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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
52/24/24% cabernet sauvignon/merlot/cabernet franc, each fermented separately. Matured for 20 months in new French barriques before blending; 420 dozen made. Poor flowering and fruit set in 2020 resulted in a Whalebone Vineyard crop of just 1t/ha. It was decided to blend all three varieties and release it as a young wine. Displays all the immediate fresh and juicy appeal that comes with Wrattonbully fruit, with a solid core of ripe blackberry, dark spices, anise, a touch of Aussie bush/eucalypt and well-integrated vanilla-pod flashes of oak. Well trimmed on the palate in beautifully crafted tannins.
An intensely flavoured and tensile Riesling, fidelitous to region and hand. The quotient of lime, orange blossom, ginger crystal and spiced Granny Smith apple portioned nicely in the name of poise, approachability and yet, real potential for the cellar. I like the chew as much as the freshness, with a whiff of kerosene keeping it in house.
Dijon clones; aged in French barriques (30% new). A pretty pinot with a cherry and plum duo that provide the heart of both bouquet and palate. It’s a base for the spices and rose petals that will appear over the next two to three years, in the meantime the juicy mouthfeel of the palate will do the work.
Sourced from a troika of cool-climate sites, this is a delicious chardonnay: mid-weighted and tense with glazed quince, tangerine and stone fruit allusions curled across some honeycomb oak (33% new) and a chord of acid vibrato. Almond meal and toasted hazelnut at the core, conferring a nudge of creaminess. A great white wine vintage, for sure. Lovely drinking across the early to mid-term.
On 11 April we were yet to begin the harvest for all but a young block of Foggy Hill Pinot Noir that was harvested on 5 April.
In an average year we would have harvested all three of our vineyards by April 11.
After 54 diverse vintages, none the same as any other, I do expect the unexpected but 2023 was destined to be the latest of those 54.
193 days before, the first stirrings of the vine buds in our three distinguished sites, initiated a season of anxiety. After a winter of above average rainfall, the soil profile was saturated and cold as the buds tentatively began their new season’s journey in mid-September, two to three weeks later than average.
The die was well and truly cast for a late harvest after the spring months’ (September, October and November) day temperatures were 1.3C colder than average, inhibiting the growth of the new shoots after their late emergence.
Consistent with bud burst, flowering was attenuated and 2 – 3 weeks late.
The culprit was SAM again! The weather engine of the south coast of Australia is SAM (Southern Annular Modulation) and it has remained in positive mode throughout the spring and summer of the 2023 growing season. Positive SAM means the weather systems arriving from the west are crossing the Great Southern Ocean to the south of the Australian continent, delivering cool Antarctic air onto the southern coast. 2023 growing season is now the fourth in a row of SAM being positive.
The cool winds of the front edge of the slow easterly moving high pressure systems, have consistently blown into our vineyards from the southeast inhibiting the flowering process and delaying berry development. The result is a small late crop. Given the lateness of the season and the low ripening temperatures, a small crop is better than a large one.
A peculiarity of this late and cool season is that we harvested all three vineyards at the same moment. Normally the Pinot Noir from Foggy Hill is harvested in mid-March, followed by Chardonnay from the Tiers Vineyard at the end of March then finally Cabernet Sauvignon from the Whalebone in early April.
Never have we harvested all three vineyards at the same time. This coincident harvest-imposed allocation stress on manpower, machinery and picking bins.
On 12 April, we removed the bird nets from the Tiers Chardonnay in preparation for harvest, there were rain showers around and the air temperature was 12C. I was very grateful to see some fruit arrive at the winery door.
The positives of a cool late growing season are the moderate sugar levels ensuring moderate alcohols, the fine intense fruit flavours and the high balancing natural acid. 2023 is likely to produce a Chablis like version of Tiers Chardonnay.
I had to make a decision on the night of the 11th, in the hours that should be for sleeping not decision making. I had intended to harvest Foggy Hill Pinot Noir on the 13th and had arranged for bird nets to come off in preparation.
The maturity curves for each vineyard reflected the natural terroir driven sequence of ripening between our distinguished vineyard sites. I would expect Foggy Hill Pinot Noir to be harvested two weeks ahead of Tiers Chardonnay and that in turn two weeks ahead of Whalebone Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2023 exceptionally late harvest has jammed all three vineyards up against the wall of the end of vine function as the autumn temperatures closed the vines down.
Then, on the night of the 11th, sometime after midnight, I noticed the Australian Bureau of Meteorology began forecasting a major low pressure system wet weather event for the next weekend, impacting the Adelaide Hills. The Tiers Chardonnay would be detrimentally affected by heavy rain at its state of advanced maturity.
I had a decision to make, harvest Foggy Hill or Tiers, leaving one vineyard at the mercy of the weekend’s weather event?
After hours of agonising, in the predawn hours of the morning, I rang my vineyard manager and arranged for the net removal and picking crews to be at the Tiers Vineyard, instead of Foggy Hill, redirected as they arrive for work. Tiers Chardonnay was harvested in dry autumn conditions on the 13th.
The fate of Foggy Hill Pinot Noir hung in the balance, but I was hopeful for less rain on the weekend at Foggy Hill at Parawa on the Fleurieu Peninsula, the steep slopes of the vineyard would allow better runoff, there would be drying winds from the ocean and Pinot Noir has tougher skins than ripe Chardonnay. That was my rationale, and I was committed.
The loose bunch, small berry Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in Whalebone Vineyard would hang through the rain intact. In the end we harvested all of Whalebone before the rain. The plumper berried Merlot was harvested on the 12th and the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc on the 13th and 14th .
On Thursday the 13th we harvested the beautiful Chardonnay from the Tiers Vineyard. We completed the harvest of another of our Piccadilly Valley vineyards, Pat and Ted’s on the 14th before the predicted rain event on Friday night materialised. Whew!
Before the rain, I travelled the 1.5 hours down to Foggy Hill to sample and inspect the Pinot Noir grapes hanging on the exhausted vines. The fruit was in near perfect condition begging to be picked. What would it look like after the weekend’s rain event when we start to harvest the following Monday? I was praying it would be resilient, and that the gamble I made on the night of the 11th would pay off.This is all part of a vigneron’s life. Never the same, never boring, always providing a story to tell as part of the final wine in the bottle.
