After 55 vintages in Australia, you might surmise I have seen it all. Hot years, cold years, wet years, drought years, big crops, small crops, no crop. In 1983, the “Ash Wednesday” fire year, the fire was followed by a tropical deluge. We harvested no grapes from Clare or Coonawarra. Piccadilly Valley was not yet in production.

In 1989, we harvested the largest crop ever, regretting the obligation to do so as each tonne of large berried, big bunch, diluted in colour and flavour grapes entered the winery. We didn’t release a Coonawarra red wine that year.

In 2011, a very cold year we struggled to achieve ripeness and didn’t make a Tiers Chardonnay. The wine we made and declassified from Tiers vineyard has developed beautifully with bottle age. Winemaker judgement error!

In 1981, a very hot year, I decided the Coonawarra wine I had made would mature and die early, “drink before 5 years” I wrote on the back label. 43 years later it is drinking beautifully, with life ahead.

Despite the huge vintage variation described above and the many other different expressions in the 55 vintages that have endured my stewardship, there is none so aptly described as the “heart break vintage” as the 2024 vintage.

Heartbreak because the quality is so good and there is so little of it.

From Tiers in the Piccadilly Valley, we picked about half a normal harvest and from Foggy Hill on the Fleurieu Peninsula a mere 20%. Good old reliable Whalebone at Wrattonbully excelled at 80% of normal. The quality from all three vineyards is exceptional and the 2024 vintage from Tiers has produced exceptional Chardonnay.

A normal budburst was followed by a very wet and cool November and December, partially interrupting the flowering process, prolonging it over three weeks rather than one. The pollen of many of the flowers didn’t have the energy to reach the ovule and fertilise it, so the seeds didn’t form. No seeds, either no berry or a small excuse for a berry commonly called a chicken. Luckily about half the berries developed seeds and normal berry size and composition. They are the hens of the hen and chicken syndrome.

The cool calm conditions that followed to harvest on the 15th of March was also a record dry period with just 8mm’s recorded in February and March against the average of 75mm’s. The heat summation for the Piccadilly Valley for 2024 vintage was 1196°C-days slightly warmer than the long-term average of 1108°C-days.

There is an aphorism that “the best wines from a cool area are made in the slightly warmer vintages.” 2024 vintage in Tiers Vineyard abundantly complies. These cool dry ripening months encouraged the grapes to retain acid and develop the intense but delicate aromas and flavours of the very best Chardonnay wines.

One and a half hours south of Tiers, next to the Great Southern Ocean and it’s chilling south-easterly breezes, Foggy Hill flowering was decimated. The 2024 heat summation for Foggy was way below the average of 1348°C-days at 1223°C-days. Like Tiers, Foggy Hill had almost no rain in February and March, just 3.6mm’s versus the average of 64.3mm’s.  The tiny residual crop of Pinot Noir ripened rapidly and was harvested on the 9th of March, one to two weeks before normal.

The colour of 2024 Tapanappa Foggy Hill Pinot Noir is vibrant purple crimson and translucent.

The aromas are at once intense and Foggy Hill complex, ripe satsuma plum, pomegranate, strawberry conserve and Chinese five spice with a hint of olive. The flavours are intense and lively with a sweet fruit middle and viscosity followed by a determined savoury tannin. 2024 Foggy Hill Pinot Noir is the concentrated product of this distinguished terroir at the lowest crop level possible.

Whalebone Vineyard in Wrattonbully, had a much more normal vintage than Tiers and Foggy Hill. It was a warm and very dry vintage at Whalebone. The heat summation for 2024 was 1544°C-days versus the average of 1472°C-days. There was no rain at all in the ripening months of February and March. Unusually, all varieties were harvested together on the 22nd and 23rd of March. That’s a normal harvest date for Merlot but is two to three weeks early for Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Ripeness was accelerated by the abnormally dry conditions.

2024 has delivered powerful vibrant coloured wine from Whalebone Vineyard. The aromas are emphatic and ripe, almost overpowering with roses, cassis, and exotic fresh green herbs. The flavours are rich and sweet with a strong but fine-grained tannin finish. Intense freshness is the hallmark of 2024 Whalebone wines from all three varieties.

My excitement about the quality of the 2024 vintage Tapanappa wines is tempered when I look at the empty spaces in our maturation cellars, the very few barriques arranged in a corner of what is a full cellar in a normal vintage. That is why 2024 is the heart-break vintage but I am truly grateful for the wonderful quality our distinguished vineyards have delivered. 

BJC. 11/5/2024

Brian Croser’s flagship pinot noir comes from just 10 rows of Dijon clones – 777 and 115 – planted in the Foggy Hill Vineyard on the Fleurieu Peninsula. The name might sound a bit like a spell from Harry Potter, and who among us can’t see Hermione waving her wand and yelling, “Definitus!” Who knows what the result would be, but it’s rather appropriate as the wine is indeed a little bit spellbinding. Nine months in French oak barriques, 30 percent of them new. A pale garnet/crimson. Exquisite aromas. Red cherries and blueberries intertwined. Dry herbs, a hint of chinotto and spices. At this early stage, there’s still a hint of oak evident but it’s well into the process of integration. Finely balanced, the wine shows early complexity and is seamlessly structured. A gentle but fresh acidity, impressive length, an utterly gorgeous pinot with an exciting future. Love it. 


There’s a cooling aspect to this, with its jasmine and seaspray notes, but its core is nutty and peachy, and while it feels measured it also has a presence. This is a fine chardonnay. Stonefruit, pear and salted nut characters put on a delicious show, start to finish, before pushing into smokier territory through the finish. No question of its quality.

Planted in 1979, the Tiers Vineyard is purportedly the first to have been planted in the Piccadilly Valley since the 19th century. It’s a revered site with a history of producing hugely successful Chardonnay wines made by powerhouse Australian wine identity Brian Croser. Aromas of peach schnapps, peach blossom, white nectarine, slithered almond and green apple lift from the glass, before air and temperature unlock cinnamon and lemon thyme. The melding of these aromatic notes makes for a moreish and complex profile. There’s lovely weight and pillowy, creamy texture to the palate which wraps around the stone fruit and spice notes before a tart, apple-drenched acid line and powdery phenolics pull it long, very long, to a focused and balanced close. This is fulsome and intense, but so masterfully tempered by brilliant structure and immaculate balance.

Brian Croser sends a first-hand report from Tapanappa in the Piccadilly Valley on a small but promising harvest. Above, Croser scrutinizes the Chardonnay grapes in the Tiers Vineyard.

We all know what comes in small packages, but can they be a little bigger than the 2024 vintage from our Tiers, Piccadilly Valley and Foggy Hill Fleurieu Peninsula vineyards?

At the beginning of the growing season, we anticipated harvesting 30 tonnes of Chardonnay from the Tiers Vineyard. We picked 16 tonnes on 14 March.

Similarly, we anticipated harvesting 30 tonnes of Pinot Noir from our Foggy Hill Vineyard. We picked 6 tonnes on 8 March.

In 2024 we planned to make wine from 550 tonnes of grapes at the Tapanappa Winery in the Piccadilly Valley. We received 250 tonnes of grapes from the total 2024 harvest. Only the Whalebone Vineyard in Wrattonbully, three hours south of Piccadilly and the Fleurieu, yielded a close to average crop.

What went wrong at the Tiers (shown above) and Foggy Hill?

After a slightly early budburst in early September, vine growth was normal before flowering at the end of November. The winter rains had been slightly above average and the soils were nicely full of water to support early growth.

Just as flowering started, the south-easterly winds began to blow persistently and with moderate strength. These cold winds were generated in the low latitudes of the Great Southern Ocean, bringing up cold air from the fringes of Antarctica to the top edge of expansive high-pressure systems, sweeping counterclockwise along the southern coastline of Australia. These high-pressure systems were centred on the latitude of Tasmania, reflecting a positive SAM (Southern Annular Modulation), and are usually further north in the spring.

SAM was positive because the enormous column of air spinning over the South Pole into the stratosphere (the Antarctic vortex) was very strong, sucking the high-pressure systems south.

The cold, strong south-easterly winds whistling across the coastal vineyards had a dire effect on the flowering process of the vines from 21 November into mid December.

The flowering period that is normally over in a week to 10 days extended for three weeks in a process painful to watch. It also rained intermittently throughout flowering and the caps that should fall off the opening flowers instead stuck to the pollen-bearing flower anthers, limiting the amount of pollen to reach the stigma, the doorway to the ovary. For the pollen that made it that far, the pollen tube growth from the stigma to the ovary was very slow because of the low temperatures and the pollen simply ran out of fuel before reaching its destination, the ovule or egg. Without pollination the ovule did not turn into a seed and without seeds the berries don’t develop – either at all or into very small ‘chickens’ (seedless berries).

The small percentage of fully pollinated flowers grew into normal berries with a complement of 1–4 seeds. They are the hens of the ‘hen and chicken’ syndrome more properly called millerandage. The unfertilised berries that simply fell off the bunch are the victims of coulure.

