the top 10 and 24 of the top 29 highest pointed sauvignon blanc semillon (SBS) blends (83 per cent).
The styles have evolved significantly over the past 20 years.
The most popular of these blends from the ’80s and ’90s were lively, soft, fresh, fruity, tangy and overtly flavoured.
A sub-category at the reasonably priced end of the market also had a discernible, if balanced, hint of sweetness.
The finest wines today have a great depth of quality fruit, are leaner, drier and more complex, from judiciously handled, highquality oaked components.
On a number of occasions in the past few years, Cullen managing director and chief winemaker Vanya Cullen has produced the best reviewed SSB or SBS blend of the vintage from the two different versions she releases.
The Cullens craft an SSB from the Mangan vineyard – which is always slightly softer, fruitier and far more appealing on first release – and a Cullen vineyard SBS each vintage.
This is leaner and less approachable initially but at 1215 months after release, invariably becomes the superior wine.
Cullen and Pierro, who are amongst the region's finest producers, often showcase this style's ageing ability by hosting vertical tastings spanning five to 10 vintages.
The Cullen Mangan Vineyard SSB 2013 is still on the shelves and is drinking marvellously: lightly oaked, complex, dry, round and complete, with no awkward corners or edges and with satisfying and relaxing balance.
It shows quality fruit, an understanding of winemaking and a hint of age, combined to provide lovely current drinking. 18.3 points, $35.
Above: Cullen managing director and chief winemaker Vanya Cullen. Left: Cullen Wines Restaurant at dusk.