Tapanappa 2024 Vintage Report

Review Date: May 2024

After 55 vintages in Australia, you might surmise I have seen it all. Hot years, cold years, wet years, drought years, big crops, small crops, no crop. In 1983, the “Ash Wednesday” fire year, the fire was followed by a tropical deluge. We harvested no grapes from Clare or Coonawarra. Piccadilly Valley was not yet in production.

In 1989, we harvested the largest crop ever, regretting the obligation to do so as each tonne of large berried, big bunch, diluted in colour and flavour grapes entered the winery. We didn’t release a Coonawarra red wine that year.

In 2011, a very cold year we struggled to achieve ripeness and didn’t make a Tiers Chardonnay. The wine we made and declassified from Tiers vineyard has developed beautifully with bottle age. Winemaker judgement error!

In 1981, a very hot year, I decided the Coonawarra wine I had made would mature and die early, “drink before 5 years” I wrote on the back label. 43 years later it is drinking beautifully, with life ahead.

Despite the huge vintage variation described above and the many other different expressions in the 55 vintages that have endured my stewardship, there is none so aptly described as the “heart break vintage” as the 2024 vintage.

Heartbreak because the quality is so good and there is so little of it.

From Tiers in the Piccadilly Valley, we picked about half a normal harvest and from Foggy Hill on the Fleurieu Peninsula a mere 20%. Good old reliable Whalebone at Wrattonbully excelled at 80% of normal. The quality from all three vineyards is exceptional and the 2024 vintage from Tiers has produced exceptional Chardonnay.

A normal budburst was followed by a very wet and cool November and December, partially interrupting the flowering process, prolonging it over three weeks rather than one. The pollen of many of the flowers didn’t have the energy to reach the ovule and fertilise it, so the seeds didn’t form. No seeds, either no berry or a small excuse for a berry commonly called a chicken. Luckily about half the berries developed seeds and normal berry size and composition. They are the hens of the hen and chicken syndrome.

The cool calm conditions that followed to harvest on the 15th of March was also a record dry period with just 8mm’s recorded in February and March against the average of 75mm’s. The heat summation for the Piccadilly Valley for 2024 vintage was 1196°C-days slightly warmer than the long-term average of 1108°C-days.

There is an aphorism that “the best wines from a cool area are made in the slightly warmer vintages.” 2024 vintage in Tiers Vineyard abundantly complies. These cool dry ripening months encouraged the grapes to retain acid and develop the intense but delicate aromas and flavours of the very best Chardonnay wines.

One and a half hours south of Tiers, next to the Great Southern Ocean and it’s chilling south-easterly breezes, Foggy Hill flowering was decimated. The 2024 heat summation for Foggy was way below the average of 1348°C-days at 1223°C-days. Like Tiers, Foggy Hill had almost no rain in February and March, just 3.6mm’s versus the average of 64.3mm’s.  The tiny residual crop of Pinot Noir ripened rapidly and was harvested on the 9th of March, one to two weeks before normal.

The colour of 2024 Tapanappa Foggy Hill Pinot Noir is vibrant purple crimson and translucent.

The aromas are at once intense and Foggy Hill complex, ripe satsuma plum, pomegranate, strawberry conserve and Chinese five spice with a hint of olive. The flavours are intense and lively with a sweet fruit middle and viscosity followed by a determined savoury tannin. 2024 Foggy Hill Pinot Noir is the concentrated product of this distinguished terroir at the lowest crop level possible.

Whalebone Vineyard in Wrattonbully, had a much more normal vintage than Tiers and Foggy Hill. It was a warm and very dry vintage at Whalebone. The heat summation for 2024 was 1544°C-days versus the average of 1472°C-days. There was no rain at all in the ripening months of February and March. Unusually, all varieties were harvested together on the 22nd and 23rd of March. That’s a normal harvest date for Merlot but is two to three weeks early for Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Ripeness was accelerated by the abnormally dry conditions.

2024 has delivered powerful vibrant coloured wine from Whalebone Vineyard. The aromas are emphatic and ripe, almost overpowering with roses, cassis, and exotic fresh green herbs. The flavours are rich and sweet with a strong but fine-grained tannin finish. Intense freshness is the hallmark of 2024 Whalebone wines from all three varieties.

My excitement about the quality of the 2024 vintage Tapanappa wines is tempered when I look at the empty spaces in our maturation cellars, the very few barriques arranged in a corner of what is a full cellar in a normal vintage. That is why 2024 is the heart-break vintage but I am truly grateful for the wonderful quality our distinguished vineyards have delivered. 

BJC. 11/5/2024

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