Two of the region’s most synonymous wineries have come out on top in the prestigious annual Halliday Wine Companion Awards. Held online this year because of COVID-19 restrictions, Cullen Wines’ matriarch Vanya Cullen was named viticulturist of the year, while Leeuwin Estate’s signature Art Series Chardonnay 2018 was the country’s best wine in that category. The Halliday award comes on the back of numerous other awards for internationally recognised winemaker Cullen. She told the Times she was “delighted” at the honour, which she received at a live-streamed event at Perth’s Pep’s Wine Bar in Peppermint Grove, hosted by Halliday panellist and wine writer Erin Larkin. Cullen said the award placed emphasis on the sustainability measures integral to her approach to biodynamic wines. “I feel very honoured and grateful to receive this award at this time of Cullen’s 50th anniversary and am grateful to all the many people and the land and nature herself for all the contributions towards this inaugural award win,” she said. “It’s so important now to action the climate change crisis through sustainable land care.” The win also honoured half a century of winemaking at the Wilyabrup site, where cabernet vines were first planted. “It’s 50 years of sustainable wine growing preceded by 65,000 years of Wadandi sustainable land care,” Cullen said. Cullen Wines has been organic and certified biodynamic for more than 20 years and is the only “carbon positive” winery in Australia, with certification confirmed in 2019. “The vineyard sequesters more carbon than the business emits,” the winemaker said. On the Leeuwin Estate win, judges said chardonnay was tussling with shiraz for the strongest category of Australian wine and despite two blind tastings were unable to separate the three top scores in the chardonnay. “WA does the heavy lifting, putting forth half of our highlights, the vast majority of course from Margaret River,” a spokesperson said. “Reflecting the strength and diversity of the category, three winners emerged from the 11 nominations in our awards judging, each receiving first-place votes and total scores too close to separate. “Put to a second vote, the scores were again too close to single out a winner, so we have done the unprecedented and put forward three very different wines from three of the top producers in three very distinct regions. Seek them out. We love them all.” The decision put the Art Series 2018 alongside wines from Oakridge and Penfolds. Ms Cullen also received delicious magazine’s Viticulturist of the Year award this week.