I was fortunate enough to get the heads up on a small Tapanappa tasting at Adelaide's Wine Underground today from a friend in the industry (thanks Jeeves!). But what Jeeves didn't tell me was that the tasting would be attended by a certain Mr Brian Croser himself, who happens to be one of my wine heroes! Severed ties with a well known marketing company have seen Brian and a very polite, well spoken and wine savvy Frenchman named Xavier take to the wine circuit themselves. The concept of tasting wine with the maker in a smaller setting is a lovely one, especially compared with the oversized tastings (which are perhaps a bit insensitive to the individual wine brands) put on by their previous marketing reps.
Without doubt Tapanappa is one of the biggest new names in Australian wine. It's a combined effort of one of Australian wine's biggest living legends Brian Croser, as well as the Bollinger and Cazes family of Lynch Bages, France.
Part of the Tapanappa ethos is to push back the boundaries of contemporary Australian wine, finding excitingly different region/style combinations which handsomely reflect their uniquely Australian site/place of origin. Certainly, they want their wines to express more of the exquisite fruit quality offered by nature rather than its human influence.
Their wine range revolves around the much hyped Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay from the Piccadilly Valley in the Adelaide Hills (famous Croser family vineyard planted in 1979 which still contributes towards a Petaluma 'super chardonnay'), a scene shaping pinot noir from South Australia's burgeoning yet very cold Fleurieu Peninsula region, and three fuller bodied reds from the perhaps under-rated and overlooked Wrattonbully region in South Australia's southeast.
All of the wines display wonderful texture and good, even ripeness, with a lovely sensual aspect which is partnered by enough structure to suggest they're more than age worthy.
The Tapanappa Chardonnay is undoubtedly closing in quickly on Australia's best examples of the genre, but the real excitement today for me came in the form of the 2008 Pinot Noir. I've long hoped SA could match the other states for good pinot (as I think apart from Ashton Hills the Adelaide Hills doesn't quite consistently cut it at the top end), and Tapanappa's meticulous site selection and vineyard management in the very cold reaches of South Australia's Fleurieu Peninsula (between Victor Harbor and Cape Jervis in prime sheep country) suggest we might well one day get there. The 2008 is a good sight better than their original 2007 release in my opinion - it's quite tough to comprehend this wine was made from 5 year old vines, no matter who you are.
Tasting notes are posted below
Tapanappa Chardonnay 2008 ($79)
So interesting to see Tapanappa using 50% new oak with this wine, when Petaluma use 100% and charge a hell of a lot more for their Tiers Chardonnay, which isn't necessarily any better a wine. The 2008 Tapanappa is quite complex yet bright on the nose, with savoury, nutty accents of grapefruit, melon and lemon. The palate is surprisingly luscious, with a counter balance of good, mouthfilling structure for chardonnay, which is altogether contradicted by a very refined, restrained cool-climate fruit profile. It finishes very long, and should age particularly well. 95
Tapanappa Foggy Hill Pinot Noir 2008 ($50)
It presents a very youthful expression of bright red cherry notes with savoury accents and definitive spice, fresh cedar/vanilla oak also plays a part. The palate announces itself with a beautifully silken, sensuous texture, the likes of which I've almost never encountered in South Aussie pinot before. It has exceptional depth of flavour for its young vine age, with its youthful deliciousness finishing fine, long, tight and well structured, with fine tannins and a lingering spice. It might not be the best pinot noir ever, but the potential of this vineyard now has me extremely excited (so excited I rushed to the Ed on the way home to grab a bottle, which I'll review later tonight with Casey - full review published tomorrow). 94
Tapanappa Merlot 2006 ($75)
The first of Tapanappa's Wrattonbully wines tasted here, this merlot displays a wonderful vibrant lift to its somewhat minty/herbal edged red plum and boysenberry notes, with oak integration looking pretty good right now. It displays great freshness to its aroma. Like the pinot it has wondrous texture, very velvety for the variety. It finishes with a firm yet softly balanced extract of silky tannins to complement its vibrant paalte. To be honest, it's been some time since I've come across an Australian merlot I've enjoyed so much. 93
Tapanappa Cabernet Shiraz 2006 ($75)
Very dark/black fruited nose which has a synergistic blend of both varieties and oak. Shows just a hint of the green notes sometimes associated with the region, leading into a smooth and satisfying palate with a rather approachable lick of tannins. I was hoping I'd like this the best of the Wrattonbully wines, but somehow the Merlot won my heart....91
Tapanappa Shiraz 2007 ($50)
Probably the least impressive of the Tapanappa wines for me, which seemed a little green yet at the same time ripened well with lively notes of small red and black berries. Its palate remains tasty, with the same sensuous texture of Tapanappa's other wines, but it just didn't sit in complete harmony for me. 88