Wine Masterclass – Tapanappa vs the superstars

Author: Andrew Graham
Source: Australian Wine Review
Review Date: Jun 2010

I’ve banged on before about the quality of the Tapanappa range, particularly the Tiers Chardonnay, and I recently had the opportunity to put this quality to the test, with Brian Croser putting on a masterclass that pitted the Tapanappa wines against some established French and Australian benchmarks.

Typically, the benchmarks chosen were all very high quality, but also purposefully picked to highlight the positive aspects of the Tapanappa range (Croser at his craftiest). Regardless, the Tapanappa range acquitted themselves well, especially the soon to be released 2009 Foggy Hill Vineyard Pinot.

The wines were served in small brackets and tasted in a ‘pull it apart, talk it through’ masterclass format. With a room full of strong palates (and big egos) it is a fun way to taste and discuss what’s in the glass. Notes are written in my stream-of-consciousness tasting note style.

Bracket 1 – Chardonnay

Origin: 13th century cross of Gouais Blanc X Pinot Noir in Burgundy

Ripening: Early – Gladstone Group 3 (1150C – 1200C HDD)

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2007 (Margaret River, WA)

From the 7 hectare, 30 year old Block 20. Gin Gin Clone. Very early, hot vintage.

Mealy. Tighter than the 06 on the nose at first, though it fleshes out as it warms up. Huge amount of oak on the nose – expensive French oak at that. Dense but fine and no shrinking violet. Oats, perfume and volatility too, with flicks of melon on what is a classic LEAS Chardonnay nose. Palate is rich, tight, full and hot, with loads of oak and no shortage of palate intensity. Clean, dry and crisp through the warm finish. Lots of power. Obvious Chardonnay, but in the right sort of form. Long mealy finish. Too obvious? Nah it’s a proper Art Series Chardonnay! It’s a very ‘orange’ wine. 17.8/92+

(I came back to this 10 minutes later as it warmed up)

Hot and heavy now when you come back to it. Dull, brutish and heady, if still a wonderfully powerful wine. 16.8/89

(Conclusion? Undecided. Should settle with bottle time, and live it will, but is this simply too big?)

Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay 2008 (Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills, SA)

From the 4.4 hectare, 30 year old Tiers Vineyard, Mendoza and OF clones. Warm (hot) and early vintage – 1227C HDD vs 1172C HDD average.

Leaner, milky and fresh white peach nose, set very minerally, pristine and fresh but with less obvious butter than the Leeuwin, more vanilla pod. A ‘white’ wine. Clean and elegant if just a tad oak driven palate that is fine and tight. Restrained and long, elegant Chardonnay style. Nice wine, plenty of scope for further development in the bottle too. 18.1/93+

(Looking very clean, long and linear in this bracket).

Chanson Pere et Fils Chassagne Montrachet ‘Les Chenevottes’ 1er Cru 2007 (Chassagne Montrachet, Burgundy, France)

From Chanson’s 1.9 hectares of the 9 hectare Les Chenevottes. ‘A very good vintage’ (debatable). Warm March/April and early budburst, with a cool and wet May to mid August, then a warm dry end of August, into September and through harvest.

Quite a green nose with greenish fruit and deep power simmering beneath. Slightly funky with a suggestion of rot (?). Lots of intensity, a fraction tart but a firm stony mouthful. Good wine, if looking a bit angular and not totally cohesive. Long though. Hold. 17.0/90+

(A bit funky, but solid Burgundy)

Bracket 2 – Pinot Noir

Origin: Ancient Burgundian variety first mentioned 2000yrs ago

Ripening: Early – Gladstone Group 3 (1150 – 1200C HDD)

Kooyong Ferrous Pinot Noir 2007 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)

From the 5 hectare Ferrous Block: 14 years old, Pmmard, D4V2 and MV6 clones. Very early (earliest) vintage, warm and dry, early hail and low crops.

Lovely Mornington ripeness the initial hit. Ripe and hot. Red raspberry with some charcuterie stink. Pall of sulphur hanging over the nose. Palate is a letdown – stripped hot and hollow with mixed ripeness and some sausagey stink. Forward too. Quite a dissapointment. Obviously a hard vintage. Didn’t enjoy this all that much. 16.3/87

Tapanappa Foggy Hill Pinot Noir 2008 (Fleurieu Peninsula, SA)

4 hectare close planted vineyard planted in 2003 and 2006. Dijon clones 114, 115 and 777 grafted onto rootstocks. ‘Moderate’ growing season up until the beginning of March, then came the heat. Harvested on 14th March. 1207C HDD compared to 1135 HDD average. Apparently the grapes had to be vigorously hand sorted to pick out the raisining.

Musk sticks and raspberry. Quite light and pretty. Palate too quite vibrant but seems just a fraction light in this context. Slightly soapy. Nice grip through the finish. Just a fraction underpowered compared to the wines around it, but still a stylish wine. 17.1/90

Domaine du Clos de Tart Grand Cru 2007 (Morey St Denis, Burgundy, France)

7.5 hectare 40 year old Monopole. Massale selection. ‘A very good vintage’ (even more debatable for the reds). Warm March/April and early budburst, with a cool and wet May to mid August, then a warm drydisappointment end of August, into September and through harvest.

