In late 2002 Tapanappa assumed control of the 27 year-old Koppamurra Vineyard in Wrattonbully just north of Coonawarra. The vineyard was renamed as the Whalebone Vineyard.
The foliage of the old vines was retrained into a vertical canopy and the crop level was reduced to a meagre 3 tonnes/hectare. The deep-rooted old vines of the Whalebone Vineyard rely on the natural rainfall and the moisture reserves in the marly clay of the Terra Rossa soil and the deep porous limestone upon which it is formed.
In the 2003 vintage those reserves were sorely tested as the first four months of the growing season were nearly 20% hotter than the long-term average. Then autumn came early. The critical ripening months of February, March and April were dry, sunny and nearly 20% cooler than average. The fruit ripened with deep colour and the freshness of flavour and acid only conferred by a long cool ripening period.
Wrattonbully has an average heat summation for the growing season of 1468°C days compared to Coonawarra at 1414°C days and Pomerol in Bordeaux at 1447°C days. In 2003 the total 7-month growing season heat summation at the Whalebone Vineyard was 1493°C days and despite the cool, attenuated finish to the season there was plenty of heat to fully ripen the fruit.
The Cabernet Sauvignon (70%) was hand picked at the same time as the Shiraz (20%) and Cabernet Franc (10%) in the second week of April. The average sugar level of the fruit was 24° Brix, the pH was 3.55 and the acid 7gpl as tartaric.
The hand picked grapes from the Whalebone Vineyard were de-stemmed and partially crushed (60% whole berries) and chilled to 1 tonne fermenters. After a cold soak of 3 days the native yeast of the vineyards was added and the fermenters were hand plunged twice daily, throughout the two-week fermentation. The fermenters were sealed for a further week of skin contact with the finished wine and then pressed directly to new French oak barriques to undergo malo-lactic fermentation on full lees.
After malo-lactic, the wines were racked every 6 months of their 20 month stay in barriques. The final clear racking allowed the components to be blended and the wine was given a light egg white fining before being bottled without filtration in July 2005.
The in-bottle analysis of 2003 Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz is:
|Total Acid||5.3 gpl as tartaric|
|Volatile Acid||0.48 gpl|