Funny how things come together sometimes.  I’ve been thinking recently (and fondly) of the Tiers chardonnay: it has always left an indelible impression on me when I’ve had it in the past, but it’s been at least a year (or more) since I had it in my glass. This morning, I attended a tasting of the Tapanappa range of chardonnays, the Piccadilly Valley, the 1.5m Tiers, and the Tiers.

Why I Like Them (The Winery That Is…)

In 2012 I opened a bottle of a the 2004 Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard – Cabernet Sauvignon (70%), Shiraz (20%) and Cabernet Franc (10%).  I’ve never forgotten that bottle – it was soft and elegant, complex, spicy and wonderful. They say context is everything, and that bottle was drunk with great friends. In terms of vintages, 2003/2004 was tumultuous and varied, but the Whalebone Vineyard is on average, slightly cooler than the Coonawarra region, which in that season was slightly cooler than average.  So.  I’m sorry I didn’t buy more bottles, and open them over the following years.  From that night grew a great affection and wandering interest in Tapanappa.  Winemaker: Brian Croser.


2015 Tapanappa Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay, South Australia

“Toasted cashew, almond meal, grilled white peach, poached summer pear, ripe pink grapefruit.  There is lovely chalky texture on the palate… rich and complex.  Good length of flavour.  Classy.”  18pts, and $39

2016 Tapanappa Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay, South Australia

“This has a grilled pineapple, red apple skin, white peach character on the nose, bolstered by a lively, flinty minerality.  It is more intense (perhaps due to the very warm growing season) than the 2015 (cooler, average).  Incredibly, given the year, this has a nervous edge, a shale-y tension about it, and I like it very much.  Acidity is refreshing and bright.  Gorgeous.”  18.2pts and $39.


The Tiers Vineyard

A few things I keep in mind when thinking of this vineyard:  It has high elevation: 450m-600m above sea level, which affords its wines great natural acidity.  It was planted in 1979 by the Croser family, and is “in the centre of the Adelaide Hills in the middle of the Piccadilly Valley sub-region, the coolest and highest rainfall viticultural location in South Australia”.  The vineyard is divided by a road, a driveway.  On one side is the original 1979 block, which is responsible for the Tiers Chardonnay.  On the other side, the chardonnay vines were replanted to French Bernard 76 and 95 clones on own rootstocks, ‘close planted’ at 1.5m, with the fruiting wire strung 0.5m above the ground.  This side of the vineyard ripens earlier, and produces fuller flavoured chardonnay.  This was very clear in the wines tasted this morning.  The first vintage of the ‘1.5m’ chardonnay, was in 2015.

2015 Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard ‘1.5m’ Chardonnay, South Australia

“First vintage of this wine.  Rich – there is a toasted brioche character that sits right on the mid palate.  Toasted tropical fruits and summer fig.  Lovely acidity due to the site elevation.” 17.9 pts and $55

2016 Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard ‘1.5m’ Chardonnay, South Australia

“The vintage is so clear to see in this wine.  It is full of gardenia, soapstone, grilled pineapple, yellow peach, nutmeg and saffron.  The palate is magnificent.  All the richness and complexity that the site affords, but with a nimbleness and an edge that makes it so interesting.  Nervous tension again… overflowing with fresh pink pepper berries and a pebbly, schist-y finish. Yes.” 18.3pts and $55

2016 Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay, South Australia

“All of the ’16 vintage hallmarks are present.  This is more restrained and longer than the ‘1.5m’.  This is a long term game.  The wine is tight and closed, the minerality and life is there, but all packed away right now.  The length of flavour is prodigious – latent power.  This is elegant and exciting… it absolutely satiates my thirst for the ‘Tiers’ experience.”  18.7pts, and $79

2015 Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay, South Australia

“The cooler vintage sits so well here… this is ripe, full, warm, round… it has wonderful spice and fruit weight, the length allows the flavours to uncurl themselves and linger on the palate.  A wonderful wine.  Its restraint and gentleness is almost overwhelmed in the lineup.  It is quietly spoken… but sure.” 18.6pts and $79

