Vasse Felix release its 2018 Tom Cullity

By J'aime Cardillo

11 May, 2022

In only its sixth release the Tom Cullity is undeniably one of Australia's finest red wines. Awarding it 99 points, Erin Larkin calls the 2018 "a wine for the ages."

Margaret River winery Vasse Felix has released the highly anticipated 2018 Tom Cullity Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec. The wine has achieved icon status, and is only in its sixth release. 

Tasting Team member Erin Larkin has awarded the new release 99 points. She describes it as the benchmark wine of the inspiring 2018 vintage in Margaret River. Its predecessor, the 2017 Tom Cullity, was scored 97 points by Erin last year. 

Vasse Felix was the founding wine estate in Margaret River, established by Dr Thomas Brendan Cullity in 1967. A cardiologist from Western Australia, Tom Cullity fell in love with wine in the '50s while working in Europe. When he returned home to WA, he set himself the mission to make fine wine in the west. After finding the perfect eight acres in Cowaramup, he released Margaret River's first commercial wines. 

Some of the first plantings were of cabernet sauvignon and malbec. The Tom Cullity wine is a celebration of these vines and the pioneer who planted them. It's an expression of place and history, and is the pinnacle of Vasse Felix wine.

The 2018 vintage in Margaret River will go down in history as one of the greats. We spoke to chief winemaker Virginia Willcock about the "holy grail of the 'even years' of Margaret River Cabernet" and, of course, the Tom Cullity.

Vasse Felix vineyardThe Vasse Felix vineyard.

H. What do you think makes the Tom Cullity Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec a true icon wine?  V. The most important attributes of this wine – in our eyes – are its intellectual beauty, provenance and rarity.

H. How does the 2018 differ from previous vintages?
V. 2018 is an exceptional Margaret River vintage, and our winemaking approach allows the wine tell the story of how Margaret River's original vines felt during the season.

The 2018 vintage really clarifies what a superb growing season means in our region. Heavy winter rainfalls recharged soil moisture levels, ideal for our dry grown vines and a modest spring enabled moderate crop levels. Vintage timing was on average with minor rainfall freshening the cabernet vines before a long, dry, warm Indian summer. Followed by no heat spike events, perfect for extended ripening of the grapes and a preservation of darker berry fruit characters.

H. What do you love about the Tom Cullity? 
V. Its elegance, finesse, transparency and levitating power. 

H. How has the winemaking process evolved over the six vintages? 
V. Over the years of working so intrinsically with Tom's blocks – from vine to wine – we've understood the fruit more and more. We've also realised how little we have to do for these blocks to express themselves in the truest, most miraculous form as a wine. 

H. Are there any particular techniques, or winemaking processes that contribute to making this such a special wine? 
V. The wine is a transparent expression of place. Grown organically, it is hand-harvested in small batches, whole berry ferment with only wild yeasts, basket pressed, direct to barrel and no rack and return until compilation for bottling. 

H. How does the Tom Cullity pay homage to Dr Thomas Brendan Cullity? 
V. The wine derives from Tom's original plantings of cabernet and malbec which were the beginnings of the Margaret River wine region. Tom was a courageous visionary and planted them in an extremely isolated region with limited access to resources. His hard work, determination and pioneering spirit are celebrated, and live on each year in this wine. 

Vasse Felix Tom Cullity Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec 2018

2018 Vasse Felix Tom Cullity Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec

This wine is the benchmark of the latent power, grace and inherent balance of the 2018 vintage in Margaret River. Texturally similar to the classically sophisticated 2014 vintage, but with far greater density and weight. Here, the savoury tannins are countersunk into the fruit already: shapely, firm, chewy, malleable – everywhere and nowhere at once. Waves of blood plum, cassis, blackberry, pomegranate, juniper, raspberries, saltbush, bay leaf and salted red licorice crash against the rocks, as kelp, nori, iodine, red gravel and brine ride the smaller sets out the back. Sensational. Astounding. A wine for the ages. Halliday Wine Companion, Erin Larkin, 99 points.

RRP $190 | Drink to 2052 | Find out more

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