The harvest was over by April the 18th, a gloriously typical autumn day in the Adelaide Hills. It was as if the Piccadilly Valley was a painted autumn landscape. Everything so still, not even a quivering leaf, the autumn green gold of the vineyards signalling their year’s work was done. The frenetic activities of harvest finalised a vintage year of high anxiety. The vineyards are saying leave us alone, let us rest before the winter takes over and the cycle begins again.
We finished harvesting Foggy Hill on the 17th, the last of our three vineyards to be harvested. Perversely, it is usually the first. The expected rain on the weekend of the 15th materialised, as 40mms of rain in two short bursts that the Pinot Noir fruit hanging on the vines in Foggy Hill had to endure before it was harvested on the 17th. It endured heroically, with no detriment to the fruit.
The Tiers Chardonnay was harvested before the rain, on the 13th of April, and we had to sort about 1% of the bunches out from the picking bins because of the incipient Botrytis infection, a function of Chardonnay’s thinner more fragile berry skins, the very late harvest and the consistently moist conditions of mid-autumn.
Had the Chardonnay been left on the vine over the wet weekend, the level of Botrytis would have likely ballooned, to the extent it would have changed the taste of the wine, partially masking the native terroir flavours and aroma of the Tiers Chardonnay. Those Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay attributes are why we are here, growing grapes in this fickle environment.
The cooler coastal vineyards of Australia, including our three distinguished sites have suffered diminished yields. Our vineyards in the Piccadilly Valley (Adelaide Hills), the Southern Fleurieu Peninsula and Wrattonbully are all down on average yields by half. 2023 vintage has produced very expensive grapes from full vineyard expenses and half the crop.
The crops are down in our vineyards because of the very cool and windy spring flowering season, a function of our dominant weather system, SAM (Southern Annular Modulation). SAM’s cold south-easterly winds blowing through our vineyards at flowering inhibited fruit set and diminished the final crop. The quality of the small late crop of Chardonnay from Tiers, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc from the Whalebone, and finally the Pinot Noir from Foggy Hill is all very high. Higher than I anticipated and much higher than I feared.
We are vignerons in cool fickle regions because of our passion for quality.
The low crop level and impact on profitability will only be addressed much later, the primary concern of cool climate vignerons at harvest is monomaniacally focussed on the quality of the crop and the implicit quality and style of the wine produced.
In 2023 we have high natural acids and intense fruit flavours in our Tiers Chardonnay juice, the same in our Pinot Noir and Cabernet musts along with vibrant colours and grown-up tannins as we begin the fermentations.
It is a moment of huge relief to have it all in the winery, sound and very promising.
What we do from here is almost mundane, as we shepherd the native fruit quality of the vineyard terroir through the winemaking process, losing nothing of the vibrancy and intensity of this unique 2023 vintage.
In the end cool climate vignerons are not gamblers, although we are sometimes forced to make contingent picking decisions based on weather. Always we have to accept what mother nature delivers and make the most of it.
We are optimists, always hoping this next vintage will be the very best of all, knowing it will at the least, be different from all the preceding others in unexpected ways. 2023 vintage in our three distinguished site vineyards perfectly answered the description of unexpected and unique.
The final heat summation analysis of the three Tapanappa distinguished sites tell the story of the late and cool 2023 vintage;
Ultimately, this Tapanappa Whalebone Merlot Cabernet Franc 2018 is too firm and ripe to be great. But maybe, just maybe, it’s too young by half and I’m going to look like an idiot when it’s a blinder next decade. Try a bottle and report back in 2032?
Anyway, this red from the Croser family’s Wratonbully property certainly aims for greatness – it smells of mint and dark berry fruit and raisins and expensive wood. There is an initial flourish on the palate of minty dark fruit but then it gets so tannic and drying. Too drying. The length is super – it powers on with the minty firm tannins. But gee it’s heading down the desiccation route. Is the fruit enough to deal with that hardness? I don’t know. It might well look great in time IF it doesn’t dry out in the meantime.
Best drinking: later. Five years for a start.
Medium deep crimson. Chinotto, plum vanilla, roasted chestnut aromas with herb garden notes. Evolved dark plum, mulberry flavours, fine loose knit grainy, hint leafy tannins well-balanced mocha roasted chestnut marzipan oak notes and well balanced fresh acidity. Finishes claret firm with leafy notes. Drink now – 2035.
Medium deep crimson. Lovely intense blackcurrant, blackberry, hint chinotto aromas with vanilla, marzipan, roasted chestnut notes. Grainy textured and velvety with lovely inky blackcurrant, mulberry fruits, cedary textures and underlying vanilla/ marzipan notes. Finishes slinky firm and minerally. Very good balance, density and torque. Drink 2026 – 2038
From Brian Croser’s pioneer Piccadilly Valley vineyard, this is an all-enveloping Chardonnay experience, captivatingly ripe in its aromatic and flavour profile, white peach/nectarine with grapefruit inserts, a sense of creaminess, vanilla shortbreads and a faint spicy oak backdrop, which comes across as a rich palate feel though cut neatly with a delicate citrus acidity in the finish, encouraging multiple revisits to the glass. Delicious and distinctive.
From Brian Croser’s Parawa vineyard at the southern corner of the Fleurieu Peninsula, air and sea-conditioned by the energized Southern Ocean and especially so during the cooler than average 2020 growing season, which has brought to this wine a delightfully tempered ripeness, its fruit suggestions in the blueberry zone with attractive floral top notes to begin. Further interest develops in the multitude of savoury elements that follow: umami, a subtle chariness, exotic spice senses, fennel bulb and black pepper, all the while holding onto its berry juiciness. This provides a refreshing offset to a dusting of gentle, inclusive tannins, a distinctive textural feel that holds the palate together sensitively. From nose to tail this is a beguiling and expressive wine of great style and sophistication.
