That's right - a pinot from Fleurieu. Mind you, the vineyard sits at 350 metres above sea level and cops a lot of fog. Given the head start that the cool Victorian regions, Tasmania and the Adelaide Hills have with pinot noir, this wine is the product of a daring business decision. The 2007 isn't bad, either. The nose is definitely varietal, but there's a plummy ripeness to it that's fairly plain. The palate is more impressive - structured and earth - but it trails off slightly. We'll watch this site with great interest as the vines age.
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I must admit, I was sceptical. A $45 pinot noir from the Fleurieu Peninsula - it sounds absurd. OK, so industry leader Brian Croser is behind it and he's unlikely to engage in folly. But all things considered - well, I certainly wasn't expecting what the bottle delivered. This is an interesting wine. It's light in colour and rather light in flavour too, its appearance murky - as good pinot noir often is. In the glass it takes a while to come around, its flavours building as it sits and breathes. It's then a tannic, chalky, charismatic wine, its ripples of sap, stalk, dark cherry and eucalypt kissed neatly by integrated cedary oak. It lacks the finish to demand high points - but given four or five years in the bottle, it may well develop in that area too. I wouldn't put anything past this wine - it seems to have a fair whack of goodies tucked up its sleeve. Drink: 2012-2017. 92 points.
If you need a reason to try Brian Croser's pinot noirs, big name partners Bollinger and Cazes might be a good place to start.
Brian Croser recently breezed through town and for wine nerds like me it's a little like Elvis pulling in at Gambaro's for some fish and chips. He came here with a purpose, and that was to show the latest range of Tapanappa wines ? this the third release, which just happens to carry a slightly fatter portfolio than the
The big news is the inaugural release of the Tapanappa Foggy Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir (2007, $50). First James Halliday and then Max Allen have talked it up, and whenever a pinot noir from anywhere outside Victoria or Burgundy is given the
nod by Melburnians the earth stops turning for a moment. And for a South Australian pinot, well, I'm still chuckling weeks later.
But the Tapanappa is worth all the attention, for three different reasons. Firstly, is the last commercially released pinot from Brian Croser ? the 1989 Petaluma Tiers ? which was less exciting than we had hoped. It has taken him nearly 20 years to
release the next one, but he definitely got it right.
Secondly, it is Tapanappa, which means it has had the Croser intellect focused on its provenance, its production and its release, as well as the assets of the other Tapanappa partners ? Champagne Bollinger and the Cazes family from Bordeaux.
I can?t imagine that there will be a weak wine allowed to penetrate that particular armory.
But most importantly, it is not just a fabulous pinot (and it is, with whiffs of new oak, and a lift of ripe strawberry and floral fruit; but most importantly of all it has a fabulous, prominent tannin), but it is a whole new benchmark for South Australian pinot noir in both style and quality.
Alongside the Foggy Vineyard Pinot are some new vintages of the rest of the Tapanappa stable: 2007 Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay ($75), 2005 Whalebone Vineyard Merlot (sold out) and 2005 Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz ($75).
The chardonnay fruit comes from the top section of the Tiers Vineyard, which has thinner, rockier soils and yields finer, leaner wine. The 2007 is built on a restrained, tightly wound base of fruit. Then it is overlaid with gently spicy oak, and mealy, porridge characters. It is seriously good chardonnay.
The merlot I think is the best wine in the Tapanappa stable. If you think that merlot by nature is soft, fruity and fleshy, think again. The serious merlots of the world ? of which, this is one ? have spines of tannin and weighty fruit that give them both stature and the ability to age.
The 2005 Cabernet Shiraz from the Whalebone Vineyard could be considered the flagship of the Tapanappa range and this third release is the best so far. It's a
powerhouse with a pretty edge ? an expressive wine, with a firm, solid structure, and lashings of fruit.
It will be interesting to watch the following releases of the Foggy Hill pinot as the vines gain maturity. But it's been fun to watch this first release in terms of our perceptions of South Australian pinot noir, how it should taste, and where it is best grown.
Brian Croser is as close to a living legend as you will find in the Australian wine industry. All are thoroughly deserved
He has been awarded an AO, the Maurice O'Shea Award and in 2004 was named Decanter's Man of the Year, placing him in prestigious company.
All are thoroughly deserved. He has long pushed the concept of distinguished sites and now looks to the future with what he terms "Australian fine wines of distinction". This is one winemaker who will no doubt work tirelessly to see his concepts evolve.
Since leaving Petaluma, Croser has established a new operation. Tapanappa, meaning "stick to the path", is owned by Croser in partnership with Bollinger and Jean-Michael Cazes, owner of the famed Bordeaux estate, Lynch-Bages.
As well as the supple, savoury, smoky and spicy Foggy Hill pinot, there is a new Tiers, a cab shiraz blend and a 2005 merlot. The latter, from the Whalebone Vineyard in Wrattonbully ($75) is a very good local merlot but the standouts are the Tiers and the blend. The 2007 Tiers ($75, half the price of the Petaluma) is brilliant and matches any local chardy on the market.
It is beautifully perfumed with apricot kernel and mineral notes with intensity of flavour and complexity, balance and length. A glorious chardonnay. The 2005 Cabernet Shiraz ($75), also from the Whalebone Vineyard, is cassis and dark berries, gentle tobacco leaf and cedar. Wonderfully balanced, there is just a hint of a tribute to the very first Petaluma red from Coonawarra, a cab shiraz blend before the merlot got into gear. Tapanappa will very quickly confirm itself among the our finest wineries.
The texture and harmony set this apart, despite a vegetal edge. Supple, almost sumptuous, this starts with more herb and red pepper notes than ripe cherry flavours, but it balances nicely as the finish rolls on. Drink now through 2012. 155 cases made.
The 2005 Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Merlot has scored a spot in Matthew Jukes coveted top 100 wines of 2008.
93 Points - #1 Rated Wine
The top rated wine in the report, the 2006 Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay from Tapanappa comes from Adelaide Hills, the Piccadilly Valley. The Tiers vineyard site was planted by Brian Croser back in 1978 when he founded Petaluma Winery, and so represents some very old ? by Australian standards ? Chardonnay vines, although newer plantings include Dijon clones.
This is a plump, amply textured wine. Scents and flavors of toasted grain with white peaches and hazelnuts. Long and intense on the finish, echoing with toasty oak but also layers of vibrant fruit.
Brian Croser's efforts with Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay have finally paid off in a big way. This is a plump, amply textured wine that doesn?t lack for elegance, marrying scents and flavors of toasted grain with white peaches and hazelnuts. Long and intense on the finish, echoing with toasty oak but also layers of vibrant fruit. Drink now?2015.