Wine / From spuds to shiraz, the Mitolo journey

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Potatoes to grapes… Mitolo’s McLaren Vale vineyards.

“The evening was punctuated by various exclamations of praise for this intense and complex shiraz. On the nose it had black fruit and bitter chocolate. On taste, it had tonnes of depth and a full finish.” Wine columnist RICHARD CALVER waxes lyrical about a Mitolo shiraz.  

A COLLEAGUE was made redundant. We wanted to have a celebration of note to ease his pain and, to be frank (with whom I’m often confused), to help ease ours. 

Richard Calver.

Flash back to an office sign on a Kiwi colleague’s desk: “Everyone brings joy to this office: some when they arrive, some when they leave.”

Three of us decided to arrange a dinner at a restaurant nominated by our departing mate and to share the cost so that he wasn’t out of pocket. He chose Wild Duck on the Kingston Foreshore where we had the $99 a head banquet, suitably adjusted for a gluten-intolerant member of the party. 

The wine was a key to feeling better about the world as the cold grip of COVID-19 affects jobs and job prospects. We did talk about “getting other jobs” but that conversation quickly died when we discussed the unemployment figures which I later desultorily looked up. 

They show that compared to early March, before the nationwide lockdown, there are an additional 1.12 million Australians now unemployed or under-employed. Researcher Roy Morgan’s unemployment figure of 12.5 per cent for July is significantly higher than the ABS estimate for June 2020 of 7.4 per cent.

I said to my friend: “These days, if an interviewer asks me where I see myself in five years from now, I just answer: ‘Hopefully, not dead’.” 

At the restaurant, I had forgotten my reading glasses so instead of the painful process of trying to choose a wine that would please all, I handed the list to a mate’s wife and asked her to choose. 

She chose a 2014 Mitolo G.A.M. Shiraz. When I blindly peered at the label I said: “Oh, is this a GSM, that’s shiraz driven? 

2014 Mitolo G.A.M. Shiraz… praise for this intense and complex drop.

“No,” she said. “He named the wine after his three daughters; we know because we went to the restaurant in the McLaren Vale.” 

I checked the website later and, sure enough, in the description of how Mitolo Wines was born is the revelation that: “The first Mitolo wine, the 2000 G.A.M. Shiraz was named after Frank’s children Gemma, Alex and Marco.” Um, close with the daughters but Marco sounds like a boy…

The Mitolo range has resulted from a partnership with winemaker Ben Glaetzer and focuses on fruit from McLaren Vale-Willunga district. The G.A.M is the flagship wine and the winery has now received a five-star rating from Halliday. 

The price was a surprise only revealed to me and the other non-choosers when the final tally came around: $119.00 a bottle, and we had the last two in the restaurant’s stock. 

I subsequently found it retails for around $58 a bottle, so the mark-up was as would be expected. Mitolo was a potato grower and I had some dealings with the company in the early 2000s when I acted for the National Farmers’ Federation. 

Mitolo has now become a producer of this lovely wine; it is always a pleasure to encounter grapes when you expected potatoes, especially made into wine of this quality. 

The evening was punctuated by various exclamations of praise for this intense and complex drop. On the nose it had black fruit and bitter chocolate. On taste, it had tonnes of depth and a full finish. When the duck pancakes came out, they and the G.A.M. were a pas de deux of elegance. 

This was an expensive night out but a great way to thank a colleague for his support and steadfastness. 

We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere – Tim McGraw 


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Richard Calver
Richard Calver walks, talks, thinks, drinks and writes passionately about wine, especially the wines of the Canberra region.

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