Vanya Cullen: Halliday’s Winemaker of the Year

Vanya Cullen of Cullen Wines has been named Winemaker of the Year in the latest wine guide from James Halliday, Australia’s best-known critic. The Halliday Wine Companion highlights the finest Australian wines each year, with special mentions for the top-scoring wines in each varietal. Halliday praised Vanya for her "commitment to improving Cullen Wines while leaving the world a better place". Cullen Wines also won the ‘Cabernet Sauvignon and Family’ varietal category with the 98-point 'Diana Madeleine' 2017, while their 'Cullen Vineyard' Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2017 was among the top-scoring wines in its category with 95 points. Halliday wrote that the "faultless" 'Diana Madeleine' 2017 "has waves of complexity, like one of Margaret River's surf breaks, changing shape as the luxuriant cassis swells on the mid-palate, then finishes with ripe, textured tannins as the wave goes on to crash on the shore."

Elsewhere, John Duval's 'Entity' Barossa Shiraz 2017 was the winner in the Shiraz category with a top score of 99 points. Their 'Eligo' Barossa Shiraz 2016 followed closely with 98 points, as Halliday commented "the tannins and oak are built into the wine like an inlaid checkerboard table created by a master craftsman with decades of experience. Like John Duval." Scoring 97 points apiece in the Shiraz category were Charles Melton’s Voices of Angels Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2015, Shaw + Smith’s Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2017, and two small parcel wines from Steve Pannell, the Koomilya DC Block McLaren Vale Shiraz 2015 and Koomilya JC Block McLaren Vale Shiraz 2015.

House of Arras took the top spot in the sparkling category with the EJ Carr Late Disgorged 2004, a 99-point wine that caused Halliday to ask "what 15 year old Australian table wine at the peak of its powers could offer as much complexity and perfection as this? The balance is perfect." The 2003 vintage of EJ Carr Late Disgorged (98 points), Rosé 2007 (97 points), and Grand Vintage 2008 (96 points) were close behind.

Across the other varietals, many of our producers fared well, especially in the Pinot Noir and Fortified categories. A full list is included below.

2020 Winner: Best Cabernet and Family
Cullen Wines Diana Madeline 2017 - 98 points

2020 Top-Rated Cabernet and Family
Grosset Gaia 2016 - 98 points

2020 Top-Rated Semillon Sauvignon Blends
Cullen Wines Cullen Vineyard Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2017 – 95 points

2020 Winner: Best Shiraz
John Duval Wines Entity Barossa Shiraz 2017 - 99 points

2020 Top-Rated Shiraz
John Duval Wines Eligo The Barossa Shiraz 2016 - 98 points
Charles Melton Voices of Angels Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2015 - 97 points
Shaw + Smith Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2017 - 97 points
SC Pannell Koomilya DC Block McLaren Vale Shiraz 2015 - 97 points
SC Pannell Koomilya JC Block McLaren Vale Shiraz 2015 - 97 points

2020 Winner: Best Sparkling
House of Arras EJ Carr Late Disgorged 2004 - 99 points

2020 Top-Rated Sparkling
House of Arras EJ Carr Late Disgorged 2003 - 98 points
House of Arras Rosé 2007 - 97 points
House of Arras Grand Vintage 2008 - 96 points

2020 Top-Rated Chardonnay
By Farr Chardonnay 2017 - 96 points

2020 Top-Rated Fortified
Morris Old Premium Rare Liqueur Rutherglen Topaque NV - 99 points
Morris Old Premium Rare Liqueur Muscat NV - 99 points

2020 Top-Rated Pinot Noir
Dawson & James Pinot Noir 2015 - 98 points
Tolpuddle Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017 - 98 points
Dawson & James Pinot Noir 2017 - 97 points
By Farr RP Pinot Noir 2016 - 98 points

2020 Top-Rated Shiraz and/or Grenache
Charles Melton Nine Popes 2015 - 97 points

2020 Top-Rated Shiraz Viognier
Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2017 - 98 points

About the awards:
James Halliday and his tasting panel spend months tasting the thousands of wines submitted from wineries all across Australia, awarding each bottle a score out of 100. This year, 8775 wines were tasted, with the winners announced at an award ceremony and published in the 2020 Halliday Wine Companion.