The frustrating aspect of poor flowering in 2024 is that the positive SAM has delivered a mild, even cool, growing season as it had for the previous four vintages starting with 2020. The quality of cool, dry vintages is high, creating intense but delicate grape flavours, bright colours for reds and lively natural acids to balance moderate alcohol levels.

And indeed 2024 has been cool, at average degree-day summations up to the end of March. February and March have been completely devoid of rain, so, accelerated by the low crops and a warm March, harvest was completed in perfect autumn weather in mid March exactly one month earlier than the very cool 2023 harvest.

The implications of a very small vintage are profound.

The vineyard costs as much to run with a small, average or large crop. For Foggy Hill the cost/tonne of the 6 tonnes of Pinot Noir in 2024 will be five times that for a normal crop. For Tiers Vineyard the cost/tonne of the 16 tonnes of Chardonnay will be double that of a normal crop.

In the winery the great majority of the costs remain the same, be it a small crop or big crop, so the processing costs per litre of wine made in 2024 vintage will be double a normal year.

I do not wish to explore these depressing arithmetic facts any further

Far from being a whinge about the bad luck of a poor flowering season by a disgruntled vigneron, my explanations of the 2024 vintage are made in a spirit of resignation and acceptance of the endless array of the random behaviours of Mother Nature. She always surprises. My preoccupation now is on the outstanding quality of the 2024 vintage and protecting and enhancing that in the winery.

2024 vintage certainly comes in a small package but it will be worth seeking out.

All photos by Ben Macmahon courtesy Tapanappa.

If Tiers 1.5m Chardonnay hails from the “new” block of French Bernard clones planted in 2003, fruit for this Tiers Chardonnay is off the “old” block, the original block established in 1979. A cool vintage and low yields bring good concentration, but what really characterises the wine is its open and inviting summery bounce and energy. It rocks. Orange and citrus blossom aromatics, a hint of honeysuckle join aromas of apple, citrus, grapefruit, white peach and spice. Lemony bright acidity rules the palate, enticing tastebuds and melding with lemon sorbet, zest, stone fruit and a distinctive quince tang against a nougat warm and buttery texture. Layer upon layer of concentrated flavour . . . and bounce. 

The Adelaide Hills 2023 vintage was the coolest of the four consecutive cool vintages since 2020. To quote winemaker, Brian Croser, the ’23 Chardonnays are far from “overt.” I find that re-assuring, the vintage speaks and it’s beautifully fine with purity of fruit and acidity layered naturally, succinctly, making 1.5m poised for further ageing. Meyer lemon, lemon drop, nectarine, peach aromas with a hint of cashew – in other words an alluring introduction.Still incredibly youthful, offers a core of perfectly pitched citrus and stone fruits in balance and concentrated. Textural, too, as it comes together with nougat and roasted nuts joining fruit and gently spiced oak. Everything is in place. The only question remaining: to drink now, or not.

Bright green-gold hues introduce an immediately engaging and open young Chardonnay. Captures the Adelaide Hills archetypal Chardonnay beautifully in delicious citrus and stone fruits – bright and energetic – aided by juicy, filigree fine acidity that drives the wine long. The winemaker lets the fruit sing, it remains largely uncluttered or dominated by oak, but you just know it’s there and you sense it is totally integrated. Boasts terrific drive and flavour and is definitely ready to be enjoyed right now.

Naturally, there is a close relationship between this wine and the preceding one. The 1.5m comes from younger vines, but both were made from hand-picked grapes that were chilled to 2°C, and air-bag pressed before fermentation in French barriques, one third of which were new. The pair underwent lees contact until racking and bottling in November, 2023.

There’s a little more white nectarine here, with toasted nuttiness and vanilla that border on nougat. The textural grip is slightly more pronounced. A wonderful wine.

The nose reflects a cool site and vintage, offering suggestions of grapefruit, fig and white nectarine supported by lees complexity and a whiff of oak toastiness. The long, creamy, acid-fresh palate is a delight.

This wine offers aromas and flavours that strongly reflect white nectarine. Lees contact imparts an attractive nuttiness, and acidity drives the palate at this early stage.

On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of the Foggy Hill vineyard, winemaker Brian Croser – accompanied by wife Ann – embarked on a series of tasting and dinners to celebrate this milestone.

Whilst the Definitus wasn’t part of that tasting, opportunity afforded to review it post. The Definitus is akin to a block level wine, the Definitus strip being a sub-ridge formed where ferruginuous sandstone comes close to the surface. It also marks a delineation between two rows of two Bernard Clones (115 and 117, planted in 2003). Winemaker code for: “I think I’ve something rather special here”.

A darker manifestation, of blackberry with some Rosella like relief. Slightly sapid hints, not whole bunch, of depth and intensity. 

A delicacy on entry, a light hand, seemingly at odds with the darker elements that introduce the wine. A burst of flavour that reminds of the pop of aromatic from a freshly pierced orange skin – atypical Pinot in my frame if reference, but there nonetheless. 

Through the finish a pop of cassis like brilliance, bright and prime with a long tail of flavour through fine and persistent tannins. At turns it feels youthful, yet with a position that suggests longevity. 

95 Points

It smells almost steely to me, which I like, and in with that there’s a pleasing green herb, mint and rosy perfume, cherry and strawberry, some cedar/pencil oak too. It’s medium-bodied with excellent structure, the quality of the tannin here is very good – all emery board and fine grip – there’s also something of a blood orange tang, in with plum and cherry, the finish is all cool and sappy, with excellent length. It’s a distinctive wine, and in many ways quite different to a lot of Australian Pinot Noir, and that’s no bad thing either. 

94 Points

Only 2011 was cooler than 2023 (of recent vintages) in the Piccadilly Valley, as expressed in HDD at 1093°, versus the long term average of 1135°. This is from a block planted in 1979,  the clone unknown.

Pear, grapefruit and lemon oil, almond meal and biscuit spices. It’s a bright and tight wine, a distinctly citrus-laced line of acidity, grapefruit, green olive and honey lemon, it’s flinty too, though has a light creamy cashew gloss to temper, and the finish is long with a zesty aftertaste. This seems like a long term wine, and while it’s kind of brittle as at now, its intensity and length mark it out as a classic Chardonnay. 

96 Points

From a section of the Tiers vineyard close planted in 2003 using the Bernard clones 76 and 95. This is same same, but different to the old vine Tiers, a little fleshier, but it’s the texture that’s the main point of difference.

White stonefruit, pear, quite spicy and slightly dusty/peppery, honey and lime. The texture is a highlight, chalky and ‘mineral’, ripe lime and honey, white peach, spicy cinnamon oak, almond meal, with plenty of citrus bite on a finish of excellent length. Marvellous wine. So emphatic in its statement of vineyard and grape variety, not least quality. 

96 Points

Pale gold with cyan reflections and a tight, but beautifully nuanced nose of orange and apple blossom, white peach, pear, apple, lemon, finger-lime, sugarmelon, dried galangal, cashew and honey nougat, fennel, a touch of spearmint, ocean salinity and a hint of flint. A bit ester-y, but not overt. In the mouth it’s like a sleeping Buddha. Zen, calm, harmonious but incredibly powerful and though tightly bound in youth, it boasts balance and symmetry. Pulsing apples, pear, fennel, grapefruit, melon and multidimensional stonefruit gripped with fine confident tannins and tense driving acidity. It flows like a river, endless and hypnotic, textured like the smooth stony bed itself and ends on a crescendo of slightly bitter nectarine and sharp citrus-like acidity. So much potential and as always, this hits the precipice of elegant and fine Australian Chardonnay. One to hold in the cellar for many years.

Pale gold with cyan and silver reflections and a nose of honeysuckle, pear, fleshy lemon and lime, white pineapple and peach, white pepper, chervil, coriander seed, ripe fig, candied almond, custard, butter, spearmint and anise. Saint Aubin vibes! In the mouth it’s fleshy, juicy yet dry with plenty of drive from fresh acidity. Apple, pear, lime, lemon, white stonefruit, melon, white pineapple and fresh fennel make a grand entrance, rising like a mist over the midpalate and imparts a trail of prickly mineral textures and chewy tannins along the way. It then twists and turns with its own unique pathway to a long finalé that ends quite chewy and tart. Serious stuff!

Pale gold with cyan and silver reflections and a nose of orange blossom, floral apples, splice, grilled nectarine, ripe fig, pineapple sage, white pepper, oats/grains and a whisper of spearmint.

In the mouth it’s tart, dry and tense with driving acidity that aims straight down the palate. Think tangy nectarine, lemon, grapefruit, white pineapple and puckering green apple…it makes you salivate sweetness! A rub of jaw-clenching acidity and fine chalky tannins grows and holds through the midpalate to a reaching tail that ends crisp and clean. Top value Chardy with exciting energy and delicious fruit intensity.

