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Where riesling is rising to greater heights

By Stephen quinn | China Daily | Updated: 2011-07-09 07:59

Family-owned vineyards produce some of the world's most authentic wine. Corporations have advantages of scale and volume, but family-owned estates tend to reflect the passions and positive prejudices of the owner.

Awards for winemaker Andrew Mitchell of Mitchell Wines have come from around the world. The vineyard has received a consistent five-star rating in the Australian Wine Companion and inclusion in the list of the top 20 wines of the world by the UK's Financial Times.

Andrew Mitchell was born at the family vineyard at Sevenhill, about a two-hour drive due north of Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. It is a region of beautiful rolling hills and unique terroir.

Riesling is one of the region's delights and the current vintage, the 2010 Mitchell Watervale riesling, is full of aromas of lemon and lime zest. This is a feature of young riesling.

With age they mature into considerate adults able to express themselves more elegantly, offering aromas of honey and toast. While young, they are bouncy and offer flavors at the citrus end of the spectrum, so the contrast after only six to eight years is remarkable. The trick is being able to cellar them for that time.

This wine had a dry palate with crisp acidity and a long lingering finish. It will develop beautifully and those fresh citrus fruit flavors will transform into the rich toasty characters for which aged riesling from this area is known.

Another of my favorite wines from the tasting was a blend of grenache, sangiovese and mourvedre. The French blend grenache, shiraz and mourvedre for the famous GSM (from the initials of each wine), but the substitution of sangiovese for shiraz is fascinating and compelling. I tried this wine three different times - at the Shanghai wine show, the next day at my hotel and at home a few days later. Every time, the wine was marvelous in a variety of ways.

The aroma was dark and brooding, like a jealous lover, the result of ripe fruit. It offers loads of ripe blackberry aromas and flavors. Yet at the same time the wine was lively and fresh. I encountered an array of black cherry tastes and soft fruit tannins.

To quote Andrew Mitchell: "The glorious essence of grenache is enhanced with a touch of mourvedre and sangiovese." The wine is not aged in wood to present the complex array of fruit flavors to best effect.

Despite the delights of the GSM, I was bowled over by the 2002 McNicol shiraz.

This is a big yet subtle wine. It is almost black in the glass with a complex aroma of blackberries, cherries and plums, plus dark chocolate and cedar from the oak. The wine is well integrated with fine tannins and a long, dry finish. Some Chinese imbibers might baulk at its 14.5 percent alcohol content, but the wine handles this issue with ease.

Andrew Mitchell said the wine was entering its "optimum drinking" period.

"The primary fruit flavors of youth have given way to the more complex aromas and tastes of maturity," as he puts it.

He suggested the 2002 McNicol should be drunk with roast beef served in its own juices. But it could also be allowed to develop further for up to five years. The choice is yours.

This wondrous wine is waiting to be enjoyed.

Wine Revies

(China Daily 07/09/2011 page12)

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