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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Foggy Hill Vineyard Latest Reviews
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.
IT was pure coincidence that the day before I left Australia for my usual month in Burgundy three missives arrived, two being emails, the third a bottle of pinot noir.
The first email was an offer by Sydney's Ultimo Wine Centre of two new single-vineyard releases by Krug. The first is the 1996 Clos du Mesnil Blanc de Blancs, coming from the 1.87ha walled vineyard bought by Krug in 1971 (and replanted with 100 per cent chardonnay). Ultimo had one bottle at a special offer price of $1795 compared with the recommended retail price of $1995.
The second Ultimo offer was two bottles of 1995 Krug Clos d'Ambonnay Blanc de Noirs. It is the inaugural release from a 0.7ha vineyard bought in 1994, realising a long-held dream of making a single-vineyard pinot noir to sit beside Clos du Mesnil. Only 250 cases were made, hardly surprising given the microscopic vineyard, and dwarfed by the 700 dozen-plus bottles and 600 magnums of Clos du Mesnil.
The price of the two bottles was $4995.95 each, reduced to $4495. This for a clos owned for only 12 months by Krug and which had no prior brand existence.
The second email was the second issue of Tappenings, the ever so slightly kitschy name of the Tapanappa newsletter written by Brian Croser. His family is one of three who own Tapanappa, the other two being the Bollinger (Champagne) and Cazes (Bordeaux) families.
My eyes locked on a paragraph on page two. "The problem for Australia in attempting to gatecrash the global fine wine market," Croser writes, "is not that we are being too elitist by identifying our 'distinguished sites', but rather that we are not elitist enough in sending unequivocal signals about the special qualities of our fine-wine regions, and the best sites and wines produced from them." Whatever else, Krug could not be charged with undervaluing its distinguished sites.
This concept of distinguished sites has been pursued by Croser for more than a decade, and Tapanappa is the realisation of that crusade or, more crudely, a case of putting his money where his mouth is, an unequivocally Australian approach.
Tapanappa has three sites, two of which have been producing grapes for some time: the Whalebone Vineyard in Wrattonbully, South Australia, planted in 1974, and the Tiers Vineyard at Piccadilly in the Adelaide Hills, planted in 1979.
These are not old plantings by Australian standards, but the soils have some lineage. The mix of limestone and terra rossa of Whalebone is estimated to be 34million years old, and the Tiers Vineyard has a hefty 1800 million-year-old calc-silicate geology.
Both have produced high-quality wines with an undeniable sense of place: Whalebone a cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and shiraz blend, Tiers a super-refined chardonnay.
When I heard of the third vineyard and the plans to plant pinot noir on it, I remembered the old saying, "You'll never regret saying nothing." I also remembered the one Petaluma Tiers Vineyard pinot noir which, to put it mildly, was disappointing. The site chosen was on part of a Croser-acquired sheep and fat lamb-grazing property on the southern tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula, looking out to South Australia's Kangaroo Island.
Foggy Hill Vineyard, as it is called, was planted in 2003 at Parawa, at the highest (350m), wettest and coolest part of the peninsula, on 67million-year-old soil. Three Burgundy clones, 114, 115 and 777, selected by Raymond Bernard, a professor at France's Dijon University, were planted at a very high density of 4440 vines a hectare.
As the nearest vineyard was 10km away and there was no history of pinot noir succeeding in SA outside a few specially favoured sites in the Adelaide Hills, it is small wonder Croser gnawed a few fingernails, even if (on his figures) this was the coolest site on the South Australian mainland.
This week's From the Region suggests nail-biting can cease for the foreseeable future.
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FROM THE REGION: Intro: 2007 Tapanappa Foggy Hill Pinot Noir
GREAT pinot noir marches to the tune of a drum utterly different from and more difficult than that of any other variety. Having surmounted the imperatives of site, clone, fermentation, type and length of time in oak, sensitivity to bottling and filtering, post-natal care, pondering on the bouquet and finally taking the wine into your mouth, you still have only a partial idea of the quality. It is not until you assess the length of the palate, the character and structure of the finish and the impact of the aftertaste that you can weigh up a new pinot. So it was with the 2007 Tapanappa Foggy Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir (96 points), with its echoes of high-quality burgundy, generated by the thrust of the back palate, texture of the finish and intensity of the aftertaste. The vintage was a difficult one, and this was the first crop, but it sent shivers down my spine. There are 850 cases at a paltry $45 a bottle.
Now that I'm back from Australia, I've compiled the following small but quirky list of highs and lows:
Most Pleasant Surprise (Barrel Tasting Division): Pinot Noir from Brian Croser's new Foggy Hill vineyard way down on the Fleurieu Peninsula, south of Adelaide. This 10-acre vineyard sits atop a craggy hillside, above the fog line most days. It looks like Sonoma Coast, and the wines taste like they come from it. The first wines, from 2007, are destined for the Tapanappa label Croser owns with Jean-Michel Cazes of Bordeaux and Bollinger of Champagne. If they make it into the bottle with the flavor profile, texture and length they showed in the barrel, they could be the best Pinots in Australia.