Pale colour. Fresh lifted pear drop, white peach, lemon curd, grilled nut aromas. Well concentrated and Pale colour. Very attractive grapefruit lemon curd, tonic water aromas with marzipan, vanilla notes. Classical, beautifully balanced and multi-layered wine with grapefruit, lemon curd, tonic water flavours, grilled nut, marzipan notes, chalky hint grippy textures and pure crisp acidity. Very good volume, richness, fruit complexity and mineral length. Drink now – 2030
This is a Chardonnay that is screaming for the cellar, and at least three or four years thanks to its current state which is wound up tight as a spring. It is bursting with embryonic aromas – grapefruit and tonic water with a strong mineral line well matched to spicy, fine grained oak. The palate repeats with forceful acidity only adding to the experience, the whole package beautifully balanced, immaculate and composed with a nice touch of smoky flint to finish. Super wine and great value but not ready.
This is an immaculate Chardonnay and one of best Tiers vintages yet with every element in its perfect place. It opens with beautifully precise and detailed aromas of grapefruit, honeydew melon and chalky minerality topped by fine new oak all tightly wrapped. The palate then delivers fantastic extract and volume of pristine fruit underpinned by a bolt of fresh acidity that drives a long, sustained cashew scented finish. Super impressive and will deliver for many years, but give it time to flower.
Too much. That’s the challenge with both the latest Tapanappa Whalebone reds. This is a bit easier than the Merlot Cab, but still heavy-going, despite the obvious quality.From a warm, dry Wrattonbully vintage (Heat summation of 1799 degree days vs 1464 average). 20 months in 50% new oak. It smells of oak barrels – milk chocolate, currants. plum, brick dust and berry liqueur. Oak is the dominant feature here, a cloak that hides the terroir and character. It’s unequivocally more balanced than the Merlot Cabernet, but it’s also a heavyset red that is more about winery than region. I can admire the length and impact (still a strong silver medal score), but this is much harder to drink than it should be. Best drinking: definitely later. A good five years would be welcome.
Deep, dark and inky in the glass. Lifted aromas of mulberry, blackcurrant, bramble, tobacco, menthol and oak. Rich, dark fruit and oaky on the palate, there’s a lush core of brooding mulberry fruit, plum, cola and firm granular tannins. Powerful, structured and a little chunky at this point, will certainly reward cellaring
Tapanappa Piccadilly Valley Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay 2022, $110. It is almost impossible to get the double consonants correct with this wine, but that is irrelevant, it is such a delicious chardonnay it is almost sacrilege to put it in the fridge and dull the flavours even the slightest. But if you must, or if you live in the tropics. Perfect wine for a coronation.
Tapanappa Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay, 2022, $49. This is one of the cheapest in a range of what is likely Australia’s finest chardonnay stable, and if you’re looking for somewhere to start you’re rewarded with something not that far from the top.
Pale colour. Very attractive grapefruit lemon curd, tonic water aromas with marzipan, vanilla notes. Classical, beautifully balanced and multi-layered wine with grapefruit, lemon curd, tonic water flavours, grilled nut, marzipan notes, chalky hint grippy textures and pure crisp acidity. Very good volume, richness, fruit complexity and mineral length. Drink now – 2030
Pale colour. Fresh lifted pear drop, white peach, lemon curd, grilled nut aromas. Well concentrated and mPale colour. Lifted grapefruit, nectarine, lemon curd aromas with tonic water, grilled almond notes. Well balanced and delicious drinking chardonnay with fresh sinuous grapefruit, nectarine, lemon curd flavours, some tonic water notes, fine lacy/ chalky textures, attractive mid palate creaminess/ density and fresh integrated minerally acidity. Hint grippy at the finish, but very good length of flavour. Drink now – 2028
Pale colour. Fresh lifted pear drop, white peach, lemon curd, grilled nut aromas. Well concentrated and minerally wine with ample stone fruit, tonic water, grilled nut flavours, fine chalky, touch al dente textures, very good mid -palate volume/ viscosity and integrated fresh crisp acidity. Touch of aniseed at the finish. Drink now – 2030
Here’s a mature wine – ready to enjoy right now – that is also a current release from Brian Croser’s excellent Tapanappa stable of wines. Fresh and juicy, but also stylish and sophisticated, it is a blend of Australia’s two classic red varieties from two regions: the cabernet from the Whalebone Vineyard on the Limestone Coast and the shiraz grapes from Mount Barker in the Adelaide Hills. It has dark mulberry and blackcurrant fruit flavours and savoury notes in impressive harmony. There is a lot happening on the palate but the end result is a wine of balance and structure, with impressive tannins. There is some cedary French oak on the scene, as well, but playing a support role. Pair with a lamb casserole and enjoy with good friends.
I looked at this over the course of 48 hours, by accident rather than by design, and I much preferred it with a bit of air in it. It’s driven by limey acidity and while its quality is clear from the outset, it really comes into its own once its pear flavours are allowed to reach full voice, and its sweet-spicy oak settles in, and its tinned peach characters reach an equal pitch to the lime-like notes. It’s then a glorious chardonnay, flavoursome and refreshing, long and sophisticated, full of run and yet measured and controlled at the same time.
|Wrattonbully, in South Australia’s Limestone Coast region, is home to two powerhouse wine families from opposite sides of the world now entwined by marriage. Sarah Ahmed chats with Australian wine legend Brian Croser and his son-in-law Xavier Bizot of the Bollinger Champagne house, and tastes through some recent releases.|
Bringing impetus to Croser’s bold pursuit of distinguished sites – first at Petaluma then Tapanappa – the Bizots have helped engineer a new Australian fine wine landscape in both Wrattonbully and Adelaide Hills. One which now also finds expression in Terre à Terre, the label Bizot and wife Lucy Croser established in 2008.
How did these families from opposite sides of the world attract, and how do Tapanappa and Terre à Terre compare?
The meeting of minds between Brian Croser and Christian Bizot drew inspiration from California. It was here Croser studied his masters in viticulture and oenology at UC Davis (and fell in love with Chardonnay). Between 1972 and 1973 he was one of the last to study under such legendary professors as AJ Winkler and Maynard Amerine.
