“An elegant red. Spicy, peppery style offers a nice core of raspberry and currant fruit surrounded by black pepper, bay leaf and mint notes, which linger on the fine-grained finish!”
Ref: www.winelistaustralia.com.au/wineShow.php?pid=1901 Anthony D’Anna (AUS)
“Dark purple in colour, a big brooding palate that would have to be the biggest, richest and most powerful Petaluma Coonawarra on release. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec. The Malbec fills the middle palate and the Merlot makes this wines throughly approachable. Even weighing in at 14%, this wine is supremely balanced and so well crafted. It will be remembered I think as one of the classic Petaluma Coonawarra, up there with 90,91 and 1998.”
“Petaluma Coonawarra Cabernet Merlot 2005 ($65): I was a great fan of the 2004 and this 2005 is equally as good. It’s a great combination of elegance and power. It tastes dark and olive-like, its blackcurrant-y heart peppered with spicy, smoky oak. All that said, this wine is more about structure and texture than flavour: it flows beautifully through the mouth before straightening up and reaching out through the finish. It's a cracker. Drink: 2013-2023.”
Ref: www.winestar.com.au/prod1102.htm & http://www.winefront.com.au/petaluma-coonawarra-cabernet-merlot-2005-65/ Gary Walsh (AUS)
Issue: April 1, 2008 - Winorama
“This year sees a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and the introduction of two brand new grapey chums - 5% Petit Verdot (Evans Vineyard) and 5% Malbec (Sharefarmers Vineyard).
It’s fragrant, violetty and perfumed with aniseed and spice over blackberry, blackcurrant, cedar oak and mineral. Cool, calm and collected. On the palate medium bodied and fine - a wine of effortless sophistication that combines perfectly ripe fruit without excess sweetness or alcohol warmth, a flourish of savoury black olive and graphite with polished cedary French oak in support. It has fine smooth tannins, clean fresh acidity and feels fluid and calm throughout, finishing long and dry. Benchmark Coonawarra. Drink : 2015 - 2025+. Rated : 96 Points; Alcohol : 14%; Price : $65; Drink : 2015 - 2025+.”
“Youthful hue; vibrant, blueberry fruit is slightly dominated by lavish levels of new wood; however, beneath there are ample levels of fruit, with an almost velvety texture and slightly chewy tannins; very long finish. 13.5º alc. Rating 94 Points Drink 2020 $60 Date Tasted Mar 08 James Halliday Wine Companion 2009.”
Ref: www.winestar.com.au/prod1102.htm Nick Stock (AUS)
Issue: January 1, 2009 – Penguin Good Australian Wine Guide
“This is a class act, smelling warm, soft and decidedly claret-like. Bright musky oak helps lift cabernet’s purple florals, berries and merlot’s blue fruits. It layers up nicely across the palate, flavours follow aromas; the tannins are supple and run in fine lines that stretch the length of the palate.”
Ref: www.lion-nathanwine.com.au/IgnitionSuite/uploads/docs/pdfs/pdf2008200911209PM.pdf Brad Paton & Danny Bishop (AUS)
Issue: June 27, 2008 – Wineweek.com.au
“... very, very highly regarded wine... remarkably good buying... a great wine, beautiful flavours... have a go at this.”
Ref: www.lion-nathanwine.com.au/IgnitionSuite/uploads/docs/pdfs/pdf2008200912749PM.pdf Matthew Jukes & Tyson Stelzer (AUS)
Issue: October 1, 2008 – Taste Food & Wine
“…glorious 2005… the blackcurrant fruit is stunningly lifted (Cabernet’s trumpet call) and then the outriders of red berry notes flank this movement, thanks to the astute addition of top quality Merlot. On the palate the vanillan oak and woodsmoke notes call out, adding to the cacophony. While this wine will need a long time to soften and integrate, it makes for an extraordinary experience already….three days after having tasted it and we couldn’t resist dipping in again to see what changes had transpired.. It was beautifully balanced and even more alluring with great length and savoury complexity… "
“Handpicked. The Best Petaluma Coonawarra I can recall. A classic Bordeaux blend with 30 per cent Merlot adding flesh to the cabernet’s structured bones. Intense and inky to begin, the palate reveals plums, cassis and blackberries. Black-olive and tar notes, and a firm, proud tannin finish.”
Ref: www.lion-nathanwine.com.au/IgnitionSuite/uploads/docs/pdfs/pdf2008200911209PM.pdf Chris Shanahan (AUS)
Issue: January 4, 2009 – Sunday Canberra Times
“...It’s a wine of considerable substance - one that reveals layers of flavour and texture. Twenty-two months in new French oak seems to have given the wine lift, mellow tannins and flavours that harmonise completely with the fruit...”
