Friday, September 30, 2011

Mitchell - A New Take on GSM

One of the last things I need, having just recently returned from the annual BC Wine Appreciation Society Bus Tour, is a wine tasting. Notice of an impromptu opportunity to meet with the proprietors of Mitchell winery in the Clare Valley proved a little too tempting though. Attendance was limited to a dozen people and it was being held at Everything Wine. AWAS had never met at this location before and I knew nothing about Mitchell.

Jane and Andrew Mitchell established the boutique winery in 1975 and pre-eminent Aussie wine writer, James Halliday, calls them "one of the stalwarts of the Clare Valley." Mr. and Mrs. met with us and recounted many intriguing stories about their experiences and about winemaking in the Clare Valley. Plus, they walked us through four of their wines that are now being offered in the Vancouver market.

The Clare Valley is a narrow, 40 kilometer valley located a couple of hours North of Adelaide. It's home to more than 40 wineries and is probably best known for dry, crisp Rieslings. Mitchell definitely has its Riesling; however, they complete their limited production with plantings of Semillon, Shiraz, Merlot, Grenache and Cab Sauv. Mitchell's vineyards are totally organic or biodynamic and are in the process of being certified. The grapes are all dry-grown and, therefore, vine yields are low. Jane was particularly happy to announce that it's taken six years; however, the vineyard soils are now laden with worms. As the group continued to talk about the idiosyncracies of biodynamics, Jane confessed that when she started life as a winery owner, she never envisioned spending a good part of her Sunday's "shovelling cowshit to make compost sprays."

It's no mistake that Jane heads up the marketing and brand promotion aspects of the winery. She can weave a story with the best of them.

Everything Wine's delivery schedule hadn't worked out as planned. So, there was a limited selection of wines available for purchase (probably a good thing for both Boo and I), but I did grab a couple of bottles and thought I better let Boo try one right away so that he wouldn't be too upset with me having picked up the bottles that I did.

935. 2007 Mitchell GSM (Clare Valley - Australia)

GSM wines are well-known as Aussie Rhone-like blends of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre and they're chock-a-block in South Australia. The "S" in Mitchell's GSM doesn't stand for Shiraz, however. Rather, it's an "S" as in Sangiovese. Before, the Mitchells started producing this GSM, they had only made a straight Grenache varietal. When they decided to try a blend, they found that the Shiraz overwhelmed the softness that was their cooler climate Grenache. So, they experimented with a small percentage of Sangiovese with the Mourvèdre.

Like Jane, I found it to be enjoyably soft with a bit of spice to it. Jane says that she even chills it and serves it like a Rosé during the hot summers. As opposed to the bigger Barossa GSM's, she finds it to be more Spanish in its taste. They are continually told that people say that this isn't a wine that they'd expect to come from Australia.

Production of all their wines is limited. They might be able to totally max out at 25,000 cases; however, it's more usual to see a vintage of 12,000 cases. With 70% of Mitchell's output staying behind in Oz, it doesn't leave an awful lot of wine to make its way around the world. I'm glad to see that Vancouver is now going to be getting a share. I look forward to trying the couple varietal wines that I was able to grab as well.

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