Californian viticulturalists had been using Winkler’s growing degree days system (matching varieties to climate) for some time. It underpinned the state’s nascent but precocious boutique wine industry which, in 1976, famously triumphed over benchmark Burgundy and Bordeaux in the Judgement of Paris.
The Winkler index informed Croser’s ‘belief in the expression of distinguished sites through the choice of suited variety and appropriate planting regimes’. He says this belief ‘has never wavered and has been reinforced continually’ in his 50-year career.
Armed with his ‘golden rule’ for matching Australian sites to Burgundian and Bordelais grapes – ‘close to a metre of rain a year and then a cool climate, at altitude’ – Croser located his first brand, Petaluma, at 450m in the Adelaide Hills’ highest, wettest, coolest point: the Piccadilly Valley.
In 1979, he planted his Tiers Vineyard (‘Adelaide Hills’ first 20th century vineyard’) to Chardonnay at 3,175 vines per hectare. This was revolutionary, compared with Australia’s then typical 1,000-1,500 vines/ha.
Croser was aiming for a style ‘somewhere between Chevalier-Montrachet and California’. In 2003, when he replanted a parcel to Burgundy clones at 4,444 vines/ha, Chevalier-Montrachet ‘my mind’s eye inspiration’.
The French connection
When Croser visited Champagne in 1984 to find a partner for Petaluma’s ‘Croser’ sparkling wine project, he discovered that Christian Bizot was equally receptive to California’s application of science in pursuit of terroir.
The following year Bollinger not only became Petaluma shareholders, but also partnered with British brewers Whitbread and Tuscany’s Antinori, to plant the pioneering Atlas Peak Vineyard at altitude in the Napa Valley.
In 1995, Bizot acquired a Piccadilly Valley site at 550m for sparkling production. With Croser’s guidance, it was planted at similar density to Tiers, with multiple Chardonnay clones and a small block of Pinot Noir.
Following Petaluma’s takeover by Lion Nathan in 2001, Croser and Bizot founded Tapanappa a year later, cutting in a third partner, the Cazes family of Lynch-Bages in Pauillac.
Rather than planting from scratch (or acquiring a vineyard in Coonawarra, where Petaluma had focused its Bordeaux blend ambitions), Tapanappa acquired the Koppamurra Vineyard in Wrattonbully, renaming it Whalebone Vineyard.
Located on South Australia’s Limestone Coast, Wrattonbully shares Coonawarra’s famously well-drained terra rossa over (older) limestone soil. But Croser observed that Wrattonbully’s cool but less windy conditions ‘bridged St-Emilion and Tain l’Hermitage’.
Being sufficiently maritime to ripen Bordeaux varieties but also continental enough for Shiraz, the Whalebone Vineyard became a seat of ambition for that iconic Australian red blend of Cabernet-Shiraz. Initially to supply Tapanappa with fruit, Croser also planted the vineyard next to Whalebone in 2004. His daughter Lucy and husband Xavier named it Crayères, and managed it from France for a year before settling in Australia in 2005.
From France to Wrattonbully
Following the 2008 global financial crisis, the young Bizots were faced with a difficult decision, as it became obvious that Tapanappa could not absorb all the harvest from the Crayères Vineyard.
Deciding to take on both management and fruit and make their own wine, the couple founded Terre à Terre.
Xavier’s country of origin may have informed the name of the vineyard and brand, but not the wines. With ‘a fondness’ for Cabernet-Shiraz, the former lawyer says he now feels at ease in his RM Williams boots.
The Bizots vision for Terre à Terre’s Daosa sparkling wines is ‘radically different’ from Champagne or any of Australia’s early-picked Champagne wannabes. ‘Our climate, our sunshine, our soils make fruitier and more approachable wines,’ asserts Xavier, ‘so they are distinctively Australian and all the better for it.’
Sourced exclusively from the Piccadilly Valley vineyard his father planted in 1995 (which Xavier and Lucy now own), Daosa’s full-bodied Blanc de Blancs – a Platinum winner at the 2020 Decanter World Wine Awards – is a testament to the quality.
Terre à Terre’s finely honed, perfumed Wrattonbully reds evoke stereotypical Old World descriptors, versus Tapanappa’s big-boned, densely concentrated, more savoury New World style.
This is particularly evident in Terre à Terre’s Crayères Cabernet Franc, planted from Whalebone cuttings. This might be expected, given Whalebone’s vines are 30 years older and Terre à Terre also uses large-format oak foudres.
While pointing out ‘how elegantly and freshly’ Tapanappa’s Whalebone 2004, 2006 and 2008 Cabernet Francs have aged, Croser nevertheless has ‘absolutely no doubt’ that Crayères’ precocious refinement reflects his higher- density planting regime of 4,444 vines/ha.
It was a regime also implemented at the Tiers Vineyard and Foggy Hill – Croser’s Pinot Noir vineyard in Parawa, the highest point of the Fleurieu Peninsula.
In the family
Spelling out the benefits of high-density planting for ripening in Australia’s cooler climates, Bizot explains it ‘devigorates’ and, by increasing the canopy per hectare, improves fruit spread and sunshine exposure.
Croser forecasts that in 10 years’ time ‘Crayères will be the equivalent of or better than Whalebone, with the same density and same seriousness of tannin, but it will always retain its more floral, juicy fruit element.’
Does it annoy him that Crayères is no longer a Tapanappa vineyard? ‘No,’ he insists. ‘It’s in the family. There are separate ownership structures, but the ambition of everybody is to make a success out of all our assets.’
And it’s not just Croser’s daughter Lucy and husband Xavier who are part of the wider Croser winemaking family. Sam Barlow, the husband of his youngest daughter, Caroline, manages the Tapanappa winery where both labels are made and bottled.
In 2014, the Croser family bought out Bollinger and the Cazes family, taking full ownership of Tapanappa.
Reflecting on the ‘immense’ importance of the two families’ roles during his ‘long and mostly lonely battle’ to improve and promote Australian fine wine, Croser describes Christian Bizot and Jean-Michel Cazes as ‘revered mentors’.
Their French perspective gave him confidence to continue on the ‘terroir pathway’ that he discovered as a student in California.