Medium-light straw with green highlights. Rich and floral. Full of freshly sliced stone fruit and apple, white blossoms, fig, white chocolate, a little peanut oil, a nuance of oyster shell brine, grapefruit citrus and white stones. Inherent fruit richness which belies the intensity and delicacy. The acidity is a fine spine without a hint of shrillness, the oak wonderfully judged to gently frame the picture of such delicate texture. Length and fruit persistence through the salivating finish.  Elegance and class abound.

95 points

Pale lemon with green highlights. Fruit focused, but remaining delicate and intense. Pear, apple, sherbet, warm cinnamon spice, grapefruit and preserved lemon citrus, clove oil and torn brioche. Delicate texture, with precision and focus. Pomme fruit and grapefruit echoes after a ramrod straight line of flavour. Savoury spice hovers over the just medium bodied frame. A close of richness to give a coda of power.

95 points

Pale lemon hue. Floral and fragrant. Pomme fruit and blossom, easy roast roast nut delicacy, soft honey, bread crust, ground salt and grapefruit pith.  Such flow and evenness with incredibly complex layers of fruit and winemaking that swirl and writhe seamlessly. Length and drive, finesse and power. Wondrous rich lines of grapefruit and stone fruit sewn together with taut filament and wrapped so gently, to create an exquisite, benchmark wine.

96 points

A layered and energetic Chardonnay from Tapanappa, this Piccadilly Valley comes from a cool and late vintage – the coolest of four successive cooler years from 2020.

Seeing a third new French oak, a creme brulee and caramel creaminess talks to me along with cashews and almonds. Glace pineapple, figs, yellow peaches and barbecued nectarines light things up along with a good dose of green apple. The more I scratch the surface the more I find. A rub of butterscotch pushes forward with some lemon juice on its tail and a cheeky cameo of vanilla pod. So layered but drying with a chalky feel, it seems a little short-tempered for now. That tight shape will have it singing with some more bottle age and I reckon it will be humming in a few years.

Drink 2026 to eight years.

94 points

And you thought the Tiers 1.5m was something special? Woah! This is a treat and then some. The Tiers from Tapanappa has quite rightly built itself a reputation over the years and this further cements its standing as one of the premier Chardonnays in Australia.

From the coolest of four consecutive cool vintages, the vines were planted in 1979. It’s worth noting that this was the first vineyard in the Piccadilly Valley. 

A wine with some tension and fabulous complexity, mind you, I found the layers more detailed in the 1.5m Chardonnay. Focused, scents of flint and barbecued nectarines leap from the glass. It possesses a calm presence with a soft soul highlighted by figs, cashews and vanilla cream building interest and momentum with time in the glass. Delicate white fleshed stonefruit adds to its glorious shape and effortless delivery as do some biscuity nuances. Grapefruit acidity offers the parting gift. Oh my, that tang! This will age beautifully if you can hold out that long. A brilliant Chardonnay.

Drink to eight years+

96 points

Lighty toasted cashewnut aroma, hints of vanilla and almond-meal, the palate refined and tense, concentrated and yet seamlessly textured and composed. The wine is very smooth and rounded, with plenty of acidity but you barely feel it. Lovely depth of flavour and balance. Nigh-invisible oak; long carry. Superb chardonnay.

96/100

Restrained straw/dried-herb aromas, the palate searingly intense with strong lemon/grapefruit flavours and lively acidity which is felt throughout the mouth. Intense, focused and bright on the tongue, super-refreshing and almost tangy, with a gorgeous fruit-sweet core and a cleansing, refreshing aftertaste.

95/100

Finesse and purity all the way. The step up in class is evident compared to the Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay, this Tapanappa Tiers 1.5m is calming and stylish with a charismatic swagger.

It glides and sways with ease. The presence of the fruit is seamless in its combination with the oak, the highlight being the precise fusion with the acidity ensuring there is no start point or end point – that’s class right there.

From a close-planted site (2003), white-fleshed stonefruit, juicy yellow grapefruit and fine drizzles of lemon juice seek your favour. A fine nutty appeal works in unison with a delicate textural presence. A little custard powder creaminess and a vanilla bean pannacotta drive add further layers of interest, but that length! The little tug of tension suggests this is something worth tucking away for a little while at least but it’s the grapefruit acidity and tang on close that I adore. Woah! It’s just glorious Chardonnay.

96 points

The Tapanappa label is the result of a 40+ year mission of veteran winemaker Brian Croser and his family to make world-class wines from the most “distinguished sites” in South Australia. The Foggy Hill vineyard on the Fleurieu Peninsula might not be an obvious contender as a site for world-class pinot, but it delivers big time with this vibrant and spicy example of classic terroir-driven varietal character. There is plenty of length here and aging potential, too, given its serious complexity, but it is a lovely wine right now that I give 95 points. Impressive stuff.

95 Points 

RESPECTED AUSTRALIAN WINEMAKERS BRIAN CROSER AND LOUISA ROSE SHARE THEIR VIEWS ON THE WORLD-RENOWNED AUSTRALIAN WINE RESEARCH INSTITUTE BEING BLED DRY BECAUSE OF EVER-DECREASING FUNDING.

The Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) is 70 years old next year.

One of us has been admiring and utilising their work for more than 50 of those 70 years, the other for only 33.

All Australian vignerons have been benefitting from the work of the AWRI, whether they know and appreciate it or not.

Rankine’s SO2 measurement apparatus.

Sommer’s elucidation of the role of anthocyanins in wine colour and quality.

William’s study of labile terpenes and their release from glycosidic bonds to become aromatic and flavoursome.

Henschke’s yeast and bacterial selections for commercial industry use.

Godden’s validation of the screwcap as a superior alternative to cork.

Chasing Brettanomyces out of Australian cellars and wines.

Identifying and measuring the compounds responsible for smoke taint.

Elucidating the role of nitrogen and sulphur compounds in Chardonnay wine quality.

Cracking the genetic code of Chardonnay clones to identify their provenance and quality in Australian vineyards.

Sustainable Winegrowing Australia…

These are a few of the wonderful things to come out of the AWRI, co-designed to directly help Australian vignerons.

The global technicians of grape and wine look on in admiration, envy and emulation of the AWRI and its discoveries.

The AWRI is able to recruit and retain the world’s best grape and wine brains because of its stellar reputation and the unique funding model it has enjoyed based on the industry self-applied levies on grape and wine production and export sales.

Levy revenue hypothecated to the AWRI by Wine Australia and its predecessors have underwritten the core capabilities and stability of the AWRI since its inception and establishment at the University of Adelaide Waite Campus in 1955.

AWRI is a small research institute that generates a modest income from providing analytical services via Affinity Labs, to industry which it does at a significant discount to commercially operated services overseas.

AWRI is wholly dependent on government-matched levy revenue to maintain the core of expertise and equipment that allow it to innovate, service and solve problems for the Australian wine community.

Imagine our surprise to read in the Wine Australia Independent Performance Review recently conducted by consulting firm ACIL Allen and published on Wednesday on WA’s website.

“The Australian Wine Research Institute which receives a large proportion of the R&I budget, is seen as high cost and inefficient in its delivery of R&I as well as its engagement with industry.”

This claim was repeated twice for emphasis in the document.

Who sees it that way and on what basis did they draw that conclusion?

We know what the answer will be, “ACIL Allen have interviewed 60 wine companies across the spectrum of size and region, and they have collectively or in a majority delivered that conclusion.”

We wonder whether there was overlap of those companies interviewed, as ACIL Allen concurrently helped assemble the much commented on One Sector Plan while on Wine Australia’s payroll?

Wine Australia would not come to that conclusion in their Performance Review without the validation and support of a selection of 60 Australian wine producers.

Meanwhile the vast majority of the 2,000+ Australian wine producers are completely and innocently ignorant of the current dilemma besetting the AWRI, because it has been evolving behind Wine Australia confidentiality curtains for at least three years.

A little history is to be endured here!

The total matched grape and wine R&I revenue stream is currently about $25 million per annum.

At its peak in 2010 the revenue income to the AWRI was $15 million in today’s dollars.

From there it diminished as competing services were funded until it was $8.5 million in 2020.

AWRI estimates it requires $8 million per annum of guaranteed levy income to maintain its core capacities – people, bricks and mortar, scientific equipment and operating.

In 2020, Wine Australia planned to further diminish that revenue significantly but after the intervention of Australian Grape & Wine and some bruising board battles, a four-year package of $30 million was agreed between WA and the AWRI, $7.5 million per annum, as a continuation of the ‘special relationship’ between the two bodies that has existed for most of the AWRI’s 70 years. That agreement runs to 30 June 2026.

Despite the agreement, since September 2021 there have been protracted negotiations between AWRI and WA about the research portfolio that have delayed the promised revenue stream of $7.5 million per annum.

Then the 2023 vintage intervened, delivering just 1.32 million tonnes of Australian grapes against the long-term average of more than 1.7 million tonnes. Less tonnes, less levy collection, and less Commonwealth matching funds.

