Thomas Mitchell Marsanne 2002 Southeastern Australia

15 Sep 2003 by JR

I am so thrilled to be seeing more and more varietal variation on our shelves and lists. The Chardonnay-Cabernet-Merlot hegemony is definitely a thing of the past in Britain at least and, I suspect, increasingly elsewhere.

Here's an example of an extremely interesting wine at a really fabulous price. It carries the Thomas Mitchell label, which means it comes from Mitchelton, by far the biggest company in the Goulburn Valley in Australia's state of Victoria. Since it was part of Brian Croser's Petaluma-based business empire, it now belongs to Lion Nathan (see Australia does not make enough great wine) who are big enough to offer generous promotional terms to the big retailers. (And wily enough to suggest to one large UK retailer it had an exclusivity while also supplying it to another.)

Leading British supermarket chain Tesco's Autumn Wine Festival runs 17 September - 7 oct and offers a straight 20 per cent across the board off all French and Australian wines (ie, most of the most popular wines) including champagne, and 25 per cent off if six assorted bottles from France and/or Australia are bought at any one time.

Tesco has bought in particularly large parcels of eight wines including this one so, in theory anyway, British shoppers should not have too much trouble finding it. The regular price is £5.49 a bottle but this comes down to just £4.12 a bottle if six bottles are bought.

Considering how much flavour is locked into this bottle, this is a snip. Goulburn Valley has the world's most extensive and venerable plantings of the North Rhône grape Marsanne outside France. I must confess to not being the greatest fan of some past Mitchelton Marsannes - they had a tendency, as this grape naturally does - to be too fat and flabby. But something has changed and this very positive Thomas Mitchell wine, one of Mitchelton's most basic labels and nothing to do with Mitchell of Clare, is quite crisp enough yet has lovely breadth of flavour - notably a sort of honeysuckle-cum-marzipan scent. Since tasting it, I see it has earned a Gold Medal at this year's International Wine Challenge in London. I am not at all surprised. It must be one of the least expensive IWC gold medallists. The Victorian fruit is bulked out a bit with some from the Riverland and I suspect it is this which makes it essential that the bottle is drained relatively soon after opening. That precious scent dissipates fast. (I am talking hours rather than seconds here - you could probably finish a bottle over two days but I don't recommend keeping it a week.)

Oddbins is also offering this wine as part of its New World Wonders promotion, at £5.19 per single bottle and £5 if two bottles are bought.

For useful and full details of international distributors see WineSearcher cites retailers and prices in a number of European countries.

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