Wine reviews – Tapanappa, Sassafras, Ravensworth, Cupitt, Pikes and Bremerton

Tapanappa Foggy Hill Pinot Noir 2014
Foggy Hill vineyard, Fleurie Peninsula, South Australia

After losing control of Petaluma Wines to Lion Nathan (now Lion Co) early this century, founder Brian Croser established Tapanappa Wines, based on existing vineyards in the Piccadilly Valley (Adelaide Hills) and Wrattonbully, near Coonawarra. In 2003, Croser planted a pinot vineyard at Parawa, “the highest point of the Fleurieu Peninsula half way between Victoria Harbour and Cape Jervis”, he writes. Eleven years and several vintages later, the vineyard at last produced a pinot of stunning quality, revealing the unique power, elegance, firm-but-fine structure, and earthy richness of this great variety.

Sassafras Savagnin Ancestral 2015
Quarry Hill vineyard, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW


Be prepared to wrinkle your nose and pucker your lips. Paul Starr’s cloudy bubbly challenges the senses with it lemony tartness and green-apple sharpness. Made from barely ripe savagnin grapes, the wine was lightly filtered towards the end of its fermentation and transferred to bottle. There the remaining yeast cells converted residual grape sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide. (The spent yeast cells give the wine its cloudiness). The wine shows fresh fermentation aromas, while the palate combines lemon and sour apple flavours, with a tart, grippy, bone-dry finish. Noma restaurant selected Sassafras Savagnin for its Sydney wine list – perhaps to pair its idiosyncratic tartness with particular foods.

Ravensworth Garnacha Tinta y Cinq-sao 2015
Quarry Hill and Euroka Park vineyards, Murrumbateman, Canberra District, NSW

Press the “Weird stuff” tab on to buy Bryan Martin’s delicious young red. He writes, “I was eating a pretty neat paella when I was writing the label” – hence the Spanish names of two red varieties we know as grenache and cinsaut. These southern French vines thrive in hot, dry climates and clearly ripened beautifully in cooler Canberra in 2015. Martin used whole-berry ferment, in the Beaujolais style, to create a unique, mouth-watering style: fragrant and juicy, with a range of sweet-berry flavours, a touch of spice and savour, round, plush palate and dry, fresh finish.

Cupitt Semillon 2014
Cupitt vineyard, Ulladulla, Shoalhaven Coast, NSW

Cupitt winery and restaurant complex perches on a gentle slope, to the west of Ulladulla, with views to Burrill Lake and the Budawangs. Fresh local food, smart service, and delicious wine and beer made on site match the beautiful setting. Griff Cupitt raises Black Angus cattle, Rosie Cupitt makes cheese, and their sons Wally and Tom produce wine and beer. At a recent lunch, we enjoyed 2012 and 2014 vintage semillons from the Cupitt vineyard and a 2014 shiraz from Hilltops. They’re all enjoyable wines, but our pick on a hot day, the 2014 semillon, provided ultra-fresh, light-bodied drinking (10 per cent alcohol), with zesty lemon-like flavours and bone-dry finish.

Pikes Traditionale Riesling 2015
Clare Valley, South Australia

The Pike family’s blend from various Clare Valley sub-regions provides a rich, soft, drink-now expression of Clare’s great white specialty. Lemon- and lime-like aromas and flavours, combined with brisk acidity, give the wine tremendous vitality. The combination of delicate, citrus characters with that acidity make it a great pre-dinner refresher or good company with seafood, especially oysters. We enjoyed our bottle with fresh Clyde River oysters at Lake Conjola.

Bremerton Special Release Tempranillo Graciano 2014
Langhorne Creek, South Australia
Down in Australia’s “middle palate”, Langhorne Creek, sisters Lucy and Rebecca Willson have a bit of fun with the Spanish red varieties tempranillo and graciano, solo and blended together. Their 2014 combination of the two varieties produced a medium-to-deep coloured wine with satisfying, Langhorne Creek fleshiness. However, the savoury character of the varieties and rustic tannins flow across the palate, too, giving a firm but gentle, dry finish.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2016
First published 24 February in the Canberra Times