A claw back clause of nearly $1.5 million in the special funding agreement between WA and AWRI, has been exercised by WA for 2023/2024 based on the reduced harvest.

WA are still spending about $25 million on R&I and Extension and Adoption in 2023/2024 but the AWRI will only be entitled to $6 million.

Of that $6 million, $2 million is destined to support AWRI’s extension and adoption role.

WA have announced, as a result of the performance review, they will implement a competitive bid process for the role of extension and adoption to the Australian wine community and are employing an extension and adoption coordinator based at WA.

This is estimated to further reduce AWRI’s budget by about $800,000.

We are now down to $5.2 million against a minimum requirement of $8 million to keep the AWRI as a viable, capable grape and wine research institute.

Because of the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ negotiation process that WA and the AWRI have been exercising for the last three years, the revenue stream to AWRI will be even less than $5.2 million for 2023/2024.

The Australian wine community deserve answers to two questions that arise from the defenestration of the AWRI.

Where and how is WA applying the revenue taken from the AWRI to achieve greater benefit and impact for the Australian wine community?

Has WA considered the effect of their actions on the AWRI and on Australia’s reputation as a global leader in grape and wine technology?

When the results of WA’s actions become apparent to the 2,000 Australian wine producers, we are confident they will be surprised and say we definitely need a viable AWRI.

When our overseas colleagues and friends in the wine business become aware of the diminution of the AWRI they will be amazed that the Australian wine community could so damage one of its greatest competitive advantages.

…and who will be there to support industry during the next industry crisis?

– Brian Croser and Louisa Rose

by Brian Croser

The Australian wine industry has squandered three decades being confused about the differences between premium and non-premium wine and where the opportunities really lie. Brian Croser reports. 

Imagine the world without America and China. I don’t mean their geographic absence, rather imagine after the Australian wine industry’s 1990s growth spurt, that the export boom to the USA from 2002 to 2009 didn’t happen and similarly the China export boom from 2014 to 2020 didn’t occur. 

What would the Australian wine industry look like today? 

The answer is exactly as it does today.

Both booms came and went but the underlying trends of wine sales and production remain constant through the last 22 years. Australia currently produces about 1.7 million tonnes of grapes per annum based on the last 10-year average; 1.25 million tonnes (73 percent) come from the hot inland irrigation regions and the balance, 450,000 tonnes (27 percent) from the other, cooler regions. 

That’s almost exactly as it was in 2001. 

The tables are turned for the value of grapes; the inland regions provide only 43 percent of total grape value and the cooler regions 57 percent.

Easy to produce, harder to sell.

Sales of Australian wine in the combined export and domestic market are divided between premium and non-premium. 

Premium wine is defined by a price of more than US$10/bottle (A$15/bottle) in the domestic market and exported at more than A$5/litre FOB, roughly equivalent price points in their respective markets. Non-premium is sold and shipped at less than these values.

For the past 22 years, the volume of premium wine sales in the domestic market has grown by six percent per annum. Unfortunately, we don’t have domestic market values for those 22 years, but we can assume value has grown in line with volume for premium wine (six percent per annum) for the period. 

After 2001, premium wine has shown no volume growth in the underlying export markets after the USA and China booms came and went. Despite no growth of premium export volume, premium wine export value has grown by two percent per annum, still less than inflation. For non-premium wine, healthy volume growth of 3.3 percent per annum in export markets over the 22 years, has been accompanied by a loss of value of one percent per annum. 

Ignoring the blip of the China boom, the export volume growth for non-premium wine all occurred in the first decade of the century. In the last 10 years non-premium wine has lost 13 percent of its volume of export sales.

The domestic market has been drifting backwards for non-premium wine at a rate of –0.7 percent per annum.

The star performer over the past 22 years has been premium wine in the domestic market.

Ten years ago, in 2013, the US export boom had well and truly ended, and the China boom had not started. The China boom had finished by 2020. For the 10-year period 2013 to 2023, uninfluenced by the China boom, combined domestic and export premium wine have grown by 1.8 percent per annum in volume and 4.3 percent in value. 

Combined domestic and export sales of non-premium has contracted by –2.2 percent per annum in volume and –1.8 percent in value over the 10 years. That exactly mirrors the global picture for all wine from all countries for all markets.

Global 10-year growth of premium wine value is 3.1 percent per annum and for non-premium wine there is a loss of value of -2.2 percent per annum.

That’s the past, what of the future?

We can assume the global trends are continuing.

The future for non-premium wine in an oversupplied, diminishing export market is for increased marketing competition and lower prices. Australia with its remoteness and high cost base is not well positioned to compete in a market where the lowest cost producer will eventually win. 

In the domestic market, Australian non-premium wine will continue to out-compete other country suppliers, because of customer loyalty and proximity of market. Australian non-premium wine producers will retain high market share of a diminishing domestic market. 

That’s as long as the quality keeps increasing. 

The two big growth opportunities for Australia are premium wine in the domestic and in export markets. Both premium markets are expanding in sales volume and value, quicker in value than in volume. Australia is way underperforming in the premium export market, having no underlying volume growth over the past 10 years, despite a healthy value increase of 3.3 percent per annum, more than keeping up with inflation. 

The global premium market is expanding in volume by 1.7 percent per annum and Australian premium exports should be at least matching that performance. 

Back in the domestic market, imports are now 20 percent of volume and 31 percent of value of all wine sold. Imports are more than 100 million litres per annum costing $1 billion, pretty much all premium wine at a very high average price in excess of $10/litre and growing at 3 percent per annum. 

Australia needs a healthy wine import market, spiking consumer interest and knowledge and willingness to trade up. However, Australian wine lists in restaurants tend to be import centric, especially at the higher price points. 

Even in its own domestic market Australian premium wine does not have the same aura nor creates the same consumer excitement and willingness to spend, as do the wines from the great terroirs of Europe. Australia has the regions, terroirs, winemakers and wines to replace a healthy slice of current imports. 

Even replacing a quarter of current imports would absorb another 40,000 tonnes of premium Australian grapes and generate $250 million retail income for Australian wine producers. It would require a strong promotion of Australia’s unique terroirs and wines to knowledgeable Australian consumers to reverse the growth of the imported fine wine market share. 

If Australia was able to boost premium export volume sales to the global average of 1.7 percent per annum and maintain a 3.3 percent per annum value increase, that would profitably absorb another 10,000 tonnes of premium Australian grapes over the next five years. 

Currently Australia is producing on average 1.7 million tonnes of grapes and is selling wine made from 1.31 million tonnes. There is a 390,000-tonne structural grape surplus nearly equally divided between premium regions (210,000 tonnes) and non-premium (180,000 tonnes), calculated by comparing the sales volumes of premium and non-premium wines against the respective production of grapes of each type. 

The premium grape surplus displaces non-premium grapes in the production of non-premium wine, so most of the grape surplus is generated from the inland vineyards. Because non-premium white grape supply is in better balance with sales, most of the surplus is inland red grapes. 

Using the current 10-year volume CAGRs for Australian premium and non-premium wines in combined domestic and export markets, 1.8 percent per annum growth for premium and a contraction of -2.2 percent for non-premium, the structural surplus only gets worse. In five years, premium wine will have absorbed another 22,000 tonnes of grapes but non-premium will have generated another 60,000 tonnes of surplus inland fruit. 

These are brutal statistical facts. 

Despite 2023 being the smallest harvest since 2007, precipitating a slight reduction in inventory, the national wine inventory is 300 million litres above the 10-year average against combined domestic and export market sales that have diminished by 14 percent over that time. 

At inland wine extraction rates, that’s at least 400,000 tonnes of grapes equivalent in surplus inventory. 

Then there’s China. Or there used to be China. 

At its peak in 2018/2019, the Chinese market was importing about 52 million litres of premium Australian wine, the equivalent of 80,000 tonnes of cooler region grapes and 124 million litres of non-premium wine, the equivalent of 165,000 tonnes of inland grapes. 

The non-premium market for Australian wine in China began plummeting even before the imposition of the draconian import duties. 

If and when the China market reopens for Australian wine, it is likely to be a very subdued return with a strong preference for premium wine. International competitors have occupied our slot and they will be difficult to dislodge, especially in the contracting Chinese market. In the medium term, with care, we may win back the market equivalent of 50,000 tonnes of mainly premium grapes. 

A bad outcome would be the accrued non-premium inventory surplus being ‘dumped’ into China, cruelling the pitch for an orderly return of Australia’s premium wines to that market. 

The crystal ball into the future of Australian wine is looking fairly cracked. 

If Australia was Europe the future would be adjusted by the state subsidisation of the distillation of the excess 300 million litres of non-premium inventory and a payment to grape producers in the inland to uproot at least 15 to 20,000 hectares of vines to eliminate the structural surplus of 390,000 tonnes of grapes. 

The EU has just announced they will provide A$111 million to Bordeaux vignerons to uproot 9,300 hectares of vines. 

Australia is not Europe. 

In Australia market forces will be left to prevail. 

