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The wines of Tapanappa, Australia

I introduced the wines of Tapanappa on this site some time ago, in a report on a visit to Brian Croser in the Adelaide Hills. Now I've tried the two latest releases, I thought I'd gather the information on this interesting new project here, in one place. 

Tapanappa is the new super premium label launched by Croser in collaboration with Bollinger and Jean Michel Cazes. The first wine released was the 2003 Whalebone Vineyard red, which comes from a vineyard just outside the Coonawarra appellation, in Wrattonbully. Brian first made a wine from this vineyard, which was then known as Koppamurra, in 1980 for Geoff Weaver, and was so impressed by it that heís been trying to buy the vineyard ever since. This pursuit took 22 years.  

The vineyard now has 30 year old vines, with yields of a ton an acre (15 hl/ha). The soil is 800 000 years old, and thereís a cave under the vineyard which contains the skeleton of a Eubalena australis, the southern right whale, hence the name and the label design.  

The second wine to be released is a Chardonnay from his Tiers vineyard (see note below), and a further release will be a Pinot Noir from the Fleurieu Peninsula, and no doubt more wines will follow from distinguished sites in Australia and perhaps also in Europe.

It was interesting to get a chance to try the 2004 Whalebone components from cask in October 2005. Brian explained that the Cabernet contributes aromas, the Merlot structure and the Shiraz the flavours. Tasting these samples this becomes clear: on their own, none of these would be complete wines, but you can see what they might bring to a blend.

Tapanappa 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (cask sample)
Lovely sweet supple nose with a spicy, gingery edge. Supersmooth supple structure. Rich, ripe, but elegant. Chocolatey finish. Very refined.

Tapanappa 2004 Merlot (cask sample)
Quite vivid with a subtle green edge. Nice weight and structure, too. This has more definition. Spicy and tannic.

Tapanappa 2004 Shiraz (cask sample)
This has a different mouthfeel: itís showing sweet liquoricey fruit with a fuller mid-palate. Ripe and full, this is quite weighty but not too well defined.

Tapanappa 2004 Cabernet Franc (cask sample)
Nicely expressive Cabernet Franc character: this has a subtle leafy aromatic element and nice spicy structure. Interesting.

Now, tasted more than a year later, here's my note on the final wine.

Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz 2004 Wrattonbully, South Australia
Sweet perfumed nose of red and black fruits with a bit of Coonawarra-like minerality. There's really nice balance here and it is smooth and complex. The palate has sweet rounded fruit countered by firm but silkily-textured tannins. It comes across as quite new-worldy in its sweetness, but there's good depth and complexity here. The hallmark of this wine is superb balance: unlike many Coonawarra Cabernets, there's less of the minerally, gravelly greenness, and the extra ripeness makes this a more complete wine. 94/100 

Released for the first time with the 2005 vintage is the Chardonnay from the Tiers Vineyard surrounding Brian's house in the Adelaide Hills. The fruit from this vineyard was previously used in the Petaluma Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay, and prior to this the regular Petaluma Chardonnay. 

Tapanappa 'Etages' Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay 2005 Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills, Australia
650 cases made. This is boldly flavoured and quite minerally, with nice complexity. On the nose there's a persistent mineral note behind the tight but full flavoured fruit and well integrated toasty oak. There's some lemony freshness. It's nicely poised with complex flavours and some freshness: lots of potential for development here. 93/100 

For the sake of completeness, here's my note on the inaugural release of the Whalebone Vineyard, which was tasted in October 2005:

Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz 2003 Wratonbully
Very smooth textured with some fruit sweetness, and nice creamy, spicy notes. The striking aspect is the smooth, silky, tannic structure. Itís really elegant, and it will be interesting to see how this wine evolves. It isn't an obviously Australian wine, while at the same time you wouldn't place it in Europe. Smooth and elegant is how I'd describe it. Very good/excellent 92/100  

see also: interview with Brian Croser

Wines tasted 11/06
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

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