Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard at Wrattonbully, in South Australia, is less than an hour from the ocean and has more maritime influences than you can imagine.
The bones of a 37 million- year-old whale were found to be supporting the roof of an underground cave chock- full of ancient archaeological charms that have aroused scientists, Lucy Croser says.
She is the daughter of legendary Australian winemaker Brian Croser and wife of Xavier Bizot, the general manager of Tapanappa and the son of former Bollinger chairman, the late Christian Bizot.
There is magic above the ground, too, at Wrattonbully, where terra rossa soils over limestone are older than fabled Coonawarra terra rossa soils 25km to the south. The vineyard is cooler, too, so fruit from the vines delivers wines of endless appeal, like the Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard 2012 Merlot Cabernet Franc ($79). The blend is 66 per cent merlot and 34 per cent cabernet franc in the fashion of great French reds, Brian Croser says.
He believes he is making very good wines, but not great as those defined by the likes of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Château ￼Latour, La Chapelle and Clos Ste. Hune, some of his favourite French estates.
There is also a Tapanappa 2012 Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz blend (64 per cent cabernet sauvignon and 36 per cent shiraz, $55) an opulent offering of exceptional texture and structure that again reflects Brian’s prodigious winemaking skills. The shiraz is from the adjacent Hooper vineyard. Brian is the visionary ￼winemaker who started the South Australian Petaluma brand in 1976 only to see it snatched away from him in a hostile takeover by drinks giant Lion Nathan in 2001.
Bit by bit, he is rebuilding his empire and now has vineyards in the Adelaide Hills and the Fleurieu Peninsula.
The Crosers own the famous Tiers Vineyard, in the Piccadilly Valley, which has what Brian says is a similar “homo-clime” of Burgundy’s Cotes de Beaune, where the great Montrachets are grown.
Tapanappa still sells grapes from Tiers to Petaluma, so his Tapanappa Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay is in direct competition with theirs. The Tapanappa is markedly cheaper even though the fruit is from the same vineyard. Go figure.