Realising the vision
Despite Croser’s successes, it’s been a rollercoaster ride. ‘Like vines, winemakers mature with time,’ he says wryly.
Reflecting on his vision for Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay all those years ago, Croser says that while he can identify a similar intensity and delicacy of power between Tiers Chardonnay, Chevalier-Montrachet and top California Chardonnay, he has come to appreciate the merits of being ‘totally and joyfully different’.
‘Tiers is an expression of where we are, rather than a copy of somewhere else in the world,’ he says.
The justification for all the ‘hard yards’, says Croser, rests in the family’s desire to be part of the journey. But how his vision will ultimately be achieved he says, ‘will be more and more in Xavier’s capable hands’.
While the pair avidly talk about the potential of new, yet-to-be-discovered distinguished sites in Victoria and Tasmania, Bizot is focusing closer to home, excited by the prospect of working with more mature Piccadilly Valley vineyards, planted by Croser. ‘It’s a privilege,’ he beams.
Terre à Terre: the facts
Owners: Xavier Bizot and Lucy Croser
Winery location: Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills
Production: 50,000 bottles
Wrattonbully: Crayères Vineyard – 8ha of Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz; Piccadilly Valley: Bizot Vineyard – 8ha of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, plus five other vineyards
totalling 8ha, planted to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir plus Trousseau Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Mondeuse
Terre à Terre: a timeline
1995/1996 Christian Bizot establishes Bizot Vineyard in Piccadilly, Adelaide Hills, planting Chardonnay for Petaluma’s sparkling Croser label
2004 Xavier and Lucy Bizot manage Crayères Vineyard in Wrattonbully to supply grapes for Tapanappa, planting Sauvignon Blanc (2ha) and Cabernet Sauvignon (3ha)
2005 The pair leave France for Australia, founding fine wine importer Terroir Selections
2008 First release of Terre á Terre’s Crayères Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc; Cabernet Franc (1ha) and Shiraz (1ha) planted in Crayères Vineyard
2009 First releases of Crayères Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and Daosa Blanc de Blancs from Bizot Vineyard
2014 First releases of Crayères Vineyard Cabernet Franc and Shiraz, and Crayères Vineyard Reserve
2016 Xavier and Lucy assume long-term management of five high-altitude, mature Piccadilly Valley vineyards for sparkling production; first vintage of Daosa Natural Réserve
2018 First vintages of Crayères Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz and Cabernet Franc-Shiraz
2020 New higher-density Chardonnay planted in Bizot Vineyard (Tapanappa Tiers block cuttings)
Tapanappa: the facts
Owners: Brian and Ann Croser
Winery location: Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills
Production: 80,000 bottles
Wrattonbully: Whalebone Vineyard – 7.5ha of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot;
Piccadilly Valley: Tiers Vineyard – 3.53ha of Chardonnay, 6ha of other Chardonnay parcels, 1ha Shiraz (contracted);
Fleurieu Peninsula: Foggy Hill Vineyard – 6ha of Pinot Noir
Tapanappa: a timeline
1974 John Greenshields establishes Koppamurra Vineyard, planting Cabernet Sauvignon (4ha), Merlot (1.2ha) and Cabernet Franc (0.8ha)
1976 Brian and Ann Croser found Petaluma
1979 Tiers Vineyard planted to Chardonnay
1996 First release of [Petaluma] Tiers Chardonnay.
2001 Lion Nathan takes over Petaluma
2002 Tapanappa established, with investment from Bollinger and the Cazes family; Koppamurra Vineyard
acquired and renamed Whalebone Vineyard; first Tapanappa Wrattonbully red release
2003/2004 Whalebone Vineyard restructured. One third of Tiers Vineyard replanted
2003 Brian and Ann Croser establish Foggy Hill Vineyard, planting 2ha of Pinot Noir
2005 First vintage of Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay, from thinner, rockier soils on the top of the slope 2007 First release of Foggy Hill Pinot Noir
2014 Croser family acquire 100% shareholding in Tapanappa and reoccupy Petaluma winery, renaming it Tapanappa winery
Sweet plum and strawberry aromas with dried citrus-peel undertones. Medium body with firm tannins and a linear and crisp finish. Lots of lemon-rind undertones. A little lean at the end. Drink now.
A juicy red with dried flowers, ripe strawberries and cedar. Some leather and tobacco, too. It’s medium-bodied with fine tannins and a tangy and fresh finish. Drink now or hold.
Aromas of red and black currants, black cherries, rosemary stem and thyme. Medium- to full-bodied with silky, chewy tannins. Nicely defined red and black fruit on the palate. Fresh and articulate with a juicy finish. Drink or hold.
Bright and youthful in the glass. Complex aromas of cedar, tobacco, blackcurrant, dark cherry, bramble aA whale-sized price-tag, but given energy inflation, in time it will be less than a KW of electricity. At any time it is positively lovely and likely the best merlot and best ‘value’ $90 wine around.
Medium crimson. Red cherry pastille, hint bush garrigue with touches of vanilla. Round and supple with red cherry, red liquorice flavours, fine chalky / lacy textures and attractive mineral length. Minerally, structured and needs some time to develop. Drink now – 2028 12.5% alc
Pale colour. Intense vanilla, marzipan, lime cordial aromas with tonic water notes. Richly flavoured lime cordial, vanilla, grapefruit flavours, fine lacy/chalky textures and long fresh acidity. Lovely precision and mineral length. Drink now – 2034
Pale colour. Lovely, developed honey, grapefruit, lime aromas with hints of SO2. Restrained, almost backward wine with grapefruit, lime, apple fruits, fine al dente chewy textures, some underlying nutty oak. Finishes minerally and long. Very tight. Drink 2024 – 2034
From Brian Croser’s prized Piccadilly Valley vineyard, there’s a lot going on here in terms of white stone fruit, chalky palate feels, and subtle spice notes. All class, and maybe hard to track down – must be something about Hills Chardonnay! Others from the same stable will also delight.
|What these wines unequivocally showed is that the Croser vision for grand Australian wines has come to reality.|
The sharp-minded, deliberate and controversial Brian Croser has been a forceful and polarising advocate of Australia’s fine wine agenda for several decades. His technical brilliance, work ethic and ambitions have inspired excellence, whilst his prodigious intellect has challenged thinking and perspectives. Like a great Shakespearean actor, who knows every play line, his stage presence and masterful performances have shaped his reputation and the standing of Australian wine. His contribution is significant and his legacy long lasting.
