Meaning 'Stick to the path' in aboriginal language, Tapanappa is a super-premium Australian label, launched by one of the great names of Australian winemaking, Brian Croser (left). Croser found fame as owner and winemaker at Petaluma, one of Australia's icon estates. In late 2001 Petaluma, which Croser had founded in 1976, was taken over by the giant Lion Nathan group. But "even as the ink was drying on the Petaluma purchase," as Croser says, he was putting together a plan for a new venture with long-time associates Champagne Bollinger and Bordeaux's Jean-Michel Cazes of Château Lynch-Bages.
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Tiers Vineyard Latest Reviews
The concept of Tapanappa is to make ultra-premium, terroir-specific wines from their South Australian vineyards. Tiers vineyard was selected for the Chardonnay because it "mirrors the southern end of the Cotes de Beaune, where the great Montrachets are grown." The wine pours a very delicate gold colour, with a gorgeous nose of very high quality French oak, giving notes of honey, toasted almonds and sesame seeds, and fine, racy orchard fruits. The palate has a lightly creamy, oatmeally quality and medium body, with a deliciously crisp lemon acidity immediately adding cut and edge to quite full, sweet fruit. There's an orange fruit brightness, and just a perception of more luscious, tropical tones. The wine stays quite crisp and racy through to the finish, with lovely succulence and balance. Very impressive stuff this.
Later that day I proceeded to dinner with the same underlying message: there is never enough great wine and always too much mediocre product, the main virtue of which is its alcohol content. At the dinner the hosts were the three Tapanappa partners: Brian Croser, Jean-Michel Cazes of Chateau Lynch-Bages in Pauillac, Bordeaux, and Arnould d'Hautefeuille of Bollinger. (Strictly speaking, it is a partnership of three family-owned businesses.)
The wines, served with a splendid dinner at Circa, were: 1999 Bollinger Grand Annee; 2005 Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay; 2004 and 1995 Chateau Lynch-Bages; 2003 Chateau Les Ormes de Pez; 2004 and 2003 Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz; 2002 Petaluma Essence Botrytis Semillon (an outsider these days); and a sneak preview of the superb Bollinger RD 1996.
Tapanappa is a joint venture between Brian Croser, Bollinger and the Cazes family (who own Lynch Bages in Bordeaux). The fruit is sourced from the Tiers vineyard in the Adelaide Hills (Croser retained ownership of the vineyard after Lion Nathan took control of Petaluma).
Exquisitely elegant and harmonious on the nose?the balance between grapefruit/nougat/white peach fruit, mealy/leesy winemaking and creamy oak is justification enough to rip the cork out of the bottle. Beautifully restrained in the mouth with determined minerally acidity and sexy, nutty oak subduing the underlying rich, sweet fruit. A very powerful wine yet so graceful and sensual as it travels down the palate to the long persistent finish which ends on a bitey citrus note. A very complex, extremely well-made wine that is, without a doubt, worth every cent. Outstanding.
Another data point for the Chardonnay trail, an unofficial series of notes on examples of this variety that have been accumulating on my blog in recent weeks.
This time it's off to Australia - the Piccadilly Valley of South Australia, to be precise. This one's from a famous vineyard, but it's a new wine. It's the first release of the Tapanappa Chardonnay (2005), which comes from Brian Croser's Tiers vineyard (pictured), which until this year was used to make Petaluma Chardonnay (and in more recent years the single-vineyard Tiers bottling).