In 2006 and 2007 I reported on my first tastings of the wines of Tapanappa, the premium Australian label launched in 2002 by Brian Croser, one of the great names of Australian winemaking.
Croser found fame as owner and winemaker at Petaluma, one of Australia’s icon estates. In late 2001 Petaluma was taken over by the giant Lion Nathan group. But within a year Croser had launched this new venture with long-time associates Arnould d’Hautefeuille of Champagne Bollinger (center of picture) and Bordeaux’s Jean-Michel Cazes of Château Lynch-Bages (left of picture).
Importantly, the partners acquired a superb 30-year-old vineyard in the relatively new designated region of Wrattonbully, which is the source of their red wine grapes, and Croser managed to secure access to 50% of the Chardonnay grape crop from the famous Tiers vineyard he had planted for Petaluma in the late 1970s. The Petaluma Tiers Chardonnay built a reputation as one of the southern hemisphere’s best, so securing access to this fruit is quite a coup for the new operation.
I interviewed Brian Croser at the launch of his the first Tapanappa, and have been lucky enough to taste every wine so far released. I have to say this latest tasting, where I had the chance to compare the two most recent vintages of the Tiers Chardonnay, Wrattonbully Merlot and Wrattonbully Cabernet Shiraz, was utterly convincing that these wines are some of Australia’s best. There is a superb sense of place to each of the wines, and a beautifully realised marriage between the ripeness and concentration that Australia can provide, and the finesse and restraint that great terroir allied to sensitive winemaking can achieve. Though not cheap at around £30 per bottle, I can give all of these wines my unhesitating recommendation. Tapanappa is a very class act.
See wine-searcher.com for a full list of stockists of Tapanappa wines.
Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay 2006
The Tiers vineyard was planted in Piccadilly by Brian Croser in 1979. This 2006 vintage was decimated by frosts and led to a very small crop – and only 150 cases of this wine. It has a gorgeous nose, though it is the beautiful crème brûlée oak quality that is driving it in its youth, with toast, gentle citrus and a hint of minerality just behind. The palate too is very youthful, and experience of tasting previous vintages of this wine suggests a slightly angular edge to the oak will evolve and integrate beautifully. Already there’s a lovely sense of mealy richness and mouth-watering, savoury orange fruit lies beneath the toast and spice. 91/100. £30.00.
Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay 2005
The 2005 vintage (450 cases produced) has a beautifully expressive, ripe nose and is much more Burgundian in style than the 2006 at time of tasting, with a touch of buttered cabbage, and a lovely cashew nut quality to the oak. Fruit is dry and savoury, with a lovely sense of richness and lemony fruit. The palate has a really refined character, with the oak and acid balance giving structure and suggesting this has not yet reached optimum drinking, but right now it is medium-bodied and full of finesse. It has a gorgeous combination of oatmeally, honeyed richness, pure, crisp fruit, and a spine of fresh, mineral acidity and structural oak. 92/100. £30.00.
Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz 2005
The Cab Shiraz is available in slightly higher volumes, with around 1400 cases produced. As well as 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Shiraz, there is a further 10% of Cabernet Franc completing the blend of this 2005 vintage of Tapanappa’s red blend. The wine spent 20 months in French oak, around 70% of the barrels being new. It has a gloriously rich and intense nose, with liquorice and anise notes melding with thick, ripe blackcurrant fruit. There’s a touch of white pepper and some meaty nuances, as well as a deal of creamy oak in the background. On the palate this wine is powerful and concentrated, with a huge core of sweet, silky black fruits powering through the mid-palate. But at the same time it has a dark, brooding, quite muscular presence with supple but grippy tannins and a nicely chewy, savoury dustiness. Long and pure, this is a baby that will surely cellar for 10 years plus. 93/100. £30.00.
Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz 2004
The 2004 vintage of this wine has a touch more Cabernet and less Shiraz than the 2005, with the same 10% Cabernet Franc component. It was matured for 20 months in all new French oak. The nose has a lovely blue/black dusty fruit quality, with plenty of black berries and spice, hinting at nutmeg and clove. There is a sense of chocolaty depth, but this is perhaps slightly more savoury and lean than the 2005 at this stage. The palate bursts into juicy, expressive life, with very refined, tight black fruit and again that dusty character of blueberry and damson skins. The fruit is ripe and sweet, but there is a little spine of liquorice from tight, incisive tannins and juicy acidity. This has lovely purity and persistence, finishing with a long, balanced sense of elegance and power. 92/100. £30.00.
Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Merlot 2005
The colour of the wine (of which only 200 cases were produced) is a deep, dense garnet, and the nose is just as dense and impenetrable at this stage, the solid, liquorice and black plum quality of the fruit emerging slowly from a cloak of muscular, deep-set oak and spice, with a little hint of mint and chocolate just peaking through. On the palate this wine is just as deep, savoury and serious: it is a very profound take on Merlot, with a glimpse of sweet, ripe, mulberry and juicy plum fruit underpinned by plenty of structural tannin and acidity, and a plum-skin grippy character. Dark and delicious stuff, there is no hurry to drink this. 92/100. £30.00.
Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Merlot 2004
The 2004 vintage of Tapanappa’s Merlot was limited to just 150 cases, and comes from a cool vintage where the grapes were harvested a week later than normal. The nose has very full fruit, with red plums and a touch of sweet Italian tomato, the oak is adding some cedary charryness, along with clove and espresso coffee. Onto the palate this has some real structure, with a rich, ripe, mouth-filling plum and blackcurrant fruitiness, before spicy, ripe tannins and good acidity add some edge to the creamy opulence of the wine. This is delicious Merlot, slightly more forward and sweet than the 2005, though perhaps lacking a little of the 2005’s structure. 91/100. £30.00.