Cullen Wines of Margaret River, Western Australia is run by Vanya Cullen, daughter of the founder and a pioneer of environmental awareness and biodynamic viticulture in Australia. Cullen Wines is fighting a proposed new brewery just north of their vineyards because of concerns that yeast cells from the brewery will contaminate the wild yeasts in the Cullen vineyards. According to a pdf petition Cullen Wines is circulating online, the contamination of wild yeasts “is likely to have negative effects on the quality of [the company’s] wines … [and the] risks have been supported by a report from the Australian Wine Research Institute.”
An attempt at mediation between the brewery developers and the vineyard was unsuccessful, and the issue will now likely be decided by local or state government bodies. The Busselton Shire Council originally sided with the vineyard, but could reverse their decision sometime in June. The issue will also go before a state administrative tribunal in August.
In an email to Jancis Robinson, Vanya Cullen offers her version of where things stand:
The developer will not accept circumstantial evidence and keeps saying there is no proof. It is crazy and doesn’t make sense what he is proposing. The problem is they don’t understand wine. We are able to help the council find an expert witness which is good. So we can only work hard and have faith.
The Cullen Wines petition says that the issue of yeast contamination has not arisen in the past because most wineries use manufactured yeasts instead of natural wild yeasts. Manufactured yeasts have substantially fewer risks and problems, but Cullen Wines believes natural wild yeast ferments and biodynamic farming and winemaking make their wines higher quality with more individuality and complexity. Cullen Wines also argue that in the future more Australian wineries will follow their lead in using natural yeast and will need similar government protection.
[Image: Agritourism Australia]