When I think of Croser’s part in the story of Australian wine, I think of him affectionately. He rightly belongs to the pantheon of great Australian visionaries. Among those in this special group of wine people through the ages are Sir William Macarthur, Francois de Castella, Thomas Hardy, Max Schubert and Croser’s hero Dr AC Kelly. They all believed in something greater than themselves and hoped Australia would become a great fine wine making nation. Inevitably such ambition is accompanied by flaws of magnitude, but it takes a particular type of character to drive an agenda and build it into something tangible and meaningful.
Way back in the late 1980s Croser began to talk about ‘distinguished vineyard sites’ and Australian terroir. At the time the wine industry was not on this pathway. Croser’s mindset was advanced and ambitious for its time. His viewpoints, combined with his technical skills, impressed other winemakers and wine trade people. When Langton’s Classification of Distinguished Australian Wine was launched in 1990, I inserted the ‘Distinguished’ to align ourselves with this agenda.
Over the ensuing years the concept of Distinguished Vineyard Sites and terroir wines have become better understood and embraced by the wine trade and consumers. But when tasting a single-site wine, it is not always possible to pick up aromas or flavours that make a place unique. One can only determine its quality. Aspiration, endeavour and history, the things that cannot be tasted, are the elements that truly connect a place with wine.
In Australia the possibilities are endless for single site vineyard wines, but the journey to greatness is difficult. Not everyone’s ambitions, selections and perspectives are going to carry the distance. It often takes multi-generational bloody-mindedness to build an epic and believable story. Sometimes a single person can do extraordinary things and Croser is one of them. Tapanappa represents a lifetime’s ambition to create something tangible and lasting in the world of wine. This was a very moving tasting on many levels.
Tiers Vineyard – Chardonnay – Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills – South Australia
Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay is the source of Tapanappa’s emblematic wines. Through light and shade of vintage, they profoundly highlight a connectivity of place. The essence of vineyard site, the vine stock material, the development of style, the personality and story of Croser himself are all wrapped into the expression and stature of the Tapanappa marque. In many respects Croser established the expectation for modern Australian Chardonnay. Despite the technical deviations and by-roads, the classic aesthetic has not changed. Fruit purity, barrel fermentation, creamy textures and mineral cut are themes across vintage. The wines are expressive, beautiful and timeless in style.
2018 Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills – South Australia
Pale colour. Fresh grapefruit, grilled nut aromas with flinty/ vanilla/hint marzipan notes. Beautifully concentrated grapefruit, nectarine fruits, fine chalky textures, very good mid palate creaminess/ viscosity, underlying vanilla marzipan oak notes and fresh long indelible acidity. Classic Chardonnay with lovely creaminess and mineral length.
Drink now – 2030 13.5% alc 97 points
2019 Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills – South Australia
Pale colour. Intense aniseed grapefruit, lime, grilled nut aromas with some marzipan, toasty notes. Tightly structured and minerally with attractive lemon curd grapefruit, lime flavours, some aniseed and fresh searing acidity. Refined and racy. Some bottle age will give it complexity and more volume.
Drink now – 2030 14.4% alc 96 points
2020 Tapanappa Tiers 1.5m Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills – South Australia
Pale colour. Beautifully aromatic wine with grapefruit, grilled nut, vanilla aromas and touches of verbena/ aniseed. Concentrated lemon curd, grapefruit flavours, fine chalky a touch grainy textures, hazelnut marizipan, vanilla oak and long steely acidity. Searingly fresh with al-dente notes. Touch lean – will build up.
Drink now – 2032 13.9% alc 94 points
2020 Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills – South Australia
Pale colour. Pear, grapefruit, nectarine aromas with toasty marzipan notes. Fresh grapefruit, lemon curd, pearskin, apple flavours, lacy chalky tannins, toasty, marzipan, vanilla notes and fresh crispy acidity. Very good mineral line and length.
Drink now – 2032 13.9% alc 95 points
2021 Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills – South Australia
Pale colour. Lovely developed honey, grapefruit, lime aromas with hints of SO2. Restrained, almost backward wine with grapefruit, lime, apple fruits, fine al dente chewy textures, some underlying nutty oak. Finishes minerally and long. Very tight.
Drink 2024 – 2034 13.4% alc 93 points
2021 Tapanappa Tiers 1.5m Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills – South Australia
Pale colour. Intense vanilla, marzipan, lime cordial aromas with tonic water notes. Richly flavoured lime cordial, vanilla, grapefruit flavours, fine lacy/ chalky textures and long fresh acidity. Lovely precision and mineral length.
Drink now – 2034 13.4% 96 points
Foggy Hill Vineyard – Pinot Noir – Fleurieu Peninsula – South Australia
Foggy Hill Pinot Noir highlights the stewardship behind the development of a single vineyard site. Although the style is a work in progress, the commitment to the cause of individual expression is impressive. The vineyard, the variety and the structure of the wine are all interconnected to the growing season and the fragility of nurture. These artful wines are fascinating and everchanging like the everchanging light of dawn.
2009 Foggy Hill Pinot Noir, Fleurieu Peninsula – South Australia
Medium deep crimson. Developed red cherry, tobacco, chinotto aromas. Fresh developed red cherry, strawberry, corkwood flavours, fine sinewy but sinuous textures. Attractive underlying savoury notes. Finishes bittersweet.
Drink now – 2028 13% alc 92 points
2014 Foggy Hill Pinot Noir, Fleurieu Peninsula – South Australia
Medium deep crimson. Strawberry, dried roses, herb garden aromas with aniseed notes. Well-developed strawberry pastille, hint stonefruit flavours, fine chalky textures, attractive mid palate viscosity and mineral length. Builds up chalky at the finish with persistent red berry fruits. Touch of roasted walnut notes.
