Champagne moment for local winemaker

Australian winemaker Brian Croser, founder of Petaluma, has attracted the big guns of champagne to his latest wine venture, with the scion of France's famous Bollinger champagne house joining the board of his privately owned Tapanappa Wines.

Australian winemaker Brian Croser, founder of Petaluma, has attracted the big guns of champagne to his latest wine venture, with the scion of France's famous Bollinger champagne house joining the board of his privately owned Tapanappa Wines.

Etienne Bizot, the great-nephew of Lily Bollinger and the sixth generation of the family to be involved in Champagne Bollinger, has joined Tapanappa Wines as a director.

Mr Bizot, who lives in Paris, is the managing director of Bollinger, which has a pedigree going back to 1829. The champagne house was awarded its first Royal Warrant of Appointment by Queen Victoria in 1884, making it the first official champagne of the British Empire.

There is also a strong connection between Bollinger and Australia. Bollinger was an early investor in Petaluma before Mr Croser sold to Lion Nathan in 2001. The champagne house later reunited with the winemaker in 2002 when he created Tapanappa.

Bollinger is a shareholder in Tapanappa, together with the Cazes family of the 150-year-old Chateau Lynch Bages. The present boss, Jean-Charles Cazes, is a director of Tapanappa.

It's not just business for Mr Croser, a 40-year industry veteran, but also family. His daughter is married to Xavier Bizot, the general manager of Tapanappa and son of former Bollinger chairman, the late Christian Bizot.

Tapanappa makes its wines from vineyards based around the Adelaide Hills in South Australia.

Mr Croser has been a vocal critic of the domination of the Australian liquor retail market by Woolworths and Coles, saying he would resist selling wines from his Tapanappa label to the chains, preferring to sell only to independent retailers. He is also a strong champion of the Australian wine industry and has a reputation for speaking his mind when it comes to government meddling.

Last year he demanded the government keep out of the way of winemakers: "Keep out of it, don't do a carbon tax or mining tax on the wine industry. Stand out of the way - keep business certainty."

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