“2005 Petaluma Coonawarra is comprised of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec. Aged in new Alliers and Nevers oak barriques for 22 months and was bottled without filtration. For the first time Petit Verdot from the Evans Vineyard and Malbec from the Sharefarmers Vineyard have been included to complement the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that have comprised the Petaluma Coonawarra blend for more than 20 years.
It would be totally clichéd and for me to proclaim the Petaluma Coonawarra 2005 a better wine than the Petaluma Coonawarra 2004 (97/100 Jeremy Oliver, 96/100 Campbell Mattinson, WineStar Wine of the Year 2007) but those comparisons are inevitable following my second tasting of the 2005 during the week. It is unsurprisingly our third nomination (behind Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz 2005 and Voyager Estate Cabernet Merlot 2004) for this years' ’WineStar Wine of the Year
Ironically or perhaps eerily, my comments of the 2004 ring true of the 2005, particularly the ‘two wines in one’ analogy:
This is almost two wines in one, a notion I have had when I tried a number of other Cabernets from 2004 Coonawarra. It is remarkably approachable and the only saving grace is the knowledge that with some patience, we are actually looking at one of the finest Coonawarra Cabernets ever made, a wine that in 12 or so years – and I am not one for long drinking windows – will be remembered not only as an Australian classic, icon, legend – call it what you want but also prove to be one of the great bargains due to the fact that at $45 it is still less than half the retail price of the other Australian icon Cabs. I’d love to match this up with Bordeaux in a decade, safe in the knowledge that you couldn’t buy a cork and capsule of decent Bordeaux for this money.
“In the old days, Coonawarra was the epitome of Australian “claret”, and this wine is very much in that style. It’s dry and long without being heavy. It’s firm without being tough and chewy. It will live for a very long time, but it’s no crime to drink it now. Do try it. Outstanding.”
“An outstanding cabernet merlot blend with just a dash of petit verdot and malbec added. Better than a lot of Bordeauxs with its ripe fruit flavours combined with elegance and structure. The oak is still forward in the wine’s youth but the palate remains smooth and soft.”
Ref: www.lion-nathanwine.com.au/IgnitionSuite/uploads/docs/pdfs/pdf2008200911209PM.pdf Jeremy Oliver (AUS)
Issue: June 13, 2008
91 pts or 17 ½ / 20 pts
“A deep, dark and brooding wine which takes some time before its rather closed perfume of dark cherries, blackberries, violets and chocolate permeates its initial scents of brandied plums, prunes and tobacco. It gradually unfolds dark berry/cherry fruit that is at first rather hemmed in by cedar/mocha/vanilla oak and layers of astringent, drying tannin. It’s firm, rather blocky and very ripe, and certainly needs time to soften. (Coonawarra, 17.5/91, drink 2013-2017).”
Article on Winemaker Brian Crozer by Decanter Magazine
Brian Crozer; Man of the Year
Petaluma founder, mentor to winemaking students, and visionary winemaker, Brian Croser is one of the leaders of the Australian wine world. HUON HOOKE meets Decanter's Man of the Year 2004
As you enter the tasting room, there are rows of bottles and wines in glasses. The host fixes you with a steady, penetrating gaze over the top of his reading glasses. 'There's something I want you to understand about what I'm trying to do,' he says. An hour later you emerge with a new perspective on some detail of viticulture or winemaking that he's obsessed with. And you realise you have been Crosered.
Decanter's 2004 Man of the Year, Brian Croser, is one of the most outstanding, but also enigmatic and misunderstood, figures in Australian wine. He is an introvert and introverts are often accused of arrogance when it's more often shyness. Croser, 55, is a self-contained, self-absorbed, supremely confident man. It is hard to imagine him searching his soul, wracked with self-doubt. It's not that he wants to influence you or persuade you to write a story: he is simply way ahead of the pack, and he needs to explain things to the rest of us mere mortals.
Talk to those close to him and the word visionary keeps cropping up. 'He always knew what he wanted and how to get there,' says Michael Hill Smith, of Shaw & Smith Wines. Croser has always been a leader, even when he was a school prefect. He's in a higher league than most of his contemporaries in Australia. He was the first to suit grape varieties to regions and plant his vineyards directly from that premise. Many have followed him, usually just buying grapes from specific regions – Semillon from the Hunter, Clare Riesling, Coonawarra Cabernet, and so on – but back in the 1970s this was quite radical. Quite European.