Drink now – 2030 13.7% alc 95 points
2018 Foggy Hill Definitus Pinot Noir, Fleurieu Peninsula – South Australia
Medium deep crimson. Dark and red cherry, negroni/ Americano aromas with herb notes. Expressive, fleshy and supple with ample dark cherry, Negroni flavours, fine lacy textures and underlying savoury oak notes, Finishes al dente and minerally. Delicious wine.
Drink now – 2032 14% alc 96 points
2019 Foggy Hill Pinot Noir, Fleurieu Peninsula – South Australia
Medium deep crimson. Dried roses, cola, red cherry, strawberry fruits with herbal notes. Richly flavoured strawberry, Cola, dried herb flavours, slinky textures and underlying vanilla notes with a chalky dry finish.
Drink now – 2028 13% alc 94 points
2021 Foggy Hill Pinot Noir, Fleurieu Peninsula – South Australia
Medium crimson. Red cherry pastille, hint bush garrigue with touches of vanilla. Round and supple with red cherry, red liquorice flavours, fine chalky / lacy textures and attractive mineral length. Minerally, structured and needs some time to develop.
Drink now – 2028 12.5% alc 92 points
Whalebone Vineyard – Red Blends – Wrattonbully – South Australia
The 1974-established Whalebone Vineyard reveals Croser’s long held belief in the potential of weathered limestone soils and the upwelling power of the Southern Ocean. The soils, similar to Coonawarra, and climate are seen as brilliantly suitable for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Shiraz. These claret-style wines are consistently stylish and delicious to drink.
2010 Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz – Wrattonbully – South Australia
Deep crimson. Intense black cherry pastille, cassis, tobacco leaf corkwood aromas with a hint of mint. Sweet fruited wine with deep set black cherry, dark plum, cedar flavours, chewy firm a touch sappy tannins and still has a core of fruit sweetness with liquorice notes to finish.
Drink now – 2032 14.1% alc 92 points
2010 Whalebone Vineyard Merlot Cabernet Franc – Wrattonbully – South Australia
Medium deep crimson. Bush garrigue, dark chocolate, dark berry fruits with cedar notes. Richly concentrated fruit sweet wine with plentiful inky dark berry liquorice humbug flavours cedar wood notes and fresh integrated acidity, Very good volume and torque.
Drink now – 2032 14.3% alc 93 points
2012 Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz – Wrattonbully – South Australia
Medium deep crimson. Blackcurrant cedar, liquorice Amaro aromas. Generous and chocolaty textured with deep set blackcurrant, liquorice mint flavours, chocolaty dry textures, very good mid palate volume and attractive linear freshness before finishing chewy firm.
Drink now – 2028 15.1% alc 93 points
2012 Whalebone Vineyard Merlot Cabernet Franc – Wrattonbully – South Australia
Medium deep crimson. Minty, blackberry, cassis aromas with mocha/ espresso notes. Well balanced wine with fresh blackberry cassis flavours, slinky textures and mocha, roasted walnut notes. Slinky firm touch al dente/ chewy/ cedar notes at the finish.
Drink now – 2030 14.4% 95 points
2015 Terre à Terre Crayères Vineyard Reserve – Wrattonbully – South Australia
Medium deep crimson. Mulberry, blackcurrant roasted walnut aromas and flavours, very good density, fine ripe chocolaty tannins, beautiful mid palate richness and volume. Finishes cedar firm with ample sweet fruit with a touch of aniseed.
Drink now – 2030 14.5% alc 94 points
2016 Terre a Terre Crayères Vineyard Reserve – Wrattonbully – South Australia
Medium deep crimson, Mulberry dark fruits, cedar herb garden notes with liquorice aniseed notes. Chocolaty/ slinky textured wine with lovely dark berry fruits, some liquorice notes. Very good mid plate density and torque. Very good.
Drink now – 2030 14.5% alc 94 points
We are very excited to announce the Tiers Vineyard 2021 Chardonnay was listed in the Drinks Business TOP 20 Chardonnays of 2022 after winning GOLD MEDAL at the 2022 Drinks Business Global Chardonnay Masters in December!
Already a benchmark producer of Adelaide Hills Chardonnay, Tapanappa’s consistent Gold-medal-winning performance in this competition proves that it’s not only top of the pile in Australia, but amongst its rivals worldwide too. Particularly fine is this expression, the Tapanappa Chardonnay from its clos-like, cool-climate Tiers vineyard in the Piccadilly Valley. Featuring notes of fine, fresh fruit, from white-fleshed peach to pink grapefruit, complemented by flavours of cinnamon, cashew and toast, along with a touch of salt and lemon, it’s a layered and complex white, with a fairly light-mouthfeel, but plenty of intense and persistent characters to keep one interested and refreshed.
– Patrick Schmitt MW
Read the full article HERE.
James Halliday’s Top 100 wines for 2022 have been revealed!
We are thrilled to announce our 2019 Foggy Hill Vineyard DEFINITUS Pinot Noir has made the prestigious list.
2019 Foggy Hill DEFINITUS Pinot Noir
Bramble, briar and black tea aromatics set the scene for a very complex pinot that needs encouragement to release its perfume. Len Evans might well have used his expression of ‘an old ladies handbag’ with this silky pinot, joining the ’17 as the best of the Foggy Hill pinots to date.
97 points | James Halliday
‘I am grateful we have cracked the Halliday Top 100.
I am grateful it is Foggy Hill Pinot Noir that has made the breakthrough, adding to the swelling vindication of the 16-year-old experiment, growing Pinot Noir in a lonely vineyard at the apex of the cool moist Fleurieu Peninsula at Parawa.
The Tiers Chardonnay doesn’t need the vindication, it has proven itself to be one of Australia’s most exquisite Chardonnays over its 43-year life and will continue to do so regardless. Like Foggy Hill it was once a lonely vineyard, an experiment in a completely new wine region the Piccadilly Valley. It’s not so lonely now.
Definitus is a special piece of the Foggy Hill vineyard, kept separate since 2017.
