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The Clare Valley
Part 3: Mitchell

Andrew and Jane Mitchell (pictured below) are making some fantastic wines which sell at very fair prices. Mitchell was just the eighth winery to be established in Clare, although this was more than 120 years after the first vines were planted here in 1850 at Sevenhill. Andrew’s family were growers with a vineyard in Clare (they sold to Leasingham, which was then the Stanley Wine Company), and he went to study economics at Adelaide University. He followed this up with a course in Wine Science at Wagga in New South Wales, at a dynamic time (1976–78): contemporaries included Brian Croser (who was a lecturer), Phil Ryan and Robin Day. Andrew describes it as a ‘totally unrepeatable experience’. 

Andrew made wines for the first time from his family’s vineyards in 1975. Now Mitchell do some 30 000 cases annually from their 75 hectares of vineyards, and are self-reliant for fruit. Andrew has a quiet, studied manner and isn’t a self-publicist: if he was, perhaps these wines would be hyped more in the media and cost twice the price. For the shrewd consumer, though, these are excellent buys. The Riesling is consistently among the best half dozen in Australia, and the Cabernet is pretty serious also. But don’t forget the Grenache, a super wine with real character. Andrew says that his Shiraz is the easiest wine to sell.

Mitchell were one of the Clare screwcap pioneers who bottled their Riesling under Stelvin in 2000. Andrew’s current theory is that cork has a dulling effect on fruit: screwcaps age at the same rate, he thinks, but the fruit is retained, so the wine doesn’t close down at all.

Riesling vertical
8000 cases a year are made of this wine, which comes from a vineyard planted in 1962 on its own roots. It has always been dry grown and yields around 2 tons an acre. Only free run juice is used; the press wine is sold off.

Mitchell Riesling 2004 Watervale, Clare
Lovely bright aromatic nose with taut limey fruit and a subtle confectionary hint. The palate is crisp and full with nice savoury, tangy citrus fruits. Good concentration and high acidity. Potentially superb with time but hard to assess now. Very good/excellent 90/100

Mitchell Riesling 2003 Watervale, Clare
Breathtakingly delicate and expressive, with a minerally nose. Restrained. The palate is tight, concentrated and minerally with high acidity. Great depth to this. Very good/excellent 93/100

Mitchell Riesling 2002 Watervale, Clare
This complex Riesling is really beginning to hit its stride. Delicate, limey nose with subtle spicy floral notes. The palate is crisp and full with a striking liminess and a dry finish. Tight with good acidity. Very minerally. Very good/excellent 94/100

Mitchell Riesling 2001 Watervale, Clare
Gorgeous nose of open honeyed, floral, lemony fruit. Very delicate. The palate is opening out with some fresh lemony, slightly toasty fruit and good acidity. Still youthful though. Very good/excellent 93/100

Mitchell Riesling 2000 Watervale, Clare
The first year of screwcaps. Deeper in colour with some evolution on the nose: toasty notes and hints of petrol. There’s a savoury intensity to the limey fruit. The palate is almost structured with lots of savoury, limey fruit. Concentrated and full. Very good/excellent 90/100

Mitchell Riesling 1999 Watervale, Clare
Quite a deep yellow gold colour. The nose is quite heavy and full with a toasty, herby edge to the limey fruit. The palate shows explosive acidity. There’s a nuttiness to the fruit; overall this is austere. Some volatility. At an awkward stage. Very good+ 86/100

Mitchell Riesling 1998 Watervale, Clare
Quite deep yellow gold. Subtle, taut nose. Palate is tight with structured, limey, spicy fruit and high acidity. Great concentration of flavour. Crisp, fresh and still youthful. Melony, apricotty edge to the fruit. Very good/excellent 92/100

Mitchell Riesling 1992 Watervale, Clare
Lovely delicate perfumed nose with a hint of petrol, and some honey and floral notes. The palate is quite complex and full with lovely savoury structure. Not hard or tough: a fantastic wine. Very good/excellent 94/100

Cabernet Sauvignon vertical
Andrew explained that with Cabernet in Clare there is only a short window of opportunity to pick the grapes. They quickly shift from underripe, with green, leafy characteristics, to overrripe, where they lose their nice varietal character. Andrew gives Cabernet a long time on skins, fermenting it in closed tanks with pumping over. After pressing it goes into tanks and sits on lees. Mitchell’s Cabernet comes from a vineyard that has a deep red loam soil.

Mitchell Sevenhill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 Clare
(Screwcapped) Very bright, focused blackcurrant nose with a lovely chalky earthiness. Some restraint here. The palate shows elegant blackcurrant fruit with a minerally, spicy edge. Elegant stuff with the oak in check: not obvious at all. Very good/excellent 92/100

Mitchell Sevenhill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 Clare
Two bottles of this were opened, both were corked!

Mitchell Sevenhill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 Clare
Tight nose showing some earthy, spicy chalkiness, and restrained blackcurrant fruit. The palate is quite tight with a lovely core of fruit. Savoury, spicy and mineralic with some dark tarry hints. Very good/excellent 92/100

Mitchell Sevenhill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 Clare
Very appealing taut minerally blackcurrant fruit on the nose. Very expressive with great depth. The palate is concentrated and full with lovely balance between the tight wound black fruits, the spiciness, and the acidity. A serious wine with a lovely future ahead of it. Very good/excellent 94/100

Mitchell Sevenhill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 Clare
Lovely elegant blackcurrant fruit nose with a subtle overlay of spice and tar. The palate is savoury and firm with some spiciness and minerality. Elegant stuff with good acid. Very good/excellent 92/100

Other wines  

Mitchell Semillon 2002 Clare
30% is barrel fermented with wild yeasts. Very rounded and smooth with a lemony, herbal character and a touch of herbaceousness. Very good+ 88/100

Mitchell Peppertree Vineyard Shiraz 1998 Clare
Very deep coloured. Dark, tarry, spicy nose. The palate is savoury and spicy with good acidity. Very expressive. Very good/excellent 90/100

Mitchell Peppertree Vineyard Shiraz 2002 Clare
A proportion is done with whole-bunch fermentation in open tanks; a bit of crushed fruit is pumped on top. The stalks and whole berries give a spicy pungency. Very deep coloured. Sweet dark fruits nose. The palate is concentrated and full with a herby spicy overlay to the pure blackfruits. A hint of fruit sweetness completes this forward wine. Very good/excellent 91/100

Mitchell Grenache 2001 Clare
This has a hint of Mourvèdre and a bit of Sangiovese in it. Lots of people blend Grenache with Shiraz, points out Andrew, but then you just end up with an inferior Shiraz. Grenache has charms of its own. This wine has a lovely perfumed Grenache nose: it’s spicy, slightly herby and with liqueur-like sweet red fruits. The palate is really expressive with sweet spices: almost exotic. Brilliant. Very good/excellent 92/100

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