Wine: Enjoy this Down Under shiraz

Marco Porto
  • The tannins are soft and fine, providing a gentle framework for the deep fruit creating a generosity, a sense of comfort that is such a feature of Shiraz in that unique part of the world

Let me take you Down Under to a gem of a Shiraz, the 2011 Mitolo McLaren Vale Shiraz.

When immigrant Bruno Mitolo arrived in Australia in the 1950's from Abruzzo in Italy, he brought with him two things; a love of wine handed down to him from his vitculturist father Francesco, and an ethos belonging to the Abruzzo region - forte e gentile, or strong and gentle.

Bruno did what he knew best - his wife Angela and Bruno grew vegetables and became successful market gardeners. They worked hard but never forgot their origins where food and wine were an integral part of relaxation.

Frank, Bruno’s son, was working for his father in his potato business. His passion for wine was like dad’s and he started to make wine in 1995. For the first few years they operated on a small scale providing wines for family and close friends. Then in 1999 they were introduced to one of Australia's future winemaking talents, Ben Glaetzer.

During a now legendary five-hour discussion over a restaurant table and quite a few bottles of Shiraz, they fashioned a dream of making the ultimate expression of McLaren Vale's rich provenance of soils and climate, and taking these wines to the world.

Their business plan was jotted on the back of a napkin and it consisted of just six words; individuality, integrity, quality, purity, elegance and power.

Their grapes came from and old friend of the family Don Lopresti, another Italian migrant of the 1950s, who left Calabria and established a vineyard close to the seaside town of Port Willunga in McKLaren Vale.

The shiraz is a favorite with Porto because of its dark, brooding plum flavors.

The fruit here is the essence of Mitolo, with a depth of flavor garnered from the heavy clay soils, yet freshness thanks to the gentle afternoon sea breeze that tempers the hot summer sun. Forte e gentile - strong and gentle.

Ben and Frank worked closely with the Loprestis, picking the grapes when they are "flavor ripe," not simply at the right Baume level. They came to understand their seven different blocks and the tiny variations in soil and micro-climate, and they still keep each parcel separate to accentuate the sub-regional influence that McLaren Vale is famous for.

They take a very "hands-off" approach in the winery, fermenting cool to retain purity, and using a range of barrel coopers to generate complexity yet respect and enhance the fruit.

Frank’s Italian heritage runs strongly through the range of around a dozen wines they now produce: they use Italian Vermentino and Sangiovese; and also the Italian appassimento technique of drying fruit to make their Jester Cabernet and Serpico wines.

But perhaps most importantly of all, their wines are made to suit the Italian foods of Frank’s homeland.

The 2011 Mitolo G.A.M Shiraz is a luscious, textured and round palate pleaser packed with dark, brooding plum flavors, liquorice, and black olive. The tannins are soft and fine, providing a gentle framework for the deep fruit creating a generosity, a sense of comfort that is such a feature of Shiraz in that unique part of the world.

The suggested pairing is chop239 baby lamb chops.

The 2011 Mitolo G.A.M. Shiraz is on Chop239 wine list and would pair up nicely with the baby lamb chops. Enjoy and salute.

Marco Porto is owner of chop239 and is a wine connoisseur. Along with Laura Owen of CJ’s on the Bay and Adamo Serravalle of DaVinci’s and Marco Prime, he is a regular contributor to this column.