Traditionally, Australians planted every conceivable vine variety in the one vineyard, and wondered why most of them made ordinary wine, while one or two might have flourished. Croser was the first to commit himself to planting the variety in the region that best suited it, and arguably, no one has done it quite the same way since.
Croser started South Australian winery Petaluma in 1976, and planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in Coonawarra, Riesling in Clare, and Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the Adelaide Hills. From the coolest Adelaide Hills sites, he would make Croser sparkling wine; from the warmer ones, table wine. His first Coonawarra reds were blends of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, but he decided early on that Merlot, not Shiraz, was the better blending grape for Coonawarra because Shiraz didn't ripen consistently. As well, he began to make a varietal Merlot which was, from the start, one of the best in the land.
His other Coonawarra wine, Sharefarmers, was named after its source, a discrete vineyard in the region's north which was the chief bone of contention in the Coonawarra boundary dispute. The main fault of Sharefarmers was that it was literally on the wrong side of the track. Traditionally, the land on the south side of the road had been considered part of Coonawarra, the north not. But Croser argued that there was no significant difference between the quality of the terra rossa soil on either side of the road. Sharefarmers' label now proudly sports the Coonawarra appellation.
Croser's iron will usually prevails. The hostile takeover of the Petaluma group by drinks giant Lion Nathan in 2001 devastated Croser, who was quoted as saying at the time: 'I had the future worked out. I had the same objectives for 27 years. Now there's a feeling of aimlessness when I wake up in the morning.'
Two and a half years on, he is more upbeat: 'Lion Nathan could have destroyed the dream, but it hasn't,' he says. When Lion Nathan moved in, its strategy was to move management, marketing and export business to its Sydney office and roll it in with Lion's other wine acquisitions. But today, the winery office at Piccadilly hums along much as its did before the takeover, one suspects, with marketing and management still located there, vineyards still under direct control, and the same people running things.
'They realised you can't run a premium wine company based in the Adelaide Hills out of an office on the 30th floor of a tower in Sydney. Lion Nathan has empowered our staff. It has latched onto the idea of semi-autonomous wineries.' Croser still lives in the same house beside the winery, which he owns, and remains chief winemaker and executive chairman of wine strategy for the Lion Nathan Wine Group.
GUIDING LIGHT At Petaluma over many years, Croser was a great mentor for upcoming winemakers and beginners, especially oenology students who worked there – whether for several years or just a vintage. The number of winemakers he's mentored and who've gone on to achieve is legion, and includes Martin Shaw of Shaw & Smith, Andrew Hardy of Knappstein and Dean Hewitson of Hewitson Wines.
'He was my mentor: I learnt everything from him,' says Hardy. 'He was terribly influential, especially in the early days.'
Martin Shaw was chief winemaker under Croser for nine years, and recalls Croser as a charismatic man who led by example. A hard taskmaster: 'If he wanted you to work 10- or 15-hour days, he was doing it himself, too. He was always available to answer questions and always responsive if you wanted to challenge his winemaking ideas.'
Hardy agrees. 'He's a great disciplinarian. Woe betide you if you didn't do things his way, but there was always a very good explanation of why he wanted it that way. We worked silly hours for him. The Saturday morning chat sessions were very precious: we would discuss all the trends and analyse where we were going.' Hardy admits to having a few stand-up fights with Croser. 'His self-belief is amazing. He'd be in London telling us we can't pick Barossa Shiraz in February, but we've seen the fruit, it's 15? Baumé and it's ready!'
Croser has made an enormous contribution to the Australian wine industry. He has his critics and indeed his enemies, but as president of the Winemakers' Federation of Australia between 1991–93 and 1997–99 he wielded major influence. Most notably, he played a key role in the industry's fight against a government determined to increase the already draconian wine tax.
He has also made his mark in the USA, by co-founding the Dundee Wine Company
in Oregon's Willamette Valley, with local grower Cal Knudsen, producing mainly sparkling 'méthode champenoise' wines, under the Argyle label.
One of Croser's great assets is his rare combination of abilities as businessman, manager, politician and winemaker. 'He could juggle wine industry politics, winemaking and the business side, and give you absolute clarity on each one,' says Hardy.
Croser had great influence on winemakers in the 1970s and 1980s through his roles as educator at Riverina College and winemaking consultant at Oenotec. But he was criticised for an obsession with preserving fruit flavour through ultra-clean and strictly anaerobic techniques. Some say Australia still has the residue of this, a national style of simple, tutti-frutti wines. Croser is unapologetic: 'Yes, I did that, and I would do it again. Anaerobic handling gives clean wine, and you can move forward from there. You have to understand that there was a lot of bad winemaking and a great deal of ignorance.' Once the basic, sound practices are in place and the winemaker is in control, he maintains, riskier things can then be tried, such as wild yeast fermentations, no filtration, no sulphur dioxide, and so on.
