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