Brian Croser's fine wines from Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu Peninsula and Wrattonbully, with Xavier Bizot

I’ve written about Brian Croser’s Tapanappa before on this site, in an article based on a visit to meet Brian back in 2005. At the time, he was releasing the first wines from his new venture, which is a partnership together with the Bollinger family from Champagne and Jean-Michel Cazes from Bordeaux.

The goal? To discover privileged sites for wine growing, and make world-class fine wines from them. The first Tapanappa vineyard was purchased in 2002. It’s the Koppamurra Vineyard, in Wrattonbully, north of Coonawarra, and this has since been renamed the Whalebone Vineyard. Brian knew the potential of this site: he’d made wines from the first grapes off it, back in 1980.

Second addition to the portfolio was the Tiers Chardonnay, from the vineyard Brian had planted on his property in the Adelaide Hills. The third was the Foggy Hill vineyard, from a cool site in the Fleurieu peninsula which Brian had prospected and then planted.

Whalebone has 8 hectares of vines, with a further 8 hectares of young vines. Tiers is 3.5 hectares and the Foggy Hill vineyard is 4 hectares, so by Australian standards this is quite small scale.

I met with Brian’s son-in-law Xavier Bizot (right) to taste these wines. Xavier is from the Bollinger family, and has relocated to Australia. He started work with Tapanappa in June 2008, initially to look after export markets. Now he’s concentrating on domestic markets and getting more involved with viticulture and winemaking. ‘Tapanappa will always remain single vineyards,’ he says. ‘We’ll never try to make volumes. The idea is always to focus on high quality.’


Tapanappa ‘Etages’ Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay 2008 Adelaide Hills
In South Australia generally this was a very challenging vintage, with three or four days of very high temperatures before harvest. But in the Tiers vineyard there was just one day at 35 °C and that was it. This is very fresh and focused with lovely taut, subtly toasty citrussy fruit, as well as some fresh bready notes. There’s lively acidity and it is quite mineral. Real intensity here. It’s just a baby, and has potential for development. 95/100

Tapanappa Pinot Noir Foggy Hill Vineyard 2008 Fleurieu Peninsula
This comes from a vineyard Brian planted close to the southern ocean in the south of Fleurieu, at 750 metres in the middle of a sheep farm. He planted 2 hectares in 2003, at 4400 vines/hectare (1.5 x 1.5 m, French clones, low fruiting wire of 50 cm) and then 2 ha more in 2006/07. Lovely aromatic, bright cherry fruit nose with some berry notes and subtle leafiness. The palate is really light, harmonious and elegant with subtle cherry and spice notes. Beautifully complex with real interest and a long mineral finish. 95/100

Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Merlot 2006 Wrattonbully
This is the last vintage of the varietal Merlot. Subtle mint and menthol edge to the red/black fruits nose. The palate is fresh and fruity with a minty edge to the bright berry fruits, as well as a nice broad texture with a long finish. 92/100

Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz 2006 Wrattonbully
A cool season, but with a warm January. Very nicely textured with smooth but rich berry fruits with amazingly soft fruit backed up by very fine-grained tannins. Superbly elegant with lovely presence. 94/100

Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz 2005 Wrattonbully
A warmer vintage. Nice, open aromatics with berry and cherry fruit. Quite warm. The palate is sweetly fruit with lovely smooth tannins. Quite silky with just a hint of mint. Very stylish. 92/100

Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz 2004 Wrattonbully
A cooler vintage. Sweetly aromatic nose with subtle herby notes as well as sweet berry fruit. The palate is so smooth: rich and sweet but not heavy, beginning to show some evolution with complex spices and herby notes. Thrillingly expressive. 93/100

From a tasting in June 2009:

Tapanappa Etages Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay 2006 Adelaide Hills
Lifted nose: lemony, herbal, subtly nutty with hints of toast and vanilla. A very fresh, light-textured style with complex yet restrained fruit. Aiming at elegance with a light, pure, lemony fruit character. Nice oak use. You could miss this, but it seems to pick up complexity in the glass. 92/100

Tapanappa Pinot Noir Foggy Hill Vineyard 2007 Fleurieu Peninsula
Pale colour. Sophisticated, elegant, brooding cherry and herb nose. The palate is savoury and backward with lovely focused cherry fruit and some nice structure. A young but potentially superb Pinot Noir with some serious spicy structure, all from young vines. 92/100

See also:

Brian Croser, Petaluma and Tapanappa (series)

Wines tasted 05/10  
Find these wines with

Back to top