This September will see the release of an exceptionally distinctive South Australian red from a triumvirate of Brian Croser (Petaluma), the Cazes family (Ch Lynch Bages) and Bollinger (as announced here last year).
Tapanappa 2003, a 70:20:10 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon:Shiraz:Cabernet Franc from a single vineyard in Wrattonbully just north of Coonawarra, was launched this week in London, not because the wine is aimed specifically at the UK market ? just 150 of the total 950-case production will be available in the UK, as in the US ? but because London was the easiest place for all three parties to get to, especially now that Croser's only grandchild, Christian son of Xavier Bizot of Bollinger, is based in Europe ? for the moment.
This is Croser's first attempt to produce one of his treasured wines from an Australian ?distinguished site? since his own precious Petaluma was taken over by Asian brewers Lion Nathan in 2001. He has enjoyed Bollinger participation for more than 20 years so it was no big deal for them to switch their Australian funds and affiliation from Petaluma to Tapanappa (note that third P, you guys in Napa). Jean-Michel and his son Jean-Charles Cazes were cajoled into the deal (not an equal three-way split) on their first-ever trip to Australia. ?It's a technical challenge,? observed Jean-Michel Cazes. ?We all learn from it ? and I certainly hope it will eventually produce more than 1,000 cases a year.?
The vineyard was planted by a group of amateur growers 30 years ago (it was they who prevented Beringer Blass calling the region Koppamurra after their vineyard ? hence the debatable eventual name Wrattonbully). There's a considerable proportion of Merlot in this vineyard, on a 70m ridge of terra rossa which is a little warmer than Coonawarra, but Croser admitted that the Merlot turned out too tannic in 2003, thanks to some viticultural techniques he himself introduced.
The debut wine - silky textured with a dry, slightly dusty finish - is certainly very much subtler and gentler than the average Australian red. You can really taste some Bordeaux influence ? talented Lynch Bages winemaker Daniel Llose has visited the site and Petaluma winery where it was made ? and I fully expect it to find favour with the finesse-hounds in the Australian wine media such as Huon Hooke. Croser admitted that the co-operation with the Bordelais had taught him a lot about tannin management, a peculiarly Bordelais skill which Australians tend to ignore. I really enjoyed it ? until the Ch Cordeillan Bages 1900 was served and rather blew the callow youngster off the table.
Nevertheless, I urge anyone interested in the greater world of wine and developments within it to taste a bottle of Tapanappa 2003, likely to be offered in the UK via importers Mentzendorff at well under £30 a bottle retail. It marks a distinct evolutionary phase for Australian red.