The 390,000-tonne structural surplus will dissipate through lower cropping regimes in premium and non-premium regions, fruit left on the vine and the inevitability of vines being removed, mainly in the inland. 

That process is already underway and let’s hope it is selective, removing the worst varieties and vineyards thereby increasing the quality of Australia’s residual grape harvest. 

As the global market for non-premium wine deteriorates further on trend, Australia needs continuous reassessment to inform growers of their prospects and allow rational choices to be made. 

Australia may not have a grape harvest of more than 1.5 million tonnes for many years. 

It will require a strong focus on grape and wine quality improvement and an even stronger effort to promote Australia’s unique regions, terroirs, wines and winemakers to restore the Australian wine community to profitable growth. 

The premium wine opportunity for more than 2,000 fine winemakers is palpable. We have squandered three decades being confused about the differences between premium and non-premium wine and where the opportunities really lie. 

As I have said before, the tea leaves are screaming at us. 

Very light lemon and lime tints. Lime curd and white flowers on the nose. Palate shows similar characters with the addition of baking pastry and a seaside minerality, adding complexity and character to the flow. Acidity works well in the background, there’s ample fruit intensity as it drives long to the dry finish.

93/100

Light yellow-straw colour; nougat aromas, toasted nuts and honey, the palate delicate, refined, high-acid and tangy, refreshing and bright on the tongue. A vibrant and intense, piercingly focused wine that lingers long and refreshes. The fruit is doing most of the talking. Delicious.

93/100

Sassafras, bing cherry, licorice root and orange balm. Filigreed tannins and a diaphanous weave of freshness and pungency, with a moreish core of porcini dashi. Yet the end result is a lighter weighted pinot in an Australian context. Refreshing enough, but a bit thin. Drink or hold. Screw cap.

93 Points

Smoked charcuterie notes are muddled with cardamon, dill and white pepper, conferring a savory tone without straying into verdancy. Red cherry, orange zest and rhubarb. A lovely mid-weighted pinot, fleet of foot and balletic. A refined kit of sinuous tannins, crunchy acidity and the judicious use of whole bunches meld into a detailed structural lattice, evincing an authoritative tension. Lovely wine. Drink or hold. Screw cap. 

94 Points

This expressive wine displays impressive purity of fruit with excellent volume of dark cherry, dried herbs and terracotta aromas which are still tightly coiled and building. Quite structural in style with flavours of red earth and ironstone topped by a dusting of potpourri before a finish of supreme length. It is a sophisticated style, and takes a little time to get to know, but is well worth the effort. 

Lovely generous aromas of berry compote, damp earth, truffle and spice are seamless intertwined with quality French oak. It then takes a more savoury turn with touches of wood smoke, freshly turned earth with spicy, stalky tones building towards a meaty finish with firm drying tannins. A very serious Pinot expression that needs time to come out of its shell but will deliver in spades.

92 Points

Drink: 2028-2035

I had to double-check the vintage on this wine but it’s definitely a 2023 in 2023. Not that there’s anything greatly unusual about that.

Pear, lemon, a little flint, and sprays of hay and sawdust. Pure of fruit and integrated of oak. It tastes as young as it is; it’s not raw, but it’s really just building itself into an adult wine. Length, balance and flow all have an air of assurance.

This more generous vintage of Tapanappa Shiraz from 2018 delivers layers of dark cherry, fennel seed and cocoa aromas with fine oak well integrated. There is an excellent mix of power and subtlety to follow, flavours of fruit pastille and olive tapenade with juicy acidity building towards a savoury, spicy finish. Impressive all round balance with some good aging potential.

This controlled and well pitched Adelaide Hills Shiraz delivers ample blackberry, mulberry and liquorice aromas with a strong undercurrent of clove and allspice complexity. Compact and understated, it’s quite seamless now, the spicy aged complexity rising up in a plush package with tarry, smoky elements to finish. At peak but will drink well for a while longer.

This vineyard was planted on the Fleurieu Peninsula by Brian Croser 20 years ago and it quickly established a reputation for high class Pinot Noir. The 2022 was the outcome of a low cropping, cool vintage, which is reflected in a wine that combines elegance and underlying power. Love the chalky charry characters on the nose with a little lift of spice. The palate picks up that chalky character with the tannins threading deep through the medium bodied frame. Builds effortlessly to a sustained long finish. Excellent.

This patch of Dijon clones sits in shallow soils on an ironstone ridge that generally means lower crops and earlier ripening. A combination of chalky limestone with an ever so slightly ferruginous character seems to come straight from the soils of this excellent vineyard. It is light bodied yet powerful and intense with excellent concentration of sweet and sour fruit. Impressive wine.

From a small area planted 1979, then replanted with Dijon clones on a very close 1.5m spacing, the fruiting wire only 50cm above ground level. The yellow grapefruit is almost painfully intense and mouth-watering, the finish hypnotic.

Drink to 2042

97 Points

Brian Croser’s flagship Pinot Noir, comes from just ten rows of Dijon clones, 777 and 115, planted in the Foggy Hill Vineyard on the Fleurieu Peninsula. The name might sound a bit like a spell from Harry Potter (who among us can’t see Hermoine waving her wand and yelling ‘Definitus’, though who knows what the result would be), but that is all rather appropriate as the wine is a little bit spellbinding. Nine months in French oak barriques, 30% of them new.

A pale garnet/crimson. Exquisite aromas here, red cherries and blueberries intertwined, dry herbs, a hint of chinotto and spices. At this early stage, there is still a hint of oak evident, but it is well into the process of integration. The wine is finely balanced, showing early complexity and is seamlessly structured. There is gentle but fresh acidity. Impressive length. An utterly gorgeous Pinot with an exciting future. Love it.

95 Points

Brian Croser is one of Australia’s most innovative and legendary winemakers, a reputation forged over decades. At the Foggy Hill Vineyard on the Fleurieu Peninsula, he has turned his hand to Pinot Noir. This example is from the fine 2022 vintage. The wine spent time in French oak barriques, 30% of which were new.

A pale crimson hue. There is a stemmy, brambly note which kicks off the aromas here. Early complexity, which should only increase over time. Notes of undergrowth, animal skins, spices, a hint of white pepper, dry herbs and red fruits. This is balanced and supple with good acidity, as the complexity continues to grow. There is focus and a long finish, along which the intensity never waivers. This has further improvement in it. Enjoy any time over the next four to ten years.

94 points

A quite different beast to the ’22 pinot noir: more subtle, refined fragrance, less fruity, more structural, with layers of fine tannin and a great sense of restrained power.

Like the chardonnay, this deceptively fresh, juicy and youthful pinot is a joy to drink now – all snappy cherry fruit – but will drink well and develop for a decade at least.

Scintillating chardonnay, so pure, fresh and intense, with crystalline focus and thrilling presence. Ravishing now, in its youth, but will mature beautifully over many years.

Mealy nose and fine, precise fruit and acidity – just the right side of austerity! Needs time. But is impressively long.

Dark, impenetrable ruby and purple with a complex and savoury edged nose of violets, cassis, grilled cherry and plum, dried oregano, hints of mint tea, fig leaf, roasted meat, cedar, tobacco, graphite and a lift of sumac. Lots going on!
In the mouth it’s compact and drives with intensity and power. Black cherry, red licorice, blackberry, mulberry, anise and hints of olive leaf are carried by beautifully judged acidity and textured with elegant feathery tannins. Though bold, it’s very elegant, well balanced and finishes clean. A serious wine with plenty of layers to take notice of and admire.

Two decades after embarking on a passion project atop a foggy hill, Brian Croser is pouring wines that show the benefits of cooler vintages. From the upcoming Young Rich issue, out on October 27.

Max Allen Drinks columnist

I first visited Brian Croser’s Foggy Hill vineyard on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia in 2008. The then-five-year-old vineyard was the veteran winemaker’s new pinot noir passion project: a pioneering experiment in close-planted, low-trellised vines in a virtually unexplored, cool, high region.

“The vines look like a huddle of fairy penguins,” I wrote after that first visit to Foggy Hill, “crowding together to protect themselves from the elements. The small vineyard is perched on one of the last north-facing slopes on the peninsula; on the other side of the hill, there’s nothing but sea until you hit Antarctica, and the wind constantly blows across the top of the cowering vines.”

In 2008, Croser had made only two vintages from this young vineyard: it all felt very new. Fast-forward to 2023: to celebrate two decades of Foggy Hill, the winemaker has been touring the country hosting dinners and tastings, pouring vintages going back to the late 2000s, alongside new releases. Where does the time go?

As well as pinot noir from the Fleurieu Peninsula, Croser has also been showing off chardonnay from Tiers, the vineyard he and his wife, Ann, planted in 1979 in the Piccadilly Valley subregion of the Adelaide Hills – another example, at the time, of pioneering viticulture in a cool-climate part of South Australia. Over the four decades he’s been producing chardonnay from Tiers, first under the Petaluma brand, now as part of his Tapanappa label, Croser has learnt the best way to coax the purest fruit expression from the site.

