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The wines of Petaluma, Adelaide Hills, Australia

Spring Gully Road, Piccadilly, SA 5151, Australia
Phone: (08) 8339 4122 Fax: (08) 8339 5253

Established by Brian Croser in 1976, Petaluma have established a huge reputation, primarily for their Chardonnay from the Piccadilly Valley, but more recently for Riesling from the Clare Valley and a Cabernet/Merlot blend from the Coonawarra. Croser grew his empire, extending the publicly listed Petaluma Limited group by acquiring premium labels Knappstein Wines, Mitchelton, Stonier and Smithbrook, and also participated in a venture in Oregon, Argyle. In October 2001 Petaluma itself was acquired by giant Australasian brewers Lion Nathan, and Croser was appointed chairman of the Lion Nathan wine group. Let's hope that the quality or character of the wines doesn't suffer from too much 'corporate thinking'.

I've tried these wines on two occasions. First, the notes taken from the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter in November 2001, and then those tasted at the Australian trade tastings in 2003. 

Wines tasted in 2001
I was impressed by these wines, and I'm pretty sure that the two Chardonnays and the Coonawarra red will deserve a higher rating with a year or two in bottle. Especially interesting was the chance to try a seven year old version of the Riesling, which was full of interest.

Riesling 2001, Clare Valley
Made from a single vineyard in the Clare Valley. Very youthful lime and floral nose is rich and a tiny bit confected. The palate shows a massive intensity of limey fruit. Currently very youthful, but may develop well. Very good+ (£9.99 Oddbins Fine Wine)

Riesling 1995, Clare Valley
Evidence that these Rieslings can age. A yellow/gold colour, this has an evolved lime and petrol nose: complex and lovely. Lovely rich palate with good acidity. A complex wine that is very satisfying, and I'd suspect is now drinking at its peak. Very good/excellent

Chardonnay 1999, Piccadilly Valley
Quite closed on the nose. The palate shows concentrated, restrained slightly nutty fruit but closed and tight at the moment. Potential here. Very good+ (£14.99 Oddbins, Sainsbury, Waitrose, Majestic, Costco)

Tiers Chardonnay 1998, Piccadilly Valley
This is the super-expensive cuvée that made its debut a few years ago. Expect to pay £30+, as opposed to mid-teens for the regular Chardonnay. Intense toasty nose with a slight vegetal edge. Powerful slightly herby palate is full, taut and youthful. Needs time to open out? Very good+ (£34.99 Oddbins Fine Wine, Berry Bros, Tanners)

Coonawarra Cabernet Merlot 1999
This deep coloured red/purple wine is still pretty youthful, and really shouldn't be broached for a while. The nose is quite shy, with minty, minerally blackcurrant. The juicy palate displays chalky tannins and good acidity. One for the future. Very good+ (£18.99 Oddbins, Costco, Majestic, Sainsbury)

Wines tasted in 2003
The range has expanded a bit, but for now at least the quality still seems to be there. The Tiers Chardonnay is exceptional, but it should be for the price (around £40).

Petaluma Croser 1999, Picadilly Valley
Some yeasty complexity to this fizz. Quite bready and rich with nice balance and acidity. Very good+

Petaluma Riesling Hanlin Hill 2002 Adelaide Hills
Quite an expressive floral, limey nose: pretty and expressive. Soft, accessible palate shows good concentration and is drinking well now. Quite delicate. Very good+

Petaluma Viognier 2001 Adelaide Hills
A new wine. Very appealing, pretty nose is floral and peachy, verging on confected. Nicely weighted palate with good depth. Very good+

Petaluma Chardonnay 2000 Picadilly Valley
Quite refined toasty nutty nose. Elegant, seamless nutty palate shows great balance, albeit with quite high alcohol. Very good/excellent

Petaluma Tiers Chardonnay 2000 Adelaide Hills
From a single vineyard. Really refined toasty, rich nose with complex creamy, bready notes. Hugely concentrated palate with lots of creamy complexity. Broad and rich but with nice balancing acid. Excellent

Petaluma Sharefarmers Red 1999 Coonawarra
Nice fruity nose with a bit of chalky minerality. Very Coonawarra-ish. Fruity palate with high acid finish: satisfying but not profound. Very good

Petaluma Coonawarra 2000 Coonawarra
Deep coloured. Tight minty, savoury nose. The palate shows firm, structured blackcurrant fruit with good minerality and depth. Very restrained at the moment this is one for keeping. Very good/excellent

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