One of the great things about wine is how it can reflect the personality of their maker(s).
It doesn’t always happen – hard to work out the personality of the 15 winemakers that helped produce a bottle of Yellowtail Shiraz. But I’ve met so many free-spirited vignerons making free spirited wines, and dour old farmers making dour old wines to ignore it.
It’s hard not to taste these Tapanappa wines, for example, without spotting the touch of Brian Croser. The influence of a veteran winemaker known for his self-assuredness, attention to detail (see Brian’s meticulous weather records as an example) and proven approach. Brian’s done it all before, and has firm opinions on what works (with the back-catalogue to show for it).
In turn, these are wines built on assuredness. No fucking around with low sulphur regimes. No experimental whole bunch additions. Just classic lines.
While son-in-law Xavier Bizot and his wife Lucy Croser now run the Tapanappa business (with Xavier’s European context thus an influence), the style of this label hasn’t changed either. A subtle evolution, but no revolution, even if that means a somewhat old-school, oak and tannin forward mode.
My only gripe lies with the Whalebone reds which can be occasionally (alcohol) warm with prominent oak. Otherwise, pure class (and that’s without touching on the benchmark Tiers Chardonnay wines).
Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Merlot Cabernet Franc 2014
Always intriguing that the Merlot/Franc blend is my pick over the Cab/Shiraz from the Whalebone Vineyard. It’s the opposite to what you’d expect in South Australia. Why can’t we have more serious Merlot and Franc on that point? Now, 2014 was a slightly cooler vintage than average for the Whalebone Vineyard, with HDD of 1414C days vs 1486C average. This wine spends 4 days pre-ferment cold soak, spends 18 months in 60% new, 40% 1yr old oak. Numbers: pH 3.46, TA 5.8g/L.
This is dense. Molten, black berry fruit, lifted up by condensed milk oak. Quality oak is woven through the nose and palate, making for a wine that is every bit a modern Bordeaux take. Milk chocolate, briar and dark berry fruit, it’s a wine of wine rather than fruit, but with an absolute seamlessness. The alcohol isn’t obtrusive, the hints of regional mint but without hardness. Textured classiness from nose to tail. Best drinking: Honestly, I’d wait for another year or two. Then 15+ yrs. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14.4%, $79. Would I buy it? I’d like some in my cellar.
Tapanappa Foggy Hill Pinot Noir 2017
From a vintage with a cool start but ended up a warm season. Indeed there is a real ripe raspberry liqueur this vintage with a profile that is more forceful and chunky, the oak adding another layer. It’s not a wine of delicacy, more power and outright flavour than anything else. High quality, though Burgundy it ain’t. I came back a day later and it looked even better, and up went the score. Best drinking: Next year onwards to ten years. 18/20, 93/100. 13%, $55. Would I buy it? A glass.
Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz 2014
Cabernet from the Whalebone Vineyard and Shiraz from the Crayeres Vineyard. Matured in 60 % new oak. Numbers: pH 3.46, TA 5.9. Slightly minty and hearty Cabernet style, it’s dry and very firm red with black licoricey fruit and then a withering long cedary finish. Such dry long black tannins! It’s perhaps a little severe right now but undoubted class. Definitely the more Australian of the two Whalebone wines. Best drinking: Wait. For at least five. 18/20, 93/100. 14.5%, $55. Would I buy it? For the cellar perhaps.