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Tapanappa, Australia

by Tom Cannavan, 05/07

   Meaning 'Stick to the path' in aboriginal language, Tapanappa is a super-premium Australian label, launched by one of the great names of Australian winemaking, Brian Croser (left). Croser found fame as owner and winemaker at Petaluma, one of Australia's icon estates. In late 2001 Petaluma, which Croser had founded in 1976, was taken over by the giant Lion Nathan group. But "even as the ink was drying on the Petaluma purchase," as Croser says, he was putting together a plan for a new venture with long-time associates Champagne Bollinger and Bordeaux's Jean-Michel Cazes of Château Lynch-Bages.

I tasted the first vintage of the red wine - the 2003 - with Brian Croser, who told me at the time that the partners felt they had identified a unique Australian 'terroir,' with highest quality mature vineyards, and that he felt this wine could "unleash the potential of some of the many wonderful climate, soil and geology matrices that make up Australia's rich terroir." For Croser, these wines are all about the terroir, though he clearly has superb fruit at his disposal. "I want these wines to add new dimensions to Australia's credentials as a producer of fine wine," he told me.

The 2004 Shiraz/Cabernet comes from a 30-year-old single vineyard in Wrattonbully, just next door to Coonawarra, called the Whalebone Vineyard. The tiny production means only 1400 cases were produced. The 2005 Chardonnay, another single vineyard wine from the Tiers Vineyard in the Piccadilly Valley, comes from 26-year-old vines grown on soils that are 50 per cent clay. Only 450 cases of this wine were made.

I have just tasted the latest vintages of both wines, and the step forward for the red wine over the 2003 is noticeable. Largely this is due to a slightly more restrained use of oak I believe, but both of these wines are of truly exceptional quality, and both seem to really allow the character of the vineyard to come through in way not often seen in Australian wines. See for a full list of stockists of Tapanappa wines.