The Cullen name is buried deep in Margaret River’s celebrated loamy sand soils. The Cullens are not only pioneers of the famed Western Australian wine region – you could call them Margaret River royalty – they have also led the way in adopting sustainable practices that ensure the viability and deliciousness of their award-winning wines.

For chef Matt Stone, a Miele ambassador, the family’s history, continued by chief winemaker Vanya Cullen, is emblematic of Miele’s Stories of Sustainability. “It’s really great to tell stories not just of sustainable food but also of sustainable wine,” he says. “Vanya Cullen is a real inspiration to me. I admire the hard work she does around sustainability while also making some of the world’s best wines.”

Vanya Cullen vineyard, WA

Based in the tiny town of Wilyabrup, about three hours drive south of Perth, Cullen Wines is the Margaret River region’s only biodynamic and carbon-positive winery. While these might sound like modern buzzwords, sustainable practices have been part of the winery’s story since 1971, when Kevin and Diana Cullen planted their first experimental vines with a forward-thinking mindset. They deliberately kept their use of chemicals to a minimum.

For their daughter, Vanya, who was recognised with James Halliday’s prestigious
Winemaker of the Year award in 2020, “it’s a very special success story, built on a commitment to sustainability that has been part of the business since the very beginning. The truth of the land, the integrity of place… it comes into the wine when it’s poured into your glass.”

The Cullens adopted farming methods that treat the vineyard as its own ecosystem and recognised that healthy soil, when nurtured as nature intended, is a fundamental part of that system. For Vanya and her late mother, Diana, what started out as a focus on minimal chemical inputs became a rigorous pursuit of full organic certification, which was granted in 2003.

Vanya Cullen vineyard, WA

Integral to the process was the sowing of cover crops (plants grown specifically to promote the health of the soil) and using compost instead of chemical fertiliser. The results were nothing less than astonishing. “We noticed a great difference in the health of the property immediately,” says Vanya. “The outcomes we’ve had here have been amazing.”

At Cullen Wines, more than 20 species of plants are used as cover crops, each serving a different purpose. Broad beans, for instance, are grown to add nitrogen to the soil, while brassicas are planted for their flowers, which attract bees and promote pollination.

For chef Stone, cover crops represent something else entirely: delicious food. “The first time I looked at a cover crop, I just thought, ‘This food is edible.’ We can extend the whole garden program by growing food between the rows. It’s got a multipurpose use, which is really amazing.”

Vanya Cullen vineyard, WA

As Stone deftly demonstrates with his zesty cover crop salsa served with root vegetables,by using the often overlooked parts of a plant in creative ways, it can help minimise waste. To get the best from the produce, Stone uses a griddle plate to char the greens on a Miele induction cooktop, plus a Miele combi steam oven to steam and grill the root vegetables.

“If you look at a pot of water once you’ve blanched vegetables in it, the water is coloured, which means it’s extracted things out of the veggies,” he says. “By steaming them, we retain the nutrients – and the flavour as well.”

Vanya Cullen vineyard wine, WA

And to drink? There’s nothing better than Cullen Wines’ acclaimed cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay for a true taste of sustainability. They come from vines that, despite their advanced age, are still in rugged health. “It’s quite extraordinary to see that,”says Vanya.

Best of all, she says, these wins will be felt by generations to come. “That whole pursuit of sustainability is the most important thing we can all do as a human race.”

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