Brian Croser’s Tapanappa venture has been of interest to me since its inception in 2002 and tasting this makes me very pleased that I have some of the 2004 tucked away in the cellar. 70% Cabernet, 30% Shiraz and a wonderful rendition of the great Australian red it is too, combining the structure and elegance of the Bordeaux grape with the plush essence of its Rhône partner.
Whalebone Vineyard Latest Reviews
You don’t see many Australian red blends with Merlot as the dominant grape in the blend that cost this much, but it takes the chutzpah of a Brian Croser to make a wine like this. It’s from Wrattonbully which is the next surprise, even more surprising is the lottery of the cork closure. Phew that’s three surprises and I’ve not even tasted the wine yet.
The Whalebone Vineyard – great name – in the Wrattonbully region includes 0.8 hectares of cabernet franc and 1 hectare of merlot. These vines were planted in 1974. “After a 30 year struggle the vines have penetrated the deeper limestone layers and are extracting a balance of moisture and nutrient to sustain a meagre crop of 2 tonnes/hectare. The vines have sufficient canopy and root system to fully ripen the harvest relying only on natural rainfall” – according to the press release. The wine spends 30 months in French oak (30 percent new), a portion of this time on full lees. It’s bottled without filtration and then spends two years in bottle prior to release. 300 dozen made.
The traditional Australian red blend, beautifully executed. 70 percent cabernet sauvignon, 30 percent shiraz. All French oak.
Has a bit of a swagger to it, this wine. It’s rich, chocolatey, grainy and substantial. Flavours are mostly in the blackberry/plum area though there’s eucalypt here and well-integrated smoky/spicy oak. Tannin curls out and around the finish. Noticeably dry, almost sinewy, despite its richness. As with the merlot cabernet franc blend, this will age long term.
Grand red with a mint/eucalyptus background - often typical of the Wrattonbully region - pure forest fruits and beautifully managed, cedar, leather, oak-derived layers adding mid-range richness.
Medium red-purple; an elegant, complex wine bringing spice, mint and quality oak aromas and flavours into line with the ripe mulberry/plum fruit of the medium-bodied palate, the tannins soft and balanced.
Rating: 94 points / 5 goblets
Drink by: 2024
Mid garnet; a subtle reflection of red fruits, sage, licorice and leather; the medium bodied palate is finely textured, with ample fine-grained tannins complementing the subtle red fruit and earthy tones of the finish; a long, fine and elegant example.
Rating: 94 points / 5 goblets
Drink By: 2025
Whalebone Vineyard, named for a fossilied whale skeleton in the limestone beneath it, was planted by John Greenshields in 1974 and bought by Tapanappa, a joint venture led by Brian Croser; in 2002. This is the first release of a merlot-cabernet franc, inspired by the wines of Bordeaux's St Emilion sub-region. Ripe, sweet, pure, plummy-earthy merlot dominates the aroma, with an attractive floral lift, probably from the cabernet franc. The palate reflects the aroma, with merlot's assertive tannins ameliorated by the gentler cabernet franc.
Petaluma founder Brian Croser made this world-class red from a vineyard on Coonawarra's edge. Cabernet franc is unfashionable yet plays a vital role in many great Bordeaux reds. Croser launched this next to a $1400 Bordeaux and is compared well.
Enjoy with eye fillet
Whopping price on this first-release merlot-cabernet franc blend from Tapanappa’s Whalebone Vineyard. But the wine quality is excellent.
Elegant, finely structured, ripe but not sweet. It walks the talk of modern Australian red wine. It tastes of pencil and fresh herbs, leather and dark cherry. It has some curranty oomph, but it’s not a big bellied wine; it’s medium weight, almost slender. Vibrant aroma. Dry finish. Minor amount of eucalypt. Aftertaste of aniseed. It’s a red wine I’d be more than happy to have in my glass.
Rated : 93 Points
Drink : 2012 - 2017