“When we started in the 1980s, we were competing with wines like Rosemount’s Roxburgh chardonnay,” he says. “Oxidative juice handling and lots of lees stirring [to build texture in the wine], 100 per cent malolactic fermentation [which can produce soft, buttery flavours] and 100 per cent new oak [sweet vanilla flavours]. But after a while I thought, why am I doing this? I want to see the fruit, not the winemaking!”

So, he stopped putting his chardonnay through malolactic, started handling the juice more protectively – more like a riesling – and cut back new oak barrels to just 30 per cent. The result is – as you can see from my review – extremely impressive.

With Foggy Hill, the challenge has been to tame the tannins that come from the site’s terroir – the exposed slope, the sandy loam soils with ironstone deposits – and from the low-trained, low-yielding vines. In the case of Definitus, a “reserve” bottling from a specific part of the vineyard, Croser opted to embrace the more structured, age-worthy style of pinot that the site gives him.

“Definitus came about in 2017,” he says. “There’s a ridge of particularly rocky soil in the middle of the Foggy Hill slope where the vines are smaller, the grapes are smaller, they ripen earlier, and the flavours are more intense. So, from that year on, we decided to harvest it, make it, and bottle it separately.”

The winemaker is particularly happy to present the latest releases of Foggy Hill and Tiers because they’re from cooler, later, La Nina-influenced vintages – unlike the string of warmer, mostly El Nino vintages that South Australia’s winegrowers experienced from 2006 to 2019. “It’s such a joy to have had this string of cooler vintages from 2021 to 2023,” he says. “They’ve been sublime conditions for chardonnay and pinot noir.”

It feels like a long time ago – and also yesterday – that Croser established his fairy penguin vines on that foggy hill – and a lifetime since vines first went into the ground in the Piccadilly Valley in the late 1970s.

“You can imagine,” he says, “when you go to a new place for the first time, how much doubt there can be in your mind about what you’re doing. And of course you make mistakes. But eventually you learn to trust the vineyard. And gradually you begin to feel vindicated.”

Max Allen reviews …

Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay 2022 | Adelaide Hills $110 | Scintillating chardonnay, so pure, fresh and intense, with crystalline focus and thrilling presence. Ravishing now, in its youth, but will mature beautifully over many years.

Tapanappa Foggy Hill Pinot Noir 2022 | Fleurieu Peninsula $60 | Like the chardonnay, this deceptively fresh, juicy and youthful pinot is a joy to drink now – all snappy cherry fruit – but will drink well and develop for a decade at least.

Tapanappa Definitus Pinot Noir 2021 | Fleurieu Peninsula $90 | A quite different beast to the ’22 pinot noir: more subtle, refined fragrance, less fruity, more structural, with layers of fine tannin and a great sense of restrained power.

The inaugural Halliday Wine Companion Top 100 Wineries selected by Campbell Mattinson is a celebration of the best wineries of right now. Below is the list of wineries ranked from 26 to 50 from across Australia.

“In short, this is a list of producers who know, in their heart and in their head, that consumers don’t owe them a living. This is a list of producers who are prepared to stake their reputation on every single wine they release.” – chief editor Campbell Mattinson

29. Tapanappa
Piccadilly Valley, South Australia
There’s a strength to these wines. It serves them well young, it serves them well at maturity, it helps them have long and healthy lives. Tiers Chardonnay from one of the best chardonnay vineyards in the country; cabernet shiraz from one of the best (Whalebone) cabernet vineyards; pinot noir from a dramatically different (and considered) site, and specific releases thereafter from specific sections of vineyard. Every one of Tapanappa’s wines has presence.

5 ★ winery | Halliday profile | Tapanappa

It was a cool vintage but there’s plenty of weight to this release. There are ample twiggy spice notes too, or variations thereof, which is interesting given that the grapes were completely destemmed. Mace, green but fragrant herbs, and plum notes that come via both sweet and sour cherries. There’s the gloss of smoky, cedar oak here too but it’s immaculately well integrated. Another point of note is the tannin, which is both fine and tight. We have an excellent wine on our hands here.

95 points

This is an outstanding release. The combination of attractive strawberry and spice characters with firm tannins and exceptional length is enough to get any pinot lover’s heart racing. The flavours here really do soar on and on. Assertive tannin feels totally uncompromised, in the best of ways. We have a champion wine on our hands here, tailor-made for a 5–10 year stint in the cellar. Published 02 August 2023

96 points

Medium deep colour. Perfumed strawberry pastille hint chinotto aromas with savoury notes. Well concentrated strawberry pastille, cola, touch apricot flavours and supple textures. Finishes slinky and long. Lovely vinosity, complexity and mineral length.

95 points

Medium deep colour. Pure strawberry, red cherry, touch herb garden/ dried roses aromas and flavours. Supple and fresh with lovely inky density and some underlying vanilla notes. Finishes chalky and minerally. Classical in shape and style with very appealing fruit complexity and length.

95 points

Brian Croser’s Foggy Hill Vineyard in the Fleurieu Peninsula, south of McLaren Vale is one of South Australia’s most isolated vineyards. At its highest point at Parawa, it is possible to look over towards Encounter Bay where Matthew Flinders on the HMS Investigator and Nicolas Baudin on the Géographe met each other by accident on the 8th April 1802, 34 years before the foundation of South Australia. Not knowing whether England and France were at war, Matthew Flinders cleared his decks for action, but after flag signals, the encounter was cordial and the two swapped information about their explorations.

Brian Croser’s journey of exploration has also been a long story of entente cordiale with ambitions closely linked to making the finest wines possible in South Australia. Both his business interests and family have been interconnected with France through a joint venture with Champagne House Bollinger from the late 1980s, family bonds and ongoing ambitions to make wines of character and memory of place. Brian Croser’s reputation is hinged on his work and convictions as a grape grower. His belief in distinguished vineyard sites and consistency in messaging has been a foundation of Australia’s modern winemaking outlooks.

The most recent releases of Tapanappa Foggy Hill Pinot Noirs, highlight a remarkable dedication and ambition to create meaningful and memorable conversations around the potential of the grape variety in South Australia. It is now 20 years since Brian Croser planted his windswept and low-cropping Foggy Hill Vineyard at the apex of the Fleurieu Peninsula with Dijon clones. Like all ventures of this type, it seemingly takes half a lifetime to achieve meaningful results, but these newest releases show impressive progress and a new level of quality and complexity. Compared to other releases of this series, the wines show a compelling and authentic scent of place and the richness and mineral torque that comes with older vines and experienced winemaking. Although aged in French oak barriques, the percentage of new barrels is only around 33%, allowing fruit to unfold and the terroir to speak.

From the 2022 vintage, all Tapanappa wines are bottled under screwcap. This is a very welcome direction, which will no doubt create new and positive conversations. But the freshness, density and mineral length of the 2022 Foggy Hill Pinot Noir (screwcap) promises a very good medium-term future. The 2021 Foggy Hill Definitus Pinot Noir, (cork) a grand cru style based on specific micro-plots, reflects a cool season and is utterly delicious to drink. The pair are a lovely foil to each other with very similar weight and texture but differing line, impact and complexity.

2022 Foggy Hill Pinot Noir Fleurieu Peninsula – South Australia

Medium deep colour. Pure strawberry, red cherry, touch herb garden/ dried roses aromas and flavours. Supple and fresh with lovely inky density and some underlying vanilla notes. Finishes chalky and minerally. Classical in shape and style with very appealing fruit complexity and length.

Drink now – 2030 95 points

2021 Foggy Hill Definitus Pinot Noir Fleurieu Peninsula – South Australia

Medium deep colour. Perfumed strawberry pastille hint chinotto aromas with savoury notes. Well concentrated strawberry pastille, cola, touch apricot flavours and supple textures. Finishes slinky and long. Lovely vinosity, complexity and mineral length.

Drink now – 2032 95 points

This is like the regular Tapanappa Chardonnay but better, but more. Cinnamon scroll laced with creamy, lightly sour icing, melting white chocolate praline with a refreshing minty nuance. It has a solid base of peaches and apples. Satin-like confident cool flow, tightly packed energy with detail and a very long deep drive. An X factor wine, all beautifully built, melting but lively and merged seamlessly here for your unfettered pleasure. Don’t hold back. You deserve it.

96 Points

A little struck match, grapefruit, lemon oil, apple and lime, cinnamon pasty dough, white chocolate and mint, so much presence and power, with bitter lemon and zinging acidity, and zesty tang. Biscuits too, on its lively and very long finish, Intense. A whole lot of wine here.

96 Points

Gunflint. Ka-pow! This is pushing with such amazing energy to start. Zesty grapefruit, lemon pith and nectarines, all sitting on the just-underripe edge, zingy and zippy. A hint of cinnamon-dusted green apple, fresh dough and lavender with pink grapefruit. It has an amazing vitality in flavour. A great deal of savoury and fresh, vibrant and bursting with life. Chalky, raw and oozing. Long finish. I could drink it right now as is but it no doubt it could use some time to fuse and mellow.

