Mitolo, McLaren Vale (South Australia) 'Jester' Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Vintus Imports, $22)
I've sometimes wondered why Frank Mitolo, owner and founder of the Mitolo winery in McLaren Vale, would name this wine in honor of a court clown. I have a feeling that it might have to do with things being different than they appear. Shakespeare's jesters played fools, but were actually clever; this wine is so concentrated and rich that it could be mistaken for a standard Aussie powerhouse, but actually it has real grace.
Mitolo is a family-owned winery in South Australia established in 1999. 'Jester' is the winery's basic line - if anything here can be considered 'basic' - and it features a Cabernet, a Shiraz and a Rosé of Sangiovese. Other Mitolo wines include three additional Shiraz's and an impressive, elite Cabernet Sauvignon called Serpico. Winemaker Ben Glaetzer uses an Amarone-like technique to make Serpico, drying the grapes on racks for four to eight weeks, the time varying according to the nature of the vintage; Serpico ages in all new French oak.
Jester Cabernet, which debuted in the 2004 vintage, is the winery's baby Serpico. The grapes come from two adjacent vineyards in McLaren Vale, one of which is the vineyard source for Serpico. Each year about 20 percent of the grapes for Jester is dried, and the wine ages in barrels previously used for Serpico.
In 2006, Glaetzer decided to release no Serpico, and all the Serpico fruit went into Jester, making Jester Cabernet somewhat of a de-classified Serpico. It contains more dried grapes than Jester normally does, and has some new French oak aging as well. At 7,500 cases, production is higher than usual for Jester Cabernet, thanks to the addition of the would-be Serpico.
The 2006 Jester Cab is dry and full-bodied with flavors of black currants and blackberries that are so concentrated they even taste dark. But the wine is not huge, jammy or overripe. It has real depth on the palate that serves as a ray of light in the rich darkness of the wine's flavors. The wine's tannin is not excessive, especially in comparison to the rich fruit character. Its alcohol is high, 14.5 percent, but perfectly in balance. Altogether, the wine tastes compact and trim despite the fact that it is packed with concentration.
Apart from the concentration of flavor, the effect of the dried grapes is not immediately apparent in Jester's taste. Glaetzer finds that this process brings lifted aromatics, silky tannin and complexity to the wine - and the wine indeed has all that. Aromatic complexities, on both the nose and palate, include spices (nutmeg, clove, black pepper), chocolate and coffee. The wine also boasts a long, richly fruity finish.
Because it possesses the classic attributes of a high quality wine, such as length, depth and balance, this wine can please those with classic tastes. And yet it is concentrated enough to appeal to the powerhouse red-wine set as well. Pleasing everyone: the role of the jester.