In the September of 2016 I received a phone call from Frank Mitolo asking me if we could meet up in Adelaide for a chat. I was about to host my annual Great Australian Red competition with my Aussie wine scribe pal Tyson Stelzer, so we both went to meet Frank and his winemaking guru Ben Glaetzer. There was a “cleanskin” bottle on the table in the Apothecary Wine Bar when we walked in. This was the first ever pre-release tasting of Marsican – Mitolo’s secret Shiraz project.
The Marsican brown bear (Ursus arctos marsicanus) is an endangered species that lives in the Abruzzo National Park and the surrounding regions in Italy. Frank’s Italian heritage coupled with the size, scale and attitude of this wine mean that its name makes perfect sense. Made from an elite barrel selection of his greatest shirazes of the vintage, and matured in 100% French oak, this is a mighty wine and it is in some ways related to Frank’s Savitar Shiraz, which was until now his top wine of this grape variety. The main difference is in the detail and the sheer level of complexity.
At 14% alcohol it is not a head-banger. It is, however, infinitesimally layered with black fruit, cocoa, liquorice, Partagas Serie D No.4 smoke and black olives, and this makes it a frighteningly indulgent wine. Frank and Ben have set out to make an iconic McLaren Vale Shiraz – they have achieved this aim at their first attempt.
• Matthew Jukes is a winner of the International Wine & Spirit Competition’s Communicator of the Year (MatthewJukes.com).