95 points 

Matchstick, grapefruit and white nectarine, bit of cinnamon spice. Classic Hills Chardonnay with flinty texture, but also rich and cashew creamy, ribs of acidity, lively and zesty, a bit breathy with struck match at present, but pleasantly so for the most part, some cinnamon apple Danish, with a grapefruit acid finish of good length, smoothed by some almond paste. Needs a little time to settle, but really good.

94 points 

Gorgeously composed and expressed, showing dark berry, dried herb, charcuterie, rich floral and
nutmeg aromas on the nose, followed by a concentrated palate delivering fine texture and flowing
mouthfeel. Tannins are beautifully melded, making the wine splendidly harmonious and structured
with a sustained refined finish. At its best: now to 2030.

95 points 

It’s wonderfully complex and inviting on the nose with dark plum, olive, mixed spice and toasted
almond characters, followed by a richly expressed palate offering excellent weight backed by
silken texture and finely infused chalky tannins. Beautifully styled with classic structure as well as
supple mouthfeel, finishing long and engaging. At its best: now to 2030.

94 points 

Stylish and complex, the wine shows blackcurrant, sweet cherry, cedar, clove and rich floral
aromas on the nose. The concentrated palate delivers silky-smooth mouthfeel and plush texture,
splendidly framed by layers of polished tannins, finishing gracefully long and satisfying. At its
best: now to 2035.

95 points 

Another “near perfect” vintage remarks Brian Croser in the notes accompanying the release. Slightly warmer than 2021, but like that vintage it’s considered spot on – compared to the run of warmer years in the decade from around the 2010s.

Exquisite oak on presentation here, nougat and seasoning, a drizzle of honey, framing the introduction to the wine.

There’s an intensity to the wine on initial intro, grapefruity acidity that positively threads through the palate. Texture fills the cavity adding breadth to the exquisite length. Hints of lime, grapefruit add up to this excellent release.

97 Points

An incredibly intense chardonnay, mid-weighted and tightly furled. The edges are as chewy as they are sleek, with a parry of freshness melding with a thrust of oak, effortlessly subsumed by the sheer palate-staining extract. White peach, nectarine, peat and truffle. A creamy generosity, febrile energy and kaleidoscopic complexity, all in one. Excellent. 

96 Points

While the 1.5m Chardonnay sibling is arguably more impressive on release, this is resinous and latent with multitudinous layers of flavour compressed by classy oak and juicy acidity. I like the way the fruit is subdued in a quasi-burgundian fashion, with power packed behind. It will come. And it does. With air. Raw almond, hazelnut, quinine and Japanese radish. The barest hint of stone fruit. A long, saline linger. Give this time, for it is among the country’s greats.

97 Points

The Adelaide Hills is home to more than 50 cellar doors and over 90 wine labels. Less than half an hour from the CBD, the region is the ultimate weekend escape or long lunch destination. Take a cellar door tour and experience the cool-climate, contemporary wines on offer.

Tapanappa

The Tapanappa cellar door sits atop the winery at the foot of the oldest vineyard in the Adelaide Hills – The Tiers Vineyard. The Tiers Vineyard is recognised for its outstanding chardonnay which was first planted in 1979. A tree-lined clos frames the tasting vista, overlooking this spectacular vineyard in the beautifully cool Piccadilly Valley. Tapanappa is the continuation of the 40-year mission of pioneering winemaker Brian Croser and his family to make world-class wines from the most distinguished sites in South Australia. 

Tapanappa’s winery, cellar door and Tiers Vineyard are in the coolest, wettest location in the Adelaide Hills, which allows the team to make linear, but expressive, cool-climate chardonnay. They also make pinot noir from Parawa in the Fleurieu Peninsula and cabernet blends from Wrattonbully.  

Tapanappa is also home to Terre à Terre and Piccadilly sparkling wine DAOSA produced by Brian’s son-in-law and daughter Xavier and Lucy Bizot. 

Inside the cellar door, guests can enjoy a guided tasting of the wines from all three labels – Tapanappa, DAOSA and Terre à Terre – matched to local cheese and produce. The cellar door is the idyllic setting to relax and explore the complete range of wines across the three brands. Bookings are recommended and they are open seven days a week, 11am until 4pm. Group maximums of eight per tasting experience. All tasting experiences are $25 per person, or complimentary for wine club members. 

Winemaker Brian Croser says: We are passionate viticulturists. Tapanappa, DAOSA and Terre à Terre, all share a similar philosophy around fruit and vineyards. We own and manage our vines by hand, and hand-pick from each and every site. Winemaking is to complement and support the high quality of the fruit we’ve grown – such as considered use of French oak, and yeast cultures we’ve developed to suit the grapes.

Local favourite spot: We are very close to the beautiful Mount Lofty Gardens, which is perfect for a picnic. Brid is a wonderful coffee shop and bakery (from who we source our sourdough for our cellar door). We are lucky to have a number of pubs with great wines lists – The Crafers, The Stirling and The Stanley Bridge Hotel.

Find out more | 15 Spring Gully Road, Piccadilly | (08) 7324 5301 

Some (15%) whole bunches placed on bottom of fermentation tub, topped with destemmed, crushed must. Inoculated, 16-day fermentation followed by 5 days on skins. Matured 10 months in French barrique. 220 dozen made. The 2020 vintage was cooler than average, a welcome indicator of pinot quality. Elegance and detail go hand in hand here. Chalky in texture, taut in structure indicate it’s early days for this pinot, but then you meet the depth of fruit – black cherry, cranberry, pomegranate – and accompanying aromatics and spice, and there is plenty to enjoy right now.

95 points

The wine industry in Australia can be a parochial business, so kudos to an event in Victoria that is to put a spotlight on the wines of the Adelaide Hills.

For the first time, the International Cool Climate Wine Show on the Mornington Peninsula will showcase a wine region at its public tasting at the Rosebud Country Club on July 22 – and the cool-climate Adelaide Hills has been given the honour.

As part of the showcase, veteran Australian vigneron Brian Croser AO will present a masterclass on the emerging regions, focusing on its diverse topography; comparing its climate to famous French wine regions; and hosting a tasting of five-star Adelaide Hills wines.

“Much of South Australia’s winemaking fame has been rooted in warm regions of Barossa and McLaren Vale, so it’s understandable why many sommeliers look first to Victoria and Tasmania for their cool-climate Australian wine selections,” Croser says.

“Yet, when one looks at the relevant heat summation data, even the warmest parts of the Adelaide Hills are as cool as Bordeaux and Upper Rhone, and the cooler sites are comparable to Burgundy and Chablis.

“The Adelaide Hills firmly deserves its international cool-climate status.

“Having said that, Adelaide Hills is a diverse region, so I’ll be talking about which areas are best for growing certain cool-climate varieties, and I’ll be proving those points strongly with five exemplary wines as examples.

“These include DAOSA Blanc de Blancs Sparkling 2018, Geoff Weaver Sauvignon Blanc 2022, Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay 2021, Ashton Hills Reserve Pinot Noir 2021, and Shaw + Smith Balhannah Vineyard Shiraz 2020.”

See https://www.internationalcoolclimatewineshow.com/upcoming-events

Alex Trescowthick, President of the Adelaide Hills Wine Region, who will also be attending the event says: “We greatly appreciate this opportunity to showcase our cool-climate credentials among our peers. Adelaide Hills is somewhat the ‘new-kid-on-the-block’ of cool-climate wine regions because its modern winemaking history only began in the late 1970s.

“Brian Croser was at the forefront of that vision by being the first to plant chardonnay in Piccadilly Valley back then. So it’s wonderful to have him present this masterclass which is borne from 43 years of expertise in the Adelaide Hills.”

Brian Croser has been a leading figure in the Australian wine industry since Moses was a boy.

His winemaking legacy includes the names of Croser and Petaluma, and his Tapanappa wines and he still lives on his original Tiers vineyard in the Adelaide Hills.

© Tapanappa | Brian Croser is one of South Australia’s most respected winemakers

What would Brian Croser say to his younger self? “Be patient, and trust the vineyard. The mistakes I’ve made in winemaking, which are legion, are because I’ve lost faith in the vineyard and I’ve done things I’ve found later to be wrong.”

Croser is not known for losing his nerve, or indeed for changing his opinions, but the 20 years or so in which he lost Petaluma and then launched Tapanappa have seen him refine his approach, in particular to Chardonnay. And Chardonnay, in particular his Tiers vineyard, is his flagship, the wine that is most where he wants it to be. “It took time,” he says; “I’m a slow learner. Slower than the vines.”

If you want to understand his Chardonnay you have to see it in the context of Riesling. When he started making wine, in the 1970s, Riesling was Australia’s main white grape. When Croser went to study at Davis (he got Tom Hardy to hire him and then send him to UC Davis (you have to hand it to him for his powers of persuasion), where he met the Davis way of making Chardonnay. This he sums up now as good-enough but not great fruit, sculpted in the winery via juice oxidation, full malo and lees-stirring to make something resembling white Burgundy.