The timing of Croser's Man of the Year award could hardly have been better from the point of view of his new venture. Croser has linked up with Bordeaux luminary Jean-Michel Cazes, of Château Lynch-Bages, and his old Petaluma shareholder, Bollinger, in a new multi-regional, multi-national, ultra-premium wine company, as yet unnamed.
The group has begun planting Pinot Noir for table wine on a new, untested piece of land on the Fleurieu Peninsula, south of McLaren Vale, which Croser says is the second coldest place in South Australia. He retains ownership of the Tiers vineyard, adjacent to his home at Piccadilly, and the best of many Chardonnay vineyards he developed in the Adelaide Hills. As well, the triumvirate is poised to buy land in one of the cooler, elevated parts of the southern Rhône Valley to plant Syrah and Viognier. And it has recently bought unplanted land in Oregon for Riesling. It already owns, and has made its first wine from, the original Koppamurra vineyard in what is now the Wrattonbully region, just north of Coonawarra. It's a 25-year-old vineyard which Croser says is the best in the area, and from which he expects to make superb Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. 'Small and exquisite', is the catch-cry for his new venture.
He describes this as the third phase of his career. The first was his stint as chief winemaker at Hardy's, starting winemaking consultancy, Oenotec, and creating the wine science course at Riverina College/Charles Sturt University in New South Wales.
The second was Petaluma. 'I now know what to do,' he continues, then lists a few dos and don'ts. 'Never rely on growers if you want quality wine. Only certain things work in certain places.
'There are some truly noble varieties and some that can produce noble results,' he continues. In the first class he places Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; in the second Merlot, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Viognier.
While the Australian wine industry has been sitting pretty in the global market for some years, and critics, especially in the US, have fallen in love with the voluptuous, high-alcohol Aussie red style, Croser has never been slow to criticise under-performers and encourage his peers to do better.
'There's another gear we have to get into, which requires a different level of investment and a different level of thinking. It (the fact that this hasn't happened) has something to do with the corporatisation of the industry; the pity is, the corporates are the ones who have the resources.'
Croser is notable for his modesty when rating his own wines. Does he think he's made a great wine yet? 'No,' is the unhesitating reply. 'I've made some very good wines, but not great as defined by the likes of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Château Latour, La Chapelle and Clos Ste Hune. Any Australian winemaker not saying that is challengeable. But I have collected enough experience to do it, given the right circumstances.'
An assemblage of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot, with smaller proportions of Petit Verdot from the elite Evans Vineyard, and 5% Malbec from the distinguished Sharefarmers Vineyard. Hand picked grapes are fermented to a selected native Petaluma yeast culture, carried out mainly in Potter submerged cap fermenters. Smaller portions of the fruit were fermented in 1.5 tonne open fermenters and these were hand plunged twice per day. After twenty to thirty days on skins the wine was drained and the skins pressed. Following full malolactic on yeast lees, Petaluma was treated to maturation under a combination of new Alliers and Nevers oaks for eighteen months prior to bottling without filtration.”
“Coonawarra Vignerons are pleased to report that 2005 was a very good vintage with warm dry conditions during March and April concluding the favourable conditions experienced throughout the growing season.
The early start to vintage delivered some terrific flavours in the white varieties and this trend was maintained for the red wines with all varieties considered as very good to exceptional.
The 2005 vintage will be remembered as comparatively compact with average to slightly below average yields and warm dry conditions throughout, making for trouble-free harvest management.
The early vintage can be traced back to the start of the season with early bud burst and excellent shoot growth resulting from a wet winter and fine spring conditions. Flowering was also a little earlier and the weather was favourable for the most part but cooler conditions towards the end of flowering did inhibit fruit set in some vineyards.
Late spring and summer can at best be called normal, with mild conditions experienced throughout the growing season but with a noticeable absence of periods of hot weather. This, along with the very dry summer and autumn, provided for a near ideal season in which the vines were comfortably able to ripen their fruit.
Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc all benefited from the mild summer and the majority of fruit was picked with high acid, lovely mineral elements and slightly austere fruit characters.
Winemakers are particularly pleased with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, all of which have good varietal characteristics and structure with a rich ripe flavour profile and generous ripe tannins, albeit with higher alcohols that normally expected. Shiraz also enjoyed the warm dry autumn conditions allowing Winemakers to pursue fruit characters in the riper spectrum with generous flavours and structure.