2014 Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay, South Australia

“Product of a cool vintage, not that you’d know it – the wines enjoy such typically high acidity that even warm years come off elegant and refined.  This is powerful, concentrated and packed to bursting with summer nectarine, yellow peach, hints of honeydew melon and those pink peppercorns.  Finishing with a flick of pink grapefruit.  What a morning.” 18.5pts


2014 Vasse Felix ‘Tom Cullity’, Margaret River

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2014 Vasse Felix Tom Cullity, Margaret River

80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot

(Slightly more Cab than the 2013, less Malbec, the same PV)

100% basket pressed / 100% whole berry ferment / 100% wild yeast / 24 days on skins / French oak barriques 62% new, 38% 1-4 year old, 18 months / Unfined

“The red fruits shine here.  This is incredible.  Raspberry, pomegranate, red apple skins, pink peppercorns, hints of strawberry, blackcurrant, mulberry, seaweed/nori (an injection of iodine, beetroot).  The tannins are polished, like whipped egg white: chewy and sumptuous.  The flavours extend through the palate and into the length.  Very very long.  I can write long after it is gone.  Alive.  Energy.  Doesn’t want to finish, it doesn’t want to let go.  It lingers.  Great depth of flavour.  Effortlessly long.  In fact… it needs the extra linger time just to make sure its covered all of its flavours and textures.  Super fine, powerful, long, structured and delicate.  Perfect.” 

If this represents where Margaret River has come to, then we are indeed in a magnificent place.  

To put this into perspective: Margaret River vintage charts are pretty bland – the range is very good to exceptional.  There are ‘typical’ years, ‘plush’ years’, ‘leaner’ years, ‘warmer’ years… but they’re all good.  They all age prodigiously.  The 86’s are still alive and kicking: not bad for a wine region which at the time, was trailblazing towards a brave new wine world.  In 2017, Margaret River celebrated its 50th year, and along with it, Vasse Felix, it’s 50th vintage.  2018 sees the release of the 2014 Tom Cullity.  Perhaps one of the best cabernets to come out of Australia. Perfect.  99 points (or 19.5pts).


“A single-vineyard evolution of the estate’s previous icon red, the HEYTESBURY, named in recognition of our founder – Dr Tom Cullity.  It descends from his original vines and is the pinnacle of Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon” 


Picardy – New Release 2016 Vintage Reds

The Pannell’s are well known for their insistence upon the reliability of cork closures on all of their wines.  This is a highly contentious topic in the current age of the reliable Stelvin (screwcaps).  Having said this, I have never known a cork to let a Picardy bottle down.  It is in no small part due to the Pannell’s rigorous research, and demonstration of an earnest willingness to seek out new technologies to ensure the simultaneous continued use of cork, and bettering the evolution of the wines.  All this preamble to say – from the 2016 vintage, the Pannell’s have moved to a new natural cork for the pinots, chardonnay and premiums, while the rest of the collection will remain sealed under the existing composite cork closures.  The new (to Picardy) Portuguese cork company goes by the name of One by One; each cork is individually tested by machine (ie no human error), and is guaranteed TCA free.  To me, having pulled the cork on the pinot just last night, they look the same as always.  However – I know how fanatical the Pannell’s are about the cork closure, so if it’s good enough for them – it’s good enough for me.
2016 Vintage in Pemberton:
By all accounts, 2016 was a very good vintage, bordering on excellent – if not cool and wet.  It is considered equal alongside 2013, and second only to 2014 in recent times.  This is all too evident in the wines – they are immediately classically styled, with great finesse.  The tannins on all three wines viewed last night are fine grained but plump/chewy, and all wines exhibit a lovely silken mouthfeel, which seems to be increasing each vintage (either that, or I grow to like the wines more, who’s to say).
2016 Pinot Noir
Classic Picardy style, the best example I’ve seen in recent times – the 2016 pinot smells the way my fondest memories tell me Picardy smells like.  This time, it’s in the flesh.  Feather light yet intense, strawberry, red cherry, red apple skins, red currant, tempered by olive tapenade and hints of pomegranate and finely crushed black pepper.  The acidity is bright .  The palate has a creaminess about it, with silky tannins – it is elegant and restrained.  The oak is creates fine structure, and is spicy; it completes the arc of the fruit, adding depth and complexity.  The finish is long and and languid – it really is such a classic wine in every respect – it speaks truly of Pemberton pinot at its best, and of the Picardy house style.  It is ethereal.      
2016 Shiraz
Impossibly bright on release, as it is each year.  This year has added layers of spice and textural complexity.  The palate has wonderful depth of flavour without weight – it is still an elegant mid-weight wine.  The shiraz delivers floral aromatics, red globe grapes, summer raspberry, black berry, and the already integrated Burgundian oak finely laces up the fruit.  The tannins are powder-fine and lingering… in that wonderful lip-smacking way.  Elegant and more of a Northern Rhone style of Syrah, not Shiraz, as we in Australia know it.  The Picardy shiraz really flies the flag for the elegant WA style – not in the mould of the structured and full-bodied Frankland or Great Southern, but the aromatic, floral style more akin to Margaret River.  This style is gaining popularity and momentum as people (us, the drinkers) discover how well it suits food and generally delivers great pleasure.   This is a gorgeous wine and will go through many stages in its lifetime, where it is right now though… wonderful stuff.     
2016 Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc
68% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc
This year, a higher percentage of Merlot, the cabernet and Cab Franc are obviously in lesser quantity, but feature in the same order.  
Szechuan peppercorn and green peppercorn on the nose, cacao nib, pink grapefruit, blood plum and mulberry.  This is sophisticated, medium bodied.  The tannins sit right up on the mid-palate before spilling into the sides of the mouth, they’re grippy but fine-grained and chalky, this whole experience is an exercise in finesse.   The 15% Cabernet Franc contributes white floral aromatics to the wine, while the cabernet sauvignon plays its blackcurrant, structure role.   The fruit has a fine minerality about it, a real impact of schist and shale, which laces right through the palate into the finish.  

