2004 was a cooler than average vintage and only 1293° C days were accumulated during the seven-month vine-growing season at the Whalebone Vineyard. By comparison Coonawarra accumulated 1358°C days in 2004 versus its long-term average of 1376°C days.
The vintage was cool, sunny and dry and ripened Merlot completely but about a week later than normal in the first days of April. The Merlot grapes were hand picked and transported to the winery in the Piccadilly Valley.
The Whalebone Vineyard Merlot grapes were de-stemmed, crushed and chilled to small tubs. The skins sat in contact with the cold juice for 4 days (cold maceration) before fermentation was initiated with the addition of a yeast strain native to the winery.
The fermentation was allowed to reach 35°C at the peak of fermentation that was completed after 12 days. The skins were allowed to sit in contact with the fermented juice for a further 10 days (total 22 days) and then the juice was drained and the skins lightly pressed in a pneumatic air-bag press.
The newly fermented wine was gravitated to a mixture of 70% new and 30% one-use barriques with complete lees to undergo malo-lactic fermentation. At the end of malo- lactic fermentation the wine was removed from barrique and given an addition of sulphur dioxide before being returned to barrique. The wine was racked each six months of its time in barrique and was clear racked and bottled without filtration after 18 months.
The in-bottle analysis of the wine is: alcohol 14.0%, pH 3.53, total acid 4.6 g/L, SO2 82 mg/L and volatile acidity 0.56 g/L.
The Taste of the Wine
The Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard 2004 Merlot is medium intense in colour and blue- red in hue. The aroma is of ripe plum with the smokey Eucalypt and anise nuance characteristic of the Whalebone Vineyard terroir.
The flavour is of rich ripe fruit without being sweet and the tannins are firm and significant to the wine’s structure and savoury finish. This is a Merlot of a “distinguished site” for the variety in a cool year perfectly suited to it achieving optimal maturity.
The Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard 2004 Merlot will reward long bottle age (up to 20 years+) but will drink optimally in 5 to 10 years.