Quite darkly coloured. Beetroot edged nose is very distinctive. Plums, bruised plums and macerated cherries. Bright and surprisingly light, it has quite a gentle character and finishes with tart acidity. Not so gentle through the finish though, with raw tannins and an almost pruney edge. Interesting wine, but again quite awkward, though it’s obviously such a juvenile. $600 worth? No (what is?), but it will remain a distinctive wine that will improve with bottle age. 17.5/92+

Tappanappa Foggy Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009 (Fleurieu Peninsula, SA)

4 hectare close planted vineyard planted in 2003 and 2006. Dijon clones 114, 115 and 777 grafted onto rootstocks. The heat in 2009 came just after veraison so less damaging than it was in 2008. 1135C HDD is smack on the average.

Caramel oak sheen. Much denser than the 08 on the nose. Soapy red fruit with bright raspberry lift. Pinosity plus. Ripe and quite perfumed. Polished, smooth red fruit palate has quite fine tannins and good balance. Lovely wine. 18/93

Domaine Armand Rousseau Ruchottes Chambertin ‘Clos des Ruchottes’ Grand Cru 2007 (Ruchottes-Chambertin, Burgundy, France)

1.1 hectare monopole of 45 year old vines in the 3.13 hectares of Ruchottes-Chambertin. ‘A very good vintage’ (still debatable). Warm March/April and early budburst, with a cool and wet May to mid August, then a warm dry end of August, into September and through harvest.

Merde. Stinky, but classically so. Dense nose and so much depth. Beautiful bacon and cherry, bright red fruit dark and juicy, with just a hint of herbaceousness. Spicy and shitty nose that could be/is divisive. Juicy palate is harmonious, dry and pretty but still finishing brawny and meaty. Essence of Pinot here, even from an average vintage. Firm finish too. Forgive the merde nose and it’s awesome wine. 18.5/94


Bracket 3: Cabernet blends


Domaine de la Grange des Peres 2006 – Vin de pays de L’Herault, Languedoc

11 hectares of Shiraz, Mourvedre and Cabernet Sauvignon vines planted from 1992. 40% Syrah, 40% Mourvedre, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Vintage started with a wet spring, then a hot early summer. August was cool with some rain, then harvest was warm and dry until mid September when it rained, though not enough to upset the harvet. Croser called this ‘the Grange of the (French) South’.


Bretty. Overwhelming bretty. Meaty, falling off the bone meat. Mouse poo too. But behind that is ripe plummy fruits and excellent fruit tannins – mouthcoating, grainy, chunky tannins. Awesome tannins. Lovely charry tannins. Brett/macrobial spoilage derails the wine though the longer it sits in the glass, becoming more dank, more rank and weird. But if you pick it in the window its an impressive wine. Rate it? I wavered from between as high as 17.8 and as low as 13. Lets settle in between and call it a 15/83


Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz 2006 (Wrattonbully, SA)

4 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon, 1.2 hectares of Shiraz and 0.8 hectares of Cabernet France planted in 1974. 70% Cabernet, 20% Shiraz, 10% Cabernet Franc. Very moderate year with heat summation of 1394C HDD vis the average of 1377C. 2006 was a drought year.


Lots of eucalpyt, overlaid with spearmint. Very clean, savoury and laid back style. Fine tannins are very late indeed. Long termer, in a very dusty style. Almost a waste to drink now. Eucalypt a distraction of sorts. 17.3/91++

(Croser believes that the eucalypt character is actually nothing to do with gum trees – rather it’s a product of a lack of soil moisture which tends to dry out the growing plant. I’ve not heard of that before and would love to know more about it. Anyone have some further information/opinions?)

Chateau Lynch Bages 2006 – 5eme Cru Classe (Pauillac, Bordeaux, France)

100 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot with an aharvestverage age of 30 years. 2006 blend 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Difficult vintage but ultimately good. Cool April/May, warm and dry June/July with low crops. August damp and cool. September fine and warm, before the rains came. Sun and rain then on in. Cabernet the best of the grapes in a true claret year.

Claret style. Very dry, almost severely so with no fruit sweetness to speak of. Some may appreciate that but its not my style of red. Dried out leafiness all through the finish. Long tannins, no question there, but not flesh. Will live forever (and improve), but may never be a great wine. 16.5/88++


Cullen Diana Madeline 2005 (Margaret River, WA)

11.33 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon planted in 1971 and 0.41 hectares of Cabernet Franc and 1.28 hectares of Merlot planted in 1976. 2.5 hectares of Malbec and 5.4 hectares of Petit Verdot planted more recently. 2005 blend 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 4% Cabernet France and 1% Petit Verdot. Moderate temperatures and very dry from budburst through flowering into mid March. Rain in late March marred an otherwise perfect vintage, but enough sunshine prevailed to still make it one of the very good Margaret River vintages.


Cassis, dusy black cassis with red fruit and gravel. Real Margaret River Cabernet nose. Lovelly varietal definition and richness. Pure, wonderful regional style. Lick of eucalypt. Excellent dry tannins. A near perfect Margaret River Cabernet with freshness and power. Yum. 18.5/94


(Interesting to try this straight after the Lynch Bages. So very different wines! The Bordeaux is largely undrinkable now, the Cullen delicious. Personal preference makes this the wine I would choose, but the Lynch Bages will likely outlive the Cullen, if never really giving as much pleasure.)

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