Dry-grown, hand-picked, hand-made, estate-bottled …
These days, you could add old vines and biodynamic to the list. Have I missed anything? Mitchell is Clare Valley royalty, and Jane Mitchell has just been made one of only 6 Clare Valley Legends. The biggest surprise is that the wines are affordable. So why isn’t Mitchell more popular? One answer is that the slick young sommeliers in the big smoke don’t have Mitchell on their list of trendy wineries. As a result, Mitchell is one of the country’s best-kept secret.
The Clare Valley has always been sold short
The Clare’s best whites are Rieslings, and the phrase ‘Australia is blessed with the unpopularity of Riesling,’ is attributed to Andrew Mitchell. That hasn’t changed despite big names like Brian Croser/Petaluma and Jeffrey Grosset pushing hard to put their Rieslings up there with the best.
Quelltaler used to make great Semillons, and Andrew Mitchell makes a fine Clare Semillon today. The once fashionable variety Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc don’t make great wines here, no one knows why not.
Clare’s reds have long been underrated as well – Cabernet, Shiraz and Malbec have long flourished here, with a bit of Grenache added in recent days. Anyone remember those great Stanley Leasingham Bin 56 Cabernet Malbecs of the seventies? Tim Adams learnt his craft from Mick Knappstein at Stanley, and he still makes a good Cabernet Malbec .
When my late wife and I visited Mitchell’s winery in 1980, Jane and Andrew greeted us in the old stone apple shed. Their first daughter was a toddler then, crawling around the wooden floor. Andrew tells me she is now a chief designer in a famous Spanish company in Barcelona. The rest of the Mitchell clan have stayed behind and seem to work in the family business.
Back in 1980, we loved the 79 Riesling, which typified the Mitchell style: big flavoured, full-bodied Riesling with a strong backbone for aging. It’s the kind of Riesling they try hard to produce in Alsace in a good year, and it sells for less than $20 in Sydney. The Semillon is made from ripe fruit and matured in oak. It’s a different style from that of Hunter Semillons, and released at 5 years of age but benefits from more years in the cellar. The Semillon, the noble Semillon and the sparkling red are winery direct orders, as are the Premium range of Mitchell wines, the McNicoll range.
The reds are also released with some age on them: the current Peppertree Shiraz is 2010, the Grenache, Sangiovese, Mourvedre (an interesting variation on the GSM theme) is 2009, and the current Sevenhill Cabernet is 2006. Even this wine can be bought for less than $25. Details Here. The reds tend to be on the big side, except for the Cabernet which is elegant in cooler years. The other two offer big rich fruit typical of the Clare Valley, but the Cabernet is a more savoury style with dried herbs and leathery, earthy flavours – these are great food wines.
So what are you waiting for?