The 2019 Definitus answers to the description given in the review “brambly, briar and black tea aromatics”. I like that description especially the “black tea” bit. More, I like the Len Evans analogy of the smell of “an old lady’s handbag”. That smell of faint camphor, lavender, rose water and old leather is evocative. I was with the great man on many occasions when he used that description about a wine, and it was usually a DRC La Tache or a Rousseau Chambertin.
I will accept that description for the 2019 Tapanappa Definitus. It is the product of a very warm dry year, 1507C-days of growing season heat versus the average of 1263, but Foggy Hill held its “distinguished site” nerve and delivered true to terroir. I am proud of the wine and thanks James.’
– Brian Croser
SAM (Southern Annular Modulation) is determined to go south again as the Australian spring arrives. In southeastern Australia that means another summer of cool south-easterly winds, generated deep in the Great Southern Ocean, that arrive on our southern shores at the top of the counterclockwise revolving high-pressure systems as they transit from west to east.
It also means the clockwise revolving lows arrive on the southern shoreline of Australia with a cold westerly bluster. If those lows meet a north-west cloud band from the upper Indian Ocean, crossing the continent diagonally, then we experience significant rainfall and much flashing, crashing and banging in our spring and summer skies.
Every vintage is a weather lottery with a myriad of potential outcomes. Strikingly the roulette wheel of weather has provided different answers for the two hemispheres, the heat and drought of the 2022 northern summer and the less newsworthy cold and wet of the southern winter, likely continuing into a cool 2023 summer.
There is an asymmetry about the weather conditions affecting the northern vintage compared to the southern even allowing for the six-month offset, the yin and yang of climate systems.
Back to Australia, from January 2020, after the early season fires, through 2021, 2022 and including projections for the Australian 2023 vintage, we are in a cooler
sequence of vintages. Will this cooler era last beyond 2023 and will there be a hotter vintage anytime soon? The answer to the first question is somewhere
between maybe and probably and to the second is almost certainly.
In the article titled “A Century of South Australian Climate Change” published on Jancis Robinson’s site in March 2022, I interrogated the vintage weather data for the Foggy Hill Vineyard site at Parawa on the Fleurieu Peninsula from 1925 to 2021.
I calculated the mean GDD (growing season degree days) for each decade from 1925 on to today.
Analysed by decades, 1925-1934, 1935-1944 etc., there are only minor variations around the ever-increasing mean, mostly just less than the average, except for three decades.
The exceptions were the decade from 1945 to 1954 that was 7.2 percent below and 1995 to 2004, 7.5 percent below the 100-year average.
The other exception lives in our memories as the 15-year fiery era from 2005 to 2019, that was 13 percent above the average, including the two warmest vintages of the past 100 years, 2016 and 2018.
I admit conveniently choosing an inflexion point after 2019, making the penultimate era 2005 to 2019, 15 years not ten.
That’s because there was a climate inflexion point in January 2020.
As warned by the Australian BOM throughout 2019, the very negative Southern Annular Modulation (SAM) meant the west to east moving conveyor belt of high-pressure systems would be crossing the continent of Australia closer to the equator, picking up heat and wind speed as they crossed the land. BOM warned this would lead to severe if not catastrophic fire conditions from early spring 2019 into the summer of 2020. As we know, that all came to pass emphatically, in a continent-wide outbreak of blazes, from August 2019 to January 2020.
Then in late January 2020 SAM retired south and although it oscillates between homes deep in the Great Southern Ocean and closer to the Australian continent, the dominant climate influence from January 2020 through vintages 2021, 2022 and now likely through 2023, has been a positive SAM of record duration and intensity.
Long may SAM linger in the south.
In 2022-2023, a re-emergent La Nina will bring rain through spring and summer to the east-coast with an occasional foray into the south-east of South Australia. That’s like the 2022 vintage condition.
What’s different in 2023 is the emergence of a negative Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) at the same time as SAM being positive and La Nina reappearing.
The waters north and west of Broome are warmer than usual and the warm very moist air will be sucked down over Australia in that giant diagonal slash of cloud that keeps reappearing. Whether these cloud bands collide with a southern low over the southern coast of Australia will dictate the vintage conditions for 2023, being either cool with timely moderate rainfall or being cool and wet. Be prepared for the latter.
What is now obvious about the 2023 vintage is that it will be late. The cool wet winter and start to spring has ensured budburst is late and slow, the cold wet soil
profile will take a long-time to warm up and promote shoot growth. There will be late flowering and likely short shoot extension. Hopefully there will be better weather in a late spring flowering.
A late cool vintage is the best sort, again dependent on the influence of the rain from the negative IOD.
We Australian vignerons are very well served by the climate predictive services of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).
We can have some confidence in the range of probable vintage weather outcomes. It seems we are in the beginning of a cooler sequence of vintages, perhaps like 1945 to 1954 and 1995 to 2004.
There will be exceptions and a warmer vintage will occur in the midst of a cooler sequence, just as 2005, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2015 were cooler vintages in the fiery fifteen-year hot spell from 2005 to 2019.
A vigneron’s life is controlled by the weather over which there is no control.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Bright and youthful in the glass. Complex aromas of cedar, tobacco, blackcurrant, dark cherry, bramble and spice. Lovely, pure and precise on the palate, mid to full-bodied, long, layered and complex. Plenty of red and dark fruits, textured tannins, cedar and crunchy acidity. Built for the long haul.
The Tapanappa 2021 Chardonnay is layered with concentrated Chardonnay flavor: curry leaf, yellow peach, salted preserved lemons and pink grapefruit, even. The phenolics in the mouth are grippy and attractive, and the wine fairly streams over the tongue and spools out to a long and lingering finish. Yes! Excellent.
This 2021 Chardonnay Tiers Vineyard 1.5m is really delicious. The phenolics that curve in on every angle of the mouth are grippy and chalky and get a firm grasp onto the preserved lemon and salted peach flavors that blossom in the mouth. The wine is resplendent with fruit and spice, and the finish lingers on and on. Brilliant. What a pleasure.
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Liquor Licensing Act 1997
It is an offense to sell or to supply to or to obtain liquor on behalf of a person under the age of 18 years.
Liquor license No. 57008504
Wines are sold by Tapanappa Wines Pty. Ltd. ABN 86 104 001 667