Wine of the Week – Clos du Tertre, Riesling, Frankland River, 2014

Clos du Tertre Riesling 2014

Single Vineyard

“Hailing from a single vineyard in Frankland River, this was a wonderful surprise. While the climate of Frankland River is known to produce rieslings of startling austere acidity, this Clos du Tertre from husband and wife duo Lee and Clemence Hasselgrove is lush and concentrated. The vineyard is 35 years old and dry grown (ie not irrigated). The nose has precise minerality… like a crunchy slate, wet limestone character. The palate is saturated in quay lime and white pepper, with a touch of orange blossom on the finish. I loved this delicate yet powerful, balanced and restrained riesling, and will be buying more. 95 points


From the Cellar – Ochota Barrels, Fugazi Vineyard, Grenache, Blewitt Springs/McLaren Vale 2012

Ochota Barrels FugaziOchota Barrels FugaziSingle Vineyard

“Purchased in 2013 on release, each bottle is individually hand numbered. This was bottle number 1482 of 2256. 2012 was an excellent vintage in McLaren Vale, and the ’12 Fugazi Vineyard grenache forms a part of a collection of McLaren Vale grenaches purchased from this vintage. This is a lighter bodied style of McLaren Vale Grenache than I’m normally accustomed to – Szechuan pepper, black raspberry and fine tannins make for an almost delicate wine. Hints of toffee apple and marzipan lace their way through the finish. Super interesting and a surprising focus of flavour for the relatively pale colour… this could have gone longer in the cellar, however drinking it at 4 years was about right for my taste – complex and the fruit still very much alive. 94 points. Current vintage is 2014.”

Margaret River Round Up

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“What a proud week for western Australian wines.” That was my first thought as we embarked upon an epic week of wine tasting and regional exploration through the Geographe region, Margaret River, Pemberton and Frankland River.

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Tassie, in all its glory

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 As an avid champagne lover, it is difficult not to compare Australian sparkling wine styles with their French counterparts.  It is neither fair nor practical.  They’re different styles.

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As the taxi comes up over the hill to cross the illuminated Tasman Bridge into Hobart, the clouds above the most southern major city in Australia are lit up like Gotham City… Dark MOFO is in town (courtesy of the inimitable David Walsh at MONA – the Museum of Old and New Art) and the place is alive.  Fresh food, local wine and spirits, music, art and live performances abound in this little city with a population of roughly just 215,000.  Hobart is a beautiful city – the second oldest in Australia after Sydney – and sits at the base of Mt Wellington (1,271m). This small part of Tasmania is just the start of the rest of the isle.

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