Most people at Davis did it that way, he says. “I followed the Riesling path of protecting the fruit, and making wine that reflected the fruit in the vineyard.” And, he adds, he focused on using great fruit, not just fruit that was merely good enough. “The nexus between the two approaches is part of my whole life in wine.”

So there you have it. He has just visited California again. “I had arguments with them in 1972-3, and I’m still having those arguments.’

But now he has moved conclusively away from that Davis approach, and the latest vintages of Tiers are wines of such purity and delicacy – what has changed?

Rather a lot, and not just in the cellar.

New beginnings

He lost Petaluma in 2002. “In that year I was a sad person. I didn’t think that I was sad, but Ann [Mrs Croser] did. I was 54 and I still had some working life left, but I’d lost the opportunity to take it to another level. Ann encouraged me to buy a farm on the Fleurieu Peninsula – a sheep farm, not to plant grapes.”

Croser likes sheep, so as therapy goes this was rather a good idea.

Six months later he planted his first vines there; surprise, surprise. This is the Foggy Hill vineyard, and it consists of three clones of Pinot Noir from Dijon: 114, 115 and 777, which all originally came from a Ponsot vineyard in Morey St Denis. The site is eight kilometres from the coast, 350 metres high, on a slope with its back to the ocean, which saves it from being blown away.

There is a ridge in the middle of the vineyard with thinner soil, where the grapes ripen earlier: in 2017 he decided to make this block separately, and the wine is called Definitus.

But we’re jumping ahead. In 2002 he also bought the Whalebone vineyard at Wrattonbully in a joint venture with Champagne Bollinger and Jean-Michel Cazes of Bordeaux. (It became fully Croserowned in 2014.) It’s named for a fossil whale discovered in a cave there; it’s about 20km north of Coonawarra and was originally planted, with Bordeaux varieties and Shiraz, by the town architect of Adelaide in 1974.

The soil looks the same as that of Coonawarra, he says, but actually it’s quite different: Coonawarra’s limestone is about a million years old, whereas at Wrattonbully a geological fault has pushed much older limestone, some 34m years old, up under the same terra rossa. The temperature is the same as at Coonawarra and so is the wind; but the wine is different. “I wanted to own it because the fruit was so good,” he says now.

So: one winery lost, two vineyards gained. The final part of the jigsaw was getting back the winery.

He first planted Tiers with Chardonnay in 1978. It’s in the cool, wet Piccadilly Valley, it was the first vineyard he had planted, and he believed it to be a great site. It’s on the slope just below his house.

In 2006 Petaluma (by then owned by Lion Nathan) sold him the winery back, but it took until 2015 for the Crosers (and he gives credit for this to Ann) to get complete control back.

“I’d been thinking about my way of making Chardonnay,” he says. “I was caught in the dichotomy between my Riesling approach and the Californian approach based on Burgundy.

“In 2015 I completely changed tack with Tiers. I eliminated the malo and all lees stirring, and I took the new oak down from 50 percent to 30 percent. I’d been doing that progressively since 2010, when it had been 50 percent new oak and 100 percent malo. And I couldn’t be happier. If you think these wines are too fruity, don’t tell me.”

You’d have to be fairly brave to do that, admittedly, and luckily there is no need. When Croser describes his wines as reflecting the primary fruit from the vineyard, don’t get the idea that these wines just taste of primary fruit. This is a remarkable vineyard, 40 years old now, and it gives remarkable flavours. There is smoke and salt and tension, even an ethereal quality, and great precision. Beautiful texture, too: this texture is what Croser reckons sets Tiers apart.

That vine age of course matters. “At 40 years old you get sclerotic vines [“like us”, interjects Ann] that give low crops. He believes in exposing the fruit to sun very early, so that it acclimatises to ultraviolet light. “They develop an immunity,” he says. “You can follow the chemical transition from chlorophyll to chemicals that absorb UV, and effectively detox.”

And Tiers has been helped in recent vintages by SAM. At the moment, Croser is quite pleased with SAM.

SAM is the Southern Annual Modulation, which moves around and gives highs and lows across Australia and the ocean. In 2019, he says, SAM was all extremes, and it picked up wind and heat as it went. “The whole of Australia was on fire from August 2019 until the end of January 2020. Then SAM changed and became positive in the middle of the growing season, and it became the coldest second half we’ve ever had. It canceled out the first half.”

SAM has stayed put, so far, and not moved up again. It brings up cold air from Antarctica: “I’m happy with SAM”. Particularly if it doesn’t bring rain: “Tiers won’t stand the rain,” he says, which sounds like the title of a song, if anyone felt like writing it.

“One of the great privileges of my life has been to take a piece of land where grapes have never been, and work out how to make wine, over 30 years. I’m getting there with Foggy Hill, and I’m there with Tiers.

“If the season is within the bounds of the terroir, it will deliver.” But Tiers, it seems, can fool him. In youth, it can seem less good; less good than the slightly earlier ripening Tiers 1.5M block, which itself can seem less good than the Piccadilly Valley blend. In time it changes, he says, but there was a moment when he lost faith in what he was getting from the vineyard.

It was in 2011, a cool year… “I decided, when I picked, that I would relegate it to Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay, and I did. But the vintage got black marks from the critics, and it was very difficult to sell. It was my worst decision.”

Which is why he says, trust the vineyard. And if there was just one variety he could grow, it would be Chardonnay. “It used to be Riesling, but that changed.”

The inherent power and confidence of Tiers is intricately toned by the tension and grace of this cool season, defining a linear and taut style of tremendous endurance and promise. The richness of this place rumbles away in the background with one-third new oak providing ample support. Tremendous line and length promise great things in time. 

95 points

While the quality of Australian Chardonnay is improving exponentially, Brian Croser’s Tiers remains among the finest as it glides into its fifth decade. Consecutive, near perfect and slightly cooler vintages in the Piccadilly Valley in the Adelaide Hills have once again produced a delicate and pure white with grapefruit and nectarine flavours: satisfying in the mid-palate, yet ith a tight, minerally edge. 

From the Shining Rock vineyard, which has a history of turning out impressive and detailed Shiraz, this is a charming, mid-weight style with a pretty array of fruits, from fruit pastilles and dark cherry to gentle touches of spice and earth, well matched oak providing an attractive background. There is then a fine mix of juicy acidity and a supple texture that come together to offer an elegant and refined finish. Enjoy this wine young when that bright fruit is at its peak.

90 points 

Subtle bouquet of white peach and lemon zest with tones of savoury and herbaceous notes. Creamy on the palate, with a very refreshing acidity.

GOLD, 96 points 

As ever with Tiers, this needs a few years to see its full potential (as this vertical showed). And this 2022 release feels achingly young. Too young for now. On the first pass against the rest of the wines in this bracket, I wasn’t impressed tbh. ‘Unbalanced’ said my note. But I came back an hour later and wanted a bottle of this in the cellar instead. The structure marks this as a superstar, with a chewiness that reminded me of the 2014 vintage (which was also a late vintage, FWIW). Interestingly, compared to the other wines in this bracket it smells like a much riper, more voluminous Chardonnay – there are these hints of orange and toast on the nose that is so different (and bigger). Robust. But the palate is so very tight, with the cool year (fruit picked two weeks later than normal) giving this such chewiness, with the Riesling-like pH of 2.97 saying that. At the moment the oak (1/3rd new) isn’t integrated either. sitting alongside that fruit power. But I can’t deny that all the elements are there for it to be great, and the persistence was arguably a step above anything in this quintet. My score then is almost a placeholder. Best drinking: Give it two years for a start. Then drink over a decade. 18.5/20, 94/100+. 13.8%, $110. Would I buy it? I’d love a bottle for the cellar.

18.5/20, 94/100 

There is little difference quality-wise to the M3 & the Tiers 1.5m, and separating them was just hair-splitting. This is even more linear and coiled than the M3, and I suspect it will be longer lived. Doesn’t feel as open, though. Sourced from a block of tightly spaced vines on the Tiers vineyard, the 1.5m is a rather different wine to the Tiers below, too – more modern and more approachable. Again, cool and coiffed cool Adelaide Hills style, with that just ripe white peach mode and stony back palate. There isn’t the nectarine flourish, but there is this unspoken, almost chewy power to it too. I’d still like a bit more width – the back palate acidity feels a bit grainy (a higher proportion of malo wouldn’t be unwelcome again here), but that just contributes to the energy. A seriously fine modern Chardonnay. Best drinking: from next year and over the next decade. Would I buy it? Yes.

18.5/20, 94/100.  

Intense and singular lemon juice aroma, traces of tropical flowers, all delicate and restrained, a tickle of sweetness before a cleansing firmness helps dry the finish. A punchy style with a little hardness but good intensity, and food would make this wine really stand up.

94 points

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