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The good earth

epicure 28 June 2012
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Biodynamic farming may not make scientific sense, but for Vanya Cullen, chief winemaker of Cullen Wines, it is the perfect and natural way to let the land and vines achieve their fullest potential.

The Aborigines of Australia are experts at harnessing nature’s gifts. Take the casuarina for example: they turn the tree into firewood and use its resin as an adhesive. Vanya Cullen, 52, chief winemaker of Margaret River-based Cullen Wines, would probably make the indigenous people proud. She boils casuarina needles, turns the plant into a tea-like substance, and uses it as a natural fungicide on her vineyards. “It’s non-toxic, natural and protects the vines,” she says. “We have lots of insects during harvest, such as ladybugs and spiders, and they help to eat other pests which are dangerous to the grapes. If you spray a toxic chemical, you’d destroy [the balance]. Vines are like people: if you push them, they get sick and can’t keep going.”
Vanya comes across as a cross between a botanist and a winemaker. She’s an advocate of biodynamic viticulture, a practice she started for Cullen Wines in 2003. Nine years later, Cullen Wines has established itself as one of the top wineries in Margaret River, picking up a slew of honours along the way, such as the Wine of the Year in The Australian Wines Annual 2012 for its Bordeaux-style blend, Diana Madeline 2009, and the White Wine of the Year in The West Australian Wine Guide 2012 for its Kevin John Chardonnay 2009.

Excerpt from the July issue of epicure.

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