In 1978 Brian Croser selected the Piccadilly Valley in the centre of the Adelaide Hills as the best terroir to grow Chardonnay for Petaluma Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for Croser sparkling wine. The first vineyard planted in the Adelaide Hills since the 19th century, The Tiers Vineyard is in the centre of the Piccadilly Valley at 450 metres elevation next to the Tapanappa Winery and the Croser family home.
Off the back of a huge accolade, with the 2016 vintage taking home Best in Show from the Decanter World Wine Awards, the follow-up 2017 vintage is certainly no shrinking violet. Croser has done it again, with what he describes as a 'Contradictory Vintage.' It's already pulled in huge scores from Halliday, Hooke, Mattinson et al. and is shaping up to be even better than the world-beating '16. Serious stuff indeed.
I have labelled 2017 “A Contradictory Vintage” because the heat summation for the growing season was 1303º C days versus the 14-year average of 1240ºC days: 2017 was a warmer than average vintage but it is the equal latest, harvested on the same date as the very cool 2011 vintage (1001ºC days).
With a wet winter, and a cool spring, bud burst was delayed 2-3 weeks. But by early January, the temp pattern was reversed with consistently above average temperatures, through to the end of the season. This pattern of a cold start and a warm late finish is the perfect formula for outstanding fruit quality of intricate and intense flavours, moderate sugar levels and fine acids.
2017 will be recognised as a superb vintage eliciting finesse and intensity in the Chardonnay from The Tiers vineyard and the Piccadilly Valley in general. The ideal vintage conditions in 2017 allowed it to show its best qualities.
The Tiers Old Chardonnay was hand harvested into shallow trays and cooled to 2ºC in the cold room at Tapanappa Winery, adjacent to the vineyard. The whole bunches of Tiers Chardonnay were tipped from the trays into the Willmes Merlin airbag press. The juice was gently pressed from the bunches into a settling tank. After a short gravity settling the partially clarified juice and its fluffy lees were racked to French Vosges oak barriques, 33% new and the balance 1 and 2 use.
The Tiers Chardonnay was seeded with our own yeast culture and allowed to ferment in the cool air temperature of the Piccadilly Valley autumn. Half of the 2017 Tiers Old Chardonnay went through malo-lactic fermentation through the winter and the whole was allowed to sit on full fermentation lees until clear racking in January of 2018.
2017 Tiers Chardonnay is a pristine and exquisite expression of the Tiers unique terroir from a great vintage. Pale green gold in colour, 2017 Tiers Chardonnay has refined and fresh fruit aromas and flavours of freshly cut nectarines and pear. The subtle complexity of almond meal and cream of malo-lactic, yeast lees and oak complements the fresh fruit. The hallmark Tiers Chardonnay texture is followed by a long after taste with a slight savoury quince finish. The 38 year-old Tiers Vineyard has clearly confirmed its status as a distinguished site and the 2017 Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay “is an exquisite expression of a unique Australian terroir.”
HUON HOOKE - THE REAL REVIEW
A very fragrant, aromatic, cool-year bouquet; a wine of great subtlety and delicacy. Great poise and intensity, as well as finesse. Harmony, refinement and persistence. Lemons aplenty. The palate is seamless. An outstanding wine, promising more in the future. (Very cool season, latest ever vintage. 350 dozens made.)
JAMES HALLIDAY - HALLIDAY'S WINE COMPANION
This is the oldest of the three Tiers vineyard blocks, with 2ha planted in '70 of what Croser calls the OF clones, which has a history to make Conan Doyle happy. It's a Californian clone that was eradicated there because of leaf roll virus - the cuttings were not infected when Croser brought them to Australia. The vinification was the same as for the 1.5m, but this is decidedly more complex than its sibling, confidently filling the mouth with balanced fruit flavours.
A classical, complete and seamless chardonnay that artfully combines elegance and power. Creamy scents of grapefruit, lemon rind and melon deftly knit with fresh vanilla oak overlie suggestions of smoked meats, a whiff of custard and a faint chalkiness. Built around a profound core of fruit that soaks up its tight-grained oak, it moves along a slatey undercarriage towards a mineral finish of brittle acidity, remarkable length and impact.
CAMPBELL MATTINSON - THE WINE FRONT
The chardonnay vines on the Tiers Vineyard are now well over 30 years old, some 40+. It’s a 3-hectare vineyard spaced at 3330 vines per hectare. This release saw 33% new oak. Blow me down. This is beautiful. As in, exquisite. Complex, textural, elegant and long. Flint, white peach, vanilla pod, grapefruit and juicy pear. Cedar, smoked. Spice, dried. Makes you slow down and stop to admire it.
TONI PATERSON MW - THE REAL REVIEW
A classy wine with a delicate fragrance of white flowers, fresh pears, oatmeal and lemon. The palate is beautifully sweet-fruited with excellent energy and drive, plus delicious lingering grapefruit flavours. It’s a high-quality wine that is extremely well-made that delivers a superb drinking experience.
ANDREW GRAHAM - OZWINEREVIEW.COM
Yes, this is an excellent vintage of Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay. I almost finished a bottle as a solo drinker last week, even with other wines to choose from. It’s a delight. Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay 2017 2017 was one of the latest vintages on record for Brian and Ann Croser’s Tapanappa Vineyard, but as Brian puts it ‘a late harvest is a wonderful harvest (provided there is no rain, and there wasn’t)’ thanks to grapes ripening in the cool of autumn rather than the heat of summer. This is the tightest and most sharply delineated Tiers in many years. I had it the night after opening the ’17 Tolpuddle and the acid profile and delicacy are on a similar level. It’s a shy wine at first, with a whiff of meringue, before a palate that is very much framed by mandarin acidity. Bracingly fresh, but not unripe, with vanilla bean oak and a palate that stealthily builds with its white peach fruit. That purity. That perfect length. It’s a superb tight and fine white that will be even better next year.
DECANTER WORLD WINE AWARDS 2019 - GOLD
Lovely expression of Chardonnay with aromas of yellow stone fruit and almond meal. The palate is rich with flavours of smoking match and nutty sulphide and has remarkable power and persistence. Supremely well-made wine.
A rich and powerful edition of this single-parcel bottling, offering ripe-peach and spicy, praline-like aromas with a citrus edge. The palate has weight and power, impressive depth and